Gardening in small spaces can seem daunting, but with some creativity and planning, you can have a beautiful and productive garden even without ample yard space. Here are 8 tips and ideas for creating a space-savvy garden that makes the most of every square inch.
Choose Appropriate Plants
When space is limited, you want to select compact vegetable varieties and miniature cultivars of ornamentals. Some good options include:
- Vegetables: Cherry tomatoes, salad greens, bush beans, radishes, carrots, etc. Look for words like “dwarf,” “patio,” “toy,” or “mini” when selecting vegetable varieties.
- Herbs: Compact herbs like thyme, oregano, chives, parsley, and basil grow well in small spaces. Dwarf sage and miniature rosemary are also great choices.
- Flowers: Miniature sunflowers, dwarf zinnias, pot marigolds, alyssum, and creeping phlox are small flowers perfect for tight spots.
- Shrubs and trees: Opt for dwarf fruit trees, compact evergreen shrubs, or columnar trees that grow vertically rather than spreading out.
Choosing the right plants ensures your garden is scaled appropriately for the available space.
Use Vertical Space
Going vertical is a key strategy for small space gardening. You can trellis climbing plants like peas, beans, tomatoes, and cucumbers on walls, fences, or wire supports to save ground space. Here are some other ways to garden vertically:
- Install wall-mounted planter boxes or pots at different heights to form a vertical garden.
- Use hanging baskets for trailing flowers and cascading herbs.
- Plant in tiered window boxes or stacked pots.
- Build vertical planting towers from stacked wood pallets or latticed wood.
Utilizing vertical space opens up many more gardening possibilities!
Employ Container Gardening
Container gardening is ideal for small spaces. You can cluster pots and planters on patios, balconies, rooftops, or any tiny plot. Use containers like:
- Traditional terracotta pots
- Decorative glazed ceramic pots
- Wooden window boxes
- Repurposed buckets, crates, baskets
- Hanging baskets
Focus on wide, shallow containers, which offer more surface area for root growth compared to narrow, deep pots. For vegetables and larger plants, use at least a 5-gallon container.
Intercrop and Use Succession Planting
Intercropping means planting quick-growing crops together with longer-season varieties. For example, sowing radishes or lettuces between tomato plants. You harvest the fast-growers before the larger plants need the space.
Succession planting refers to reusing the soil in a container or bed to grow another crop after harvesting the first. For instance, planting beans where you had lettuce earlier.
Using these techniques, you can grow multiple crops in one space and get more productivity from your garden.
Optimize Sun Exposure
When space is limited, it’s extra important to place plants where they’ll get sufficient sunlight. Observe how the sunlight falls across your yard or patio at different times of day.
Then be strategic in allocating space – situate sun-loving vegetables and flowers in the sunniest spots and reserve shadier areas for shade-tolerant varieties.
Also remove any overhanging branches or obstructions that cast shadows or block sunlight in the garden. Maximize sun by growing plants up trellises and fences rather than letting them spread out.
Use Multitasking Plants
Some plants serve more than one purpose, making them perfect choices for small gardens. For instance:
- Companion plants like marigolds, nasturtiums, and calendulas help repel pests. They protect other plants while also adding color.
- Food-producing flowers such as violas, borage, and nasturtiums are edible. You can use them in salads or as garnishes.
- Dynamic duos like the “three sisters” combo of corn, beans, and squash make good use of space by complementing each other’s growth habits.
- Groundcovers like creeping thyme function as living mulch between pavers or stepping stones, eliminating the need for wider paths.
Multitasking plants give you multiple benefits without requiring more square footage!
Use Structures Efficiently
Architectural elements like arbors, pergolas, trellises, and raised beds provide vertical growing space and also help divide a small garden into functional areas.
For example, train climbing roses over an arbor to create a pretty entrance to your garden. Or use trellises to delineate “rooms” – a shady seating space on one side, a vegetable garden on the other.
Structures also optimize ground-level space. For instance, elevating plants in raised beds expands your plantable area by boosting drainage and preventing soil compaction.
Emphasize Focal Points
When space is tight, a strong focal point grabs attention. Clever focal points to try:
- A specimen tree underplanted with flowers
- An arching trellis anchored by two obelisks
- A freestanding arbor or pergola
- A central water feature like a tiered fountain
- Container gardens clustered into an artistic vignette
Repeating elements like trellises and pots gives visual harmony. Bold textures and colors also draw the eye.
Don’t forget hardscaping – materials like gravel, stone, and pavers help define spaces when you can’t rely on sprawling lawns.
Caring for your garden is easier in a small space. Some best practices:
- Use organic methods to enrich soil fertility in containers and beds.
- Weed regularly before unwanted plants take over.
- Water thoroughly as plants in confined areas depend on irrigation.
- Prune aggressively to contain plants within bounds.
- Monitor for pests and disease and treat promptly when found.
With close attention and quick action, your petite garden will thrive!
Frequently Asked Questions About Small Space Gardening
What are some good plants for a shady small garden?
Some excellent shade-loving plants include hostas, astilbe, ferns, impatiens, caladiums, coleus, begonias, and coral bells (heuchera). For edibles, try lettuce, spinach, arugula, kale, and chard.
How many hours of sun do container gardens need?
Most edibles and flowering plants need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily in containers. Leafy greens and herbs can get by on as little as 4 hours. Be sure to rotate pots regularly to disperse sunlight evenly.
What vegetables grow well in pots?
Dwarf tomato varieties, peppers, eggplant, bush beans, peas, lettuce, spinach, radishes, carrots, beets, and green onions are good veggie options for containers. Make sure to use large pots (5+ gallons) for root crops and fruiting plants.
How do I maximise space when planting?
Use vertical growing, containers, multitasking plants, and succession planting to get more production in less area. Also prune vigorously, trellis aggressively, and select compact plant varieties suitable for tight spaces.
How much space do I need between containers?
Leave 12-24 inches between containers to allow enough room to tend plants. Smaller pots like herbs can go as close as 6-8 inches apart. If space is very tight, cluster containers close together without touching.
What compact fruit trees work for small gardens?
Dwarf cherry, apple, peach, pear, and citrus trees are ideal for tiny yards. Most only reach 8-10 feet tall at maturity. Choose cultivars grafted onto dwarfing rootstock and prune regularly to contain size.
You don’t need a huge backyard to have a fabulous garden. By focusing on compact plant varieties, gardening vertically, and maximizing every inch, you can create an abundant edible and ornamental garden in even the smallest outdoor space. Use structures like trellises or raised beds to define the garden “rooms.” Pay close attention to sunlight exposure, soil quality, and maintenance. Most importantly, get creative with interplanting and containers to grow as intensively as possible. With some clever planning, any little patio, balcony or yard can be transformed into a charming space-savvy garden.