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How to Garden with a Small Space

Posted by Nan Fischer on April 14th, 2016 under Healthy Living, General, Organic Gardening

Do you have the itch to garden but feel you don't have the space? You don’t need a hundred acres (or even one!) to have a beautiful, fragrant, and productive garden. With a little forethought and ingenuity, you can get your hands dirty like a rural farmer, whether you have a tiny yard or even just a balcony. 

Grow Up

  • Stand up, and think vertically. The most common vertical garden is the basic trellis. Placed in a flowerbed or container, it is sturdy enough to hold plants with heavy fruit, such as squash, melons, and cucumbers. Delicate flowering vines, such as morning glories, sweet peas, and clematis, can wind their way up and around a trellis providing food for the soul with color and fragrance.
  • Small yards can accommodate fruit trees using an espalier design. Train fruit trees them on a wall (like the photo shown above), horizontally or vertically, or even to fill in as a privacy fence. (Read Fine Gardening's comprehensive article about espalier.) 

  • Turn a used pallet into a small garden with rows of shallow rooted plants. Clean up the pallet, staple landscape fabric to the back, fill the openings with good potting soil, and plant lettuces, annual herbs, or succulents. Prop the pallet against a wall, or attach it securely. Stand up a row of them to create a short wall. (Check out The Micro Gardener for more pallet garden ideas!) 


Going to Pot

Even if you have a balcony with barely enough room for one chair, you can grow something in a pot or other container. Container gardening has gotten so popular in recent years that seed and plant companies now carry compact varieties specifically for growing in pots. Tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and even sunflowers can thrive on your balcony or porch. You could even plant an entire herb garden of different varieties in a shallow pot or box.

Tips for growing in a pot: 

  • Choose a good container for planting in pots. You'll need a container that will hold soil and water, and has drainage holes in the bottom. Buy new at a nursery, or upcycle a thrift store find.
  • Potting soil needs to hold water, yet paradoxically have good drainage. Feeling adventurous? You can make your own
  • Plants with the same water and light requirements should go in one pot. Create plantings for sun or shade.
  • If you plant succulents, you will need sandy potting soil.
  • Cluster different types of containers for an eclectic look. Or have matching containers planted with a wide variety of vegetables, herbs, and flowers.
  • Use bright color annual flowers for pizazz and excitement. Planting annuals also lets you change the design every year.


Combine Food and Flowers

No yard is too small for a garden! In a large pot, plant a delicious and dramatic garden of tomatoes, peppers, basil, and marigolds. Use trellises to save precious yard space.

If you are the person with room for one pot, plant something that will make your outdoor living area an edible and visually interesting place to be.



Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer is the founder of the Taos NM Seed Exchange, a free community service for home gardeners to trade seed. She has been working with plants for 40 years as farmer, landscaper, home gardener, and nursery owner. She holds a degree in Plant Science from the University of New Hampshire, and shares her knowledge by teaching others how to grow their own food. She is a home and garden writer who takes time out for reading, hiking, gardening, and experimenting in the kitchen.