Garden ideas small space

You can easily start your own sustainable garden in small spaces such as your backyard, a balcony or a patio.

Even if you don’t have a lot of space, there are plenty of plants that will thrive in small boxes or pots.

One of the rules of thumb for small spaces is to choose plants that grow vertically. Growing a sustainable garden doesn’t cost a lot either. You can reuse items like pantyhose and drink cups to keep your plants thriving.


1. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are one of the most versatile vegetables which can grow in a small space. They can be tossed in salads, mashed into a sauce or eaten straight off the vine.

Tomatoes also come in a variety of sizes.

You can grow small tomato cherries as hanging tomato plants or larger tomatoes vertically in a container. Cherry tomatoes grow extremely fast—which means you don’t need to wait for months to yield a good crop in your own backyard.

The only downside? It can be challenging to plant tomatoes.

Technically tomato is a fruit since it has seeds that grow from the ovary of the plant.

2. Lettuce

Lettuce is another veggie that grows fast.

You can yield a crop of lettuce in only 45 days.

Lettuce grows best in a container garden, but you can even grow it indoors. The best way to grow lettuce to ensure it’s ready by spring is to start your seeds indoors in February.

By the time the last frost has passed in March or April, you can go ahead and move your lettuce outdoors. Flashy Trout Back lettuce is great for early months.

Stick with a heartier romaine for summer months. In the autumn, Winter Density can withstand the early chill in the months of September and October.

3. Herbs

Man cannot survive on herbs alone. Yet they are so tasty in everything from salads to eggs to casseroles.

Herbs are one of the easiest plants to grow, and you can grow them inside in the winter or outside from spring through autumn. You can maximize space by planting herbs with your edible flowers (see below).

The best way to select herbs for your garden is according to your own preferences and tastes. Basil is extremely hearty and very easy to grow.

Chives, parsley and cilantro are also great for small spaces.

4. Pole Beans

Many beans can easily take over your garden, so it’s best to keep them separate from your other plants.

Vertical plants take up the least amount of space, so pole beans are a great choice for small gardens. Trinofo Violeto pole beans have a dual purpose; they’re tasty in salads and side dishes, and they look beautiful in the garden.

Choose plants that have dual purposes in small gardens to maximize space. You can even can beans in the summer to enjoy throughout the winter.

5. Eggplant

Eggplant is one of the most popular veggies for a small garden. These beautiful vegetables are perfect for heartier meals.

You can use eggplants as a meat replacement in rice and pasta dishes.

Oriental eggplants have a slender shape and grow well in pots—which means you can grow them inside throughout the winter. Add them to hearty stews, or sauté them as a side dish, and be inspired with more eggplant recipes.

In the summer, you can easily transfer these beautiful vegetables to your outdoor garden.

6. Chard

Chard is another leafy green that is equally beautiful and nutritious. Plus, chard grows like a weed and is therefore well suited to small spaces.

Cut a few leaves from the mother plant, and more leaves will grow back.

This is one of the best veggies to grow in a small garden because this plant actually grows more fruitfully in tight spaces. Use chard in place of lettuce (just tenderize the leaves by squeezing them, and chop them into small pieces), or add to a stew or soup for a hearty meal.

Chard is easy to grow from a starter, so don’t opt for the seeds unless you’re familiar with proper spacing.

7. Radishes

Radishes are one of the smallest veggies, but they are very hearty and super flavorful. Use radishes in salads or stews. You can also eat raw radishes with a little butter or oil.

You can grow radishes inside or outside.

Root vegetables are extremely easy to grow and are very hearty throughout all seasons. Grow inside of a one-gallon planter. Radishes grow very fast, so you can expect a harvest at least once a month.

Grow several pots simultaneously to ensure plenty of crunchy snacks throughout the year.

8. Lemons

Grow lemons in a small planter in your home or in your backyard.

Plant lemon trees in your yard if you live in a warm climate. You can keep lemon trees in your home if you have plenty of light. Small trees that thrive inside include Meyers lemon trees.

You’ll need to keep your soil moist and your trees in direct sunlight for around eight hours a day.

9. Edible Flowers

Add a little pizzazze to your salads by growing edible flowers. These flowers pull their weight since they add tons of flavor to meals and beauty to your backyard and kitchen.

You can grow edible flowers in small spaces such as your kitchen, a hanging basket, a window box garden and in your backyard. Plant them early in the spring, and they will thrive throughout the summer.

Here’s a delicious list of edible flowers.

10. Avocados

Avocados (though technically a fruit) are one of the easiest edibles to grow.

You can plant avocados in your kitchen with a leftover seed from a store bought avocado. You can plant them in a small space in your vegetable garden if you live in a warmer climate. This green beauties grow to the size of a baseball, so they don’t take up a lot of room.

(Handy tip: The easiest way you can germinate an avocado pit is by throwing it in your vermicomposting.)

They taste delicious in salads and in homemade guacamole.

And they have plenty of healthy nutrients and tons of good fats.

Which one are you going to plant in small spaces?

Less is more when it comes to sustainable living, making it possible for you to garden in small spaces.

Stick with plants that yield your favorite flavors. Or choose veggies you’ve never tried before.

It’s fun to check out new recipes and find uses for veggies you’re not familiar with. Luckily, many plant seeds cost under a dollar, so you won’t break the bank if a particular veggie does not grow.

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Small gardens have seen big growth in recent years. From rooftop gardens to urban homesteads, people are taking back the control of their food supply by planting vegetable gardens in front yards, backyards, patios and anywhere else they have a little space – even kitchen counters.

Through creative gardening techniques, people are growing enough food in a small vegetable garden to sustain their families, producing high yields in small spaces. Some even have enough left over to sell and generate an income on less than 1/10 of an acre.

If you are like me, you don’t have the luxury of living on a farm or owning acreage, but that shouldn’t stop you from growing your own food.

Here are ten garden ideas for small spaces to help you grow more food in a smaller footprint.

#1 – Use Edible Landscaping

Have you ever heard the saying “Grow food not grass?” It’s a good motto to adopt. Grass depletes lawns of their nutrients, requires a lot of water to maintain, and serves very little purpose other than being eye candy, not to mention the constant mowing. You can take a 10’x10′ patch of grass and turn it into a beautiful edible garden, which can feed your family and be aesthetically pleasing.

Look at your yard and see what is in your landscape that doesn’t serve a greater purpose. Can you replace that juniper bush with a blueberry bush? What about the ornamental grass with lemon grass, kale, or other edible greens? Do you have a small tree that you can replace with a dwarf fruiting tree? Once you start to look at your landscape as a means to serve you nutritionally instead of aesthetically, you open up a whole new world of gardening opportunities.

Some plants that make a great addition to an edible landscape include:

  • Rhubarb
  • Swiss Chard
  • Peppers
  • Artichokes
  • Amaranth
  • Beets
  • Lettuce
  • Sunflowers
  • Cabbage
  • Nasturtiums
  • Banana Plants
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Strawberries
  • Dwarf Fig Tree
  • Herbs

See “Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist” for more information on edible landscaping.

#2 – Invite Pollinators

Planting to invite pollinators on purpose is something we often overlook. If you are planting a small food garden on a patio, balcony, or are creating a garden for the first time in your yard, it is crucial to create a habitat that invites pollinators. Mix flowers in with your vegetables or herbs to attract pollinators and add a pop of color. Never underestimate the value of pollinators; they are one of the key elements to your gardens success.

Some edible herbs that welcome pollinators into your garden are:

  • Anise Hyssop: Agastache Foreniculum
  • Basil: Ocimum Basilicum
  • Bee Balm: Monarada
  • Borage: Borago Officinalis
  • Dill: Anethum Graveolens
  • Fennel: Ferula Communis
  • Rosemary: Rosmarinus Offcinalis
  • Yarrow: Achillea Millefolium

See “Vegetable Companion Planting in the Garden” for more companion plant ideas to attract pollinators, and “Top 10 Edible Flowers” for flowers that both you and the bees can enjoy.

#3 – Use Mounds and Spirals to Create More Growing Area

If you have a flat landscape, you can create more soil surface to grow a garden by adding soil elevation. (See Hugelkultur below.) Think three dimensional gardening, instead of two dimensional. You can grow more on a mound than you can on flat land, so build a mound or elevated spiral to create more planting surface to increase your small garden yield. Mounds and spirals also create great focal points in a small garden landscape.

For example, say you have a 5 sqft area of flat growing space; you can only plant a garden that is 5 sqft. But if you add a 2 ft mound in the middle of that 5 sqft and taper it down, now you’ve created almost double the square footage of gardening space on that same piece of land.

Hugelkultur (HOO-gul-culture) meaning hill culture or hill mound: Instead of putting those branches, leaves and grass clippings in bags by the curbside…build a hugel bed. Simply mound logs, branches, leaves, grass clippings, straw, cardboard, petroleum-free newspaper, manure, compost or whatever other biomass you have available, top with soil and plant your veggies.

#4 – Fertilize, Fertilize, Fertilize

If you are gardening in small spaces like container gardening, garden boxes and raised beds, you have pay extra attention to your soil’s nutritional needs. Plants deplete the nutrients at a quicker rate with small gardening than large-scale gardening. Add organic compost, top-dress soil and spray with compost tea regularly. Rotate crops by not planting the same type of plant in the same spots each year. Healthy soil promotes healthy plants, and healthy plants provide better nutrition and can resist pest and disease.

I use:

  • Neptune’s Harvest fish and seaweed fertilizer for everything
  • compost
  • worm compost
  • compost tea (from worm castings, molasses & neptunes)
  • Epsom salt
  • egg shells
  • coffee grounds
  • goat and chicken poop

Biointensive Gardening: Biointensive agriculture is an organic agricultural system that focuses on achieving maximum yields from a minimum area of land, while simultaneously increasing biodiversity and sustaining the fertility of the soil. The goal of the method is long term sustainability on a closed system basis. It is particularly effective for backyard gardeners and smallholder farmers in developing countries, and also has been used successfully on small-scale commercial farms

#5 – Choose Fruits and Vegetables That Give You the Best Yield in a Small Space

Pick plant varieties that maximize your available space. For example if you only have 1sq ft of gardening space available, don’t plant cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. in that space. You will only receive one harvest from these plants, and they take 1sq ft space per plant.

Instead, opt for plants with high yields for small spaces, like:

  • radishes
  • lettuce
  • greens
  • carrots
  • garlic
  • onions
  • spinach
  • vertically growing plants

Grow anything that vines (tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, pole beans, grapes, and other vine fruits) on a trellis. (See #7 below.) Try potato towers for an easy harvest in a small garden footprint.

#6 – Plant in the Space You Have – Backyard, Front Yard and Patio Garden Ideas

Look at every small space with some sun as an opportunity to grow food: porch, balcony, roof, landscape, windowsill, fence, mailbox, driveway, walkway, decks, or by swings. Explore the opportunities right outside your door.

Mailbox – You can grow grapes or another vining plant around a mailbox post

Walkway – Line your walkway with cabbage, kale, mustards or other eye pleasing edibles.

Fence – Hang garden boxes from your fence or plant vining produce.

#7 – Vertical Gardening, When you Can’t Grow Out— Grow Up

One of the best ways to maximize your space is growing vertically. There are several benefits to growing vertically, including:

  • increased yield
  • better pest management
  • visual interest
  • create privacy
  • ease of harvesting

By growing plants vertically you help reduce gardening problems like leaf fungus and fruit rot because air is circulating through the plant reducing moisture buildup and the fruit is off the ground.

You can save on water usage by watering at the root of the plant where it is needed instead of wasting water by runoff from watering the plant from above. Harvesting is easier because you’re not bending over breaking your back. You can see the produce easier

There are many different trellis mediums you can use to garden vertically. Pretty much anything the plant tendrils can latch onto, the plant can grow up; lattice, wire, bamboo, pallet, netting, rope, I’ve even seen the springs from a baby crib. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

To learn more about vertical gardening read, “Transform Your Landscape with Vertical Gardening: 10 Reasons to Grow Up Instead of Out“.

#8 – Dwarf Fruiting Trees

Almost any fruit tree you can imagine is now available in a dwarf variety, allowing you to grow fresh fruit in a small yard.

On our small little slice of heaven (1/4 acre) we have; 2 lemon trees, 2 lime trees, 1 keylime tree, 2 tangerine trees, 3 fig trees, multiple plum trees (one planted and several volunteers), 1 blood orange tree, 1 grapefruit tree, 2 pear trees, and a fruit cocktail tree that produces; plums, peaches, apricots, and nectarines.

When growing fruit trees, keep in mind that many varieties need to cross pollinate, so you may have to buy two. Even if a fruit tree is advertised as ‘self-pollinating’, they will produce better if they have another tree to cross pollinate with.

#9 – Use Companion Planting

Use companion planting to grow plants under other plants or trees to grow additional crops and increasing your yield. Plant carrots under tomatoes, radishes or beets under cucumbers, pole beans with potatoes or radishes, grow garlic, onions, and herbs under trees to maximize your harvest and space.

A perfect example of this gardening style is known as the Three Sisters. The three sisters is a Native American method of gardening and consist of planting corn, squash, and beans together. The three crops benefit from each other, the corn provides a trellis for the beans to climb, the beans provide nitrogen for the corn and squash, and the squash helps prevent weeds from growing by blocking sunlight to the soil and creates a microclimate which aids at retaining water.

See Vegetable Companion Planting in the Garden for more detailed companion planting ideas.

#10 – Plant indoors

Do you have a sunny window? Turn it into a mini garden. You can grow many herbs indoors successfully like basil, chives, parsley, cilantro, thyme, and ginger. Try your hand at micro greens or sprouts – both have a high nutritional content.

Micro Gardening: “Micro-gardening” is the intensive cultivation of a wide range of vegetables, roots and tubers, and herbs in small spaces, such as balconies, patios and rooftops. While urban residents have long grown vegetables in backyard plots, modern micro-gardening makes use of containers such as plastic-lined wooden crates, custom-built tables and even old car tires. It integrates horticulture production techniques with environmentally friendly technologies suited to cities, such as rainwater harvesting and household waste management.

Mushrooms (a tasty source for vitamin D) grow great indoors and many grocery stores sell starter kits. Grow a dwarf lemon or mandarin orange tree indoors to add beauty, color and fruit. Lettuce pots grow well indoors providing you with fresh salad ingredients all year. See “Fresh Food from Small Spaces – Grow Fresh Food in the City or Suburbs” for more micro-gardening ideas.

Never let a lack of space prevent you from growing your own food. You will be amazed with what you can do with a little growing space. We’d love to read your comments about how you make the most out of your small gardening space!

“The greatest fine art of the future will be the making of a comfortable living from a small piece of land.” ― Abraham Lincoln

Small Scale Gardening Books You May Enjoy

  • Edible Landscaping by Rosalind Creasy
  • Square Food Gardening by Mel Bartholomew
  • Straw Bale Gardening by Joel Karsten
  • Vertical Gardening by Derek Fell

Don’t forget to check out “Common Sense Gardening – Home Garden Ideas from Planting to Harvest” for a full listing of all the gardening posts on the site. You can also get free garden planning templates here.

Other posts by Amber Bradshaw:

  • Goats for Sale: 6 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying Goats
  • 12 Best Tips for Keeping Your House Cool Without AC
  • Natural Mosquito Repellents That Work

This post is by Amber Bradshaw of My Homestead Life.

Amber and her family moved from their tiny homestead by the ocean in South Carolina to forty-six acres in the Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee.
While building their off-the-grid homestead, they live like the days of old – cooking without electricity, collecting water from the creek and raising chickens, goats, pigs, turkeys, bees, and guineas. They’ve recently filmed their journey for a TV show on the Discovery Channel and the DIY Network/HGTV called Building Off The Grid: The Smokey Mountain Homestead.

Originally published in 2015, last updated in 2018.

Maximizing Small Yard Landscapes

Three landscape design techniques for small spaces By Maureen Gilmer Swipe to view slides

  • In small spaces you see everything up close and personal, making even the smallest details of plant and art and material highly visible.
  • Rigid hedges and outstanding art work require precise layout to fit within this space and after dark the creative lighting make the sculpture and column a dramatic stand out.
  • This rare example of a single focal point within a small townhouse garden illustrates how even here the size of the art work is limited to remain in scale with the space.
  • These cone shaped evergreens define the center of this garden which illustrates the degree of precision required to make small spaces fun to look at.
  • This uniquely designed water feature uses recycled iron tree grates to add surface area to the very tiny condominium courtyard that surrounds it with just a two foot wide walk.
  • The entry to this small entry courtyard illustrates the importance of fine detailing from the antique gate to recessed lighting and accent masonry.
  • A small nook in this garden is devoted to the quintessential Japanese tea garden elements which are not out in the open but carefully nestled into the azaleas.
  • Even the recessed gaps between these steps in a tiny urban garden are planted by a designer who addressed every inch of space.
  • Small spaces make high end materials like this Islamic pattern accent tile affordable, and it offers a visual delight at close range.

Free Infographic:
How to Get More Enjoyment from a Small Yard

Download this free resource for the following:

  • Six ways to make a small yard functional and appealing
  • Stats on small yard sizes
  • Five ways to fool the eye into believing a space is larger.

With some creativity you’ll be able to enjoy your small yard. A professional landscaper can also help realize your dreams.

Creating truly outstanding small space landscapes is a specialty of well-known designers and is based on a firm grasp of three valuable techniques. Here are the basics for getting it right when you design outdoor living spaces for a condo, townhouse, or a not-so-large yard.

Concept #1: Plan for multiple focal points.

The single biggest problem of small space design is that there are no grand views, nor is there enough space to create an outstanding focal point. This results in limited visual appeal. The solution is to create many tiny focal points throughout these spaces that can become surprises when unexpectedly discovered. Gathering them is a great opportunity to shop for delightful objects of art that are weatherproof enough to live outside. Whether they are stone, ceramic, glass or metals, these are for you to choose and your designer to arrange them in the most optimal place.

Keep in mind that you need not have all these objects at the start of the project. Opportunities will arise both during and after the design process. Avoid mass-produced items that may be seen elsewhere. Make your small-space landscape uniquely yours by searching for one-of-a-kind architectural salvage, antiques and original works of garden art.

Don’t put all these focal points front and center. Certainly one or two may be outstanding in the garden as a basis for planting design. The others are best sequestered amidst the plants, looking as though they have always been there. Remember, it’s about visual discovery, so when a guest suddenly spots one amidst the blooms, it offers the joy of surprise. Imagine dining in a garden where these carefully composed surprises are positioned for the guest to find throughout an evening compared to a space featuring just a single focal point.

Concept #2: Design in inches rather than feet.

Within a larger landscape there are always parts overlooked, but this isn’t a problem because they are rarely noticed. But in a small space landscape, an ill-conceived detail or omission will be highly visible at close range. Standard design utilizes square feet as its typical unit of measure. Small space gardens must think in square inches because fitting all the amenities you want in that limited area requires a very precise layout. The difference of six inches here or there can determine whether or not you can add a water feature, such as a small pond or fountain, or a fire pit. Two inches may be the deciding factor on whether you can expand your raised planter wall to seat wall width. Failing to work in such detail means you may miss out on valuable opportunities that make the spaces more useful, diverse, or attractive.

Concept #3: Indulge in high-quality materials.

Today’s construction materials are more varied and luscious than ever before. In larger landscapes though, the expansive spaces drive cost of using such unique materials out of most budgets, even high-end ones. The real beauty of small spaces is they allow you to afford the lavish materials you only dreamed of in the past, simply because you need only a small amount of it to get the job done. With the door open to such affordability, don’t miss out on upgrade opportunities.

  • Pro Tip: In standard landscape, you start with concrete and work your way up to more expensive options. With small spaces, you can start with higher-end choices and work your way down as budget dictates.

Always consider your paving materials relative to the interior floor materials to match them as cleanly as possible. Another advatage to small spaces, is it allows the use of exciting accent materials, just like accent tiles in kitchen and bath. Colored glass tiles, for example, provide many opportunities to integrate them with an outdoor lighting system for creative illumination after dark.

When it comes to design of small space, attend to the details, design every inch, integrate surprise, and splurge on materials. Whether you decide to create a powerful and exciting small space design or a modern minimalist one, remember that less is more.

Sometimes, good things really do come in small packages. Having a compact yard means less maintenance and lower plant costs, and it doesn’t necessarily require you to sacrifice your vision of the perfect yard.

In fact, Cassy Aoyagi, president of Los Angeles-based firm FormLA Landscaping, urges homeowners to look at the positive side of having a small backyard.

“People often ask how to make the most of a petite outdoor space,” she says. “Keep in mind that your small space has advantages! Outdoor living spaces should have a coziness factor, which is much easier to create in a smaller space.”

So, yes, having a postage stamp of a yard can be a good thing, if you know what to do with it. Here’s how to approach landscaping your small space.

Maximize Square Footage

Don’t waste precious space with oversized chaise lounges or Adirondack chairs with big footprints. Aoyagi suggests building custom seating to suit your yard’s specific needs.

“Built-in seating can define small spaces and even be used to claim otherwise unusable space,” she says. A contractor can create bench seating against walls or fences, giving you and your guests a place to hang out and enjoy the yard while leaving most of the space free for greenery and flowers.

Your house itself can be a part of your landscaping plans, too, says Desiree Thomson, expert gardener at Gardening Services London. “Window boxes not only provide you with additional room for growing, but also beautify any part of your home. In window boxes, you can grow everything from flowers to herbs and vegetables,” she says. “Even if you have zero outdoor space, window boxes are the perfect solution to give your home a bit of greenery and let you enjoy gardening.”

Be Strategic About Layout

You have lots of landscaping options to consider, even if space is tight.

For instance, you can plant grass in the middle of the yard and use flowers and shrubs as a border. But because having a small patch of grass is almost more trouble than it’s worth (do you really want to pull out the mower every week?), many homeowners opt to devote their small yards entirely to other plants. How you lay out your chosen plants can have a big impact on how spacious your yard feels.

Design on a diagonal, suggests Theodore Beasley, a professional landscaper at Landscaping London. “A diagonal pattern visually elongates dimensions and makes tiny spaces look expansive,” he says. “Paving stones and tiles laid in a classic diagonal or herringbone pattern – even better if extended from the ground to the walls of a deck or a patio – will draw the eye across the space, making it appear larger.”

He also suggests bringing levels and layers to your yard to create visual interest and fit more plants and decor into the space. “Raised decks, walls and plantings easily break up the mundane and liven up a dull rectangular plot,” Beasley says. “With different spatial and textural effects, a small space has a more diversified appeal and won’t look cluttered or crowded if you decide to incorporate various elements.”

Choose the Right Plants

Making your specific plant choices requires a chat with the experts at your local nursery, because not all plants are right for all climates and conditions. Your yard’s sun exposure will also affect what flowers will be workable in the space. But don’t worry about having enough choices: Plenty of beautiful and hardy plants can thrive in small spaces.

Our experts suggested a range of plants and flowers, including:

  • Cheddar pink hybrids
  • Avens hybrids
  • Stonecrop
  • Aster
  • Crimson pygmy barberry
  • Dwarf boxwood
  • Hydrangeas
  • Western redbud
  • Silver spear
  • Geraniums
  • Sweet peas
  • Marigolds
  • Delphiniums
  • Hummingbird sage

Don’t limit yourself to flowering plants, bushes and trees, though. Thomson suggests thinking outside the box. “A succulent garden will provide lush beauty and require little care,” she says. These low-maintenance plants are perfect for someone who has little time or interest in yard work. They typically do best with very little interference, and they provide a cool, sparse, southwestern vibe.

Succulents are also great for vertical planting, Thomson says – perfect for a yard where ground space is limited. “Plant them into frames to hang over the side of your home or your decking, or build an entire wall of succulents for a splash of color that takes up very little space,” she says.

Add Decor to Scale

In a small yard, a huge planter or large chaise lounge eats up room and makes everything look cramped. Decorate the space with smaller pots in bright colors to add pizzazz to your yard without sacrificing square footage. Add more accents at eye level or above by stringing twinkle lights, lanterns and sparkling charms in trees and along fences.

You can also add whimsy with unique and eye-catching objects. Thomson suggests repurposing old items from your home into new containers for backyard plants. “From old buckets and bird cages, to suitcases, bottles, or even old furniture and bicycles – there’s just no end to the options you have to diversify your landscape with container gardening,” she says.

Bonus: You can move small, portable containers around the yard to change the look at any time or to create extra room when company’s coming over to hang out. Worried about how or where company will sit? Take a look at some of our ideas for small patio spaces and let us know how you’ve transformed your backyard space in the comment section.

Knowing how to make a small garden look bigger can be a particular challenge in urban gardens. That said, some period properties in the country, especially cottages, can come with small gardens, too. So, how to make the most of a small garden? And, importantly, how to make it feel as large as possible? Follow our tips on everything from hard landscaping decisions to garden furniture choices and see your small outdoor space really shine.

Ready for a complete garden overhaul? Find out how to plan, design and cost your garden transformation.

1. Less is more to make a small garden look bigger

(Image credit: Solus Decor)

Narrowing your wish list of what you’d like in your dream garden is vital, explains garden designer Kate Gould: ‘If your wishes and expectations won’t ever squeeze into your space, you will always end up with a garden that falls short of the mark, so consider the elements you really want and weigh those against items that you might be able to do without.’

Huge features in a small garden will dwarf the space and make it feel cramped. Instead of a large garden water feature, for example, a modest wall-mounted spillway or spout will be more in proportion. Likewise, an outdoor dining set to seat four people, rather than 12, will work better visually. See our pick of the best small garden tables to suit your space.

But don’t miniaturise everything, such as pots, plants and paving, as, oddly, this will make it feel smaller still.

2. Create a clever layout to make a small garden look bigger

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp Photography)

Simplify a scheme, keeping the layout bold and striking with room for garden furniture as well as circulating space, is a good way to make a small garden feel bigger.

‘Try visual tricks, too,’ says Chelsea Flower Show gold medallist Paul Hervey-Brookes. ‘It’s a mistake to think having an expanse of large paving will create the illusion of space. Often it emphasises the smallness. Create mystery and the illusion of more garden by concealing part of it. Our minds always want things to be bigger, and if you can’t see all of your plot at once, it can double or triple in size in your mind.’

Don’t overcomplicate the layout and garden design details. Fussy curves and intricate hardscape look odd in small gardens and will always make them feel smaller. Instead be bold, and remember the maxim ‘less is more’, especially in awkwardly shaped gardens. Where space is tight, you simply won’t be able to accommodate everything, so be prepared to compromise. This may sound obvious, but is often forgotten as enthusiasm for an idea takes over.

Use our small garden design ideas for more layout inspiration.

3. Introduce different levels to make a small garden feel bigger

(Image credit: Carole King)

‘Use different levels; going down into a seating area makes you interact with the garden from a new perspective,’ continues Hervey-Brookes. A simple change of level adds interest to any design, but introducing more vertical planes will also make a garden feel bigger. One step is relatively easy to introduce, especially with decking; however the riser (the vertical face) should never be taller than 20cm – 14cm to 16cm is ideal. If you’re planning for more than one step, the tread should be no smaller than 30cm, but ideally no deeper than 50cm.

Different levels are easier to create in a sloped garden. Find out how to make the most of a sloping garden. And don’t miss our guide to decking ideas for small gardens to kickstart your project.

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp Photography)

4. Cultivate a kitchen garden

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

You can still cultivate fruit and veg in a small kitchen garden, even in the most compact of spaces. ‘Mix them in with flowers in the beds, or plant in pots on a terrace,’ adds Hervey-Brookes. ‘Make the most of a small patch by cultivating crops you love.’ Runner beans and peas on upright frames can be incorporated with sweet peas for an abundant display, and make use of vertical space.

We have more advice on how to create a kitchen garden.

5. Bin the lawn – create zones instead

(Image credit: Marianne Majerus)

‘Tiny garden? To make a small garden look bigger, bin the lawn and go for additional paving, laid diagonally from the perspective of the house to create a visual trick. On a budget? Go for cheaper, light-coloured gravel in sunny spots, and bark in shade,’ advises garden designer and horticulturalist Matt James. ‘Quality artificial turf is also an option; you’ll cut maintenance time in half and, with no need for a mower, free up precious garden storage, too.’ See our feature on alternatives to laying a lawn for some ideas of the options available.

Desperate to keep a lawn? Invest in size-appropriate tools, such as a lawnmower (we have the best lawnmowers for small gardens).

Dividing a garden – regardless of its shape – into a series of rooms using planting, wooden trellis or freestanding walls will help to hide what’s on the other side of them. This obscures the actual size of the space, making the whole area feel much larger. If the garden isn’t all revealed at once, this creates a strong sense of anticipation, too — piquing curiosity about what lies beyond.

6. Small garden? Think big

(Image credit: Maayke de Ridder)

‘Small pots, small plants and small paving units will make a small garden feel busier – and therefore smaller. Think big, even if space is tight,’ continues Matt James. Keep pots and planters in the same style using multiple sizes in complementary shapes to maximise impact and to create a cohesive garden scheme: both these effects will make a small garden feel bigger.

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

7. Think tall, too, in a small garden

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp Photography)

Use neighbours’ walls, the side of the garage, and fences topped with trellis to grow climbers. Hang baskets, fix window boxes full of trailing plants to the house wall and plant tall, but narrow, trees or canopy trees on boundaries. Potted bamboo can be a good substitute if you’re renting. All this will exaggerate your garden’s size and pack it with greenery, too. Use our guide to creating a vertical garden with a living wall to find out more.

Learn more about choosing plants for your garden.

8. Grow a container garden to make a small garden feel bigger

(Image credit: Ryland Peters & Small)

Talking of large pots and planters… they’re perfect for cultivating a low maintenance container garden. Plant bold, textured leaves and contrasting forms that look good both in daylight and at night to maximise the amount of time the garden can be appreciated.

Get more tips on container gardening for small spaces.

9. Use space-enhancing materials and plant colours

Where possible, use reflective and light-coloured materials as they will make the space feel larger. The same goes for plants: choose light, bright colours and your small garden will feel larger.

A gloomy space will always feel less claustrophobic if natural light is reflected into it. In tiny, enclosed areas, light-coloured paint isn’t the only option for brigtening things up — surfaces that reflect light, such as sparkly granite and quartzite, are more appropriate than dark blue-black slate or limestone. Polished steel pots and plants with glossy foliage, such as the Japanese aralia and hart’s tongue fern, will also help bring in a little light. Glass tables and balustrades are reflective, too, and being translucent, don’t take up much room visually.

(Image credit: Solus Decor)

10. Use colour to visually enhance your garden

Light, cool-coloured paint shades will make a small space feel larger, whereas bright, hot colours and darker shades will have a dwarfing effect. The same applies with plants. Pale pink, soft blue and primrose yellow flowers recede into the distance, so position on garden boundaries to evoke depth. Bold blooms and foliage in sunshine yellow and bright orange act in the opposite way, drawing attention. They will have a foreshortening effect on boundaries, so make them centre-focus instead. White acts in the same way by drawing the eye, particularly at night, so position carefully.

Find out how to choose a colour scheme for your garden.

11. Include a mirror to make a small garden look bigger

Large mirrors on walls, perhaps covering one side completely, can visually double the size of an awkward or irregularly shaped space. Importantly, make sure that the reflection doesn’t show the bin store or an unattractive collection of drainpipes. Instead, angle mirrors slightly away from the house or main viewing point by fixing a thicker timber batten down one side so that the mirror reflects more visually pleasing plants.

Always try to hide the mirror’s edges to further enhance the illusion. Close-knit trelliswork fixed tight to the wall around the outside of the mirror works well — for uniformity, perhaps cover the rest of the wall with it, too. Alternatively, train climbers up to do this job; but you will have to wait a while for them to grow to a suitable size. For safety, acrylic mirrors are preferable to glass.

12. Hide boundaries to make a small backyard look larger

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp Photography)

In basement gardens, boxy new-build plots and short, sloped gardens – notably those slanted towards the house – boundaries can really draw attention to the limited size of a garden. Packing boundaries with plants works on the principle that if you can’t see them, then you can’t tell how big the garden actually is.

Free-climbers, such as common and Boston ivy, and climbing hydrangeas have good covering power and tolerate shady walls and fences. Depending on the style or theme, partner them with tall-but-thin clump-forming bamboo, such as umbrella or Chilean, as both bring height but take up little width. Unlike fat shrubs, it’s possible to plant shade-tolerant ferns and perennials underneath, too. In warm, sheltered gardens, Musa basjoo bananas, tree ferns and the Chusan palm are good and won’t grow to giant proportions. For instant impact, buy big specimen plants if your budget will stretch.

Check out our pick of the best small garden trees to find a plant that suits your plot.

13. Borrow scenery to make a small garden feel bigger

Nothing makes a garden feel bigger than embracing a fine view beyond. Use similar colours, shapes and plants to claim the wider landscape for yourself. Likewise, don’t prune back plants that spill over from a neighbour’s garden, especially trees. Instead, consider merging them into your own design, perhaps by repeating similar specimens elsewhere. Again, the garden will feel much bigger because the boundaries have been blurred.

14. Use varied textures

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp Photography)

Like colour, texture can create the illusion of depth and distance. Fine-textured plants, such as many small-leaved shrubs and ornamental grasses, fade into the background, whereas bold-leaved plants, such as banana or ornamental rhubarb, draw the eye. Position fine leaves in the background and coarse ones in front, to create the impression that the space is deeper than it actually is. This trick works particularly well in shallow, sloping gardens.

Get our advice on how to make the most of a sloping garden.

15. Play with perspective

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp Photography)

A classic design trick to make a small garden feel bigger is to play with the perspective, essentially deceiving the eye into viewing the space differently. With long, narrow gardens, try to lead the eye across the space instead of allowing it to travel straight to the end. This will help to make the garden feel wider and more spacious. Using an angular design, set at around 30 or 45 degrees, works well. Alternatively, alter the orientation of the paving, or position the main focal point closer, or just off to one side.

Gardens that are wider than they are long can be tackled in exactly the same way, so try to pull the eye across the space rather than allowing it to simply focus on the back boundary. This trick is particularly effective with short-but-wide gardens that slope down to the home where the rear boundary is all too obvious and may well appear to ‘loom’ overhead. Also, position larger elements – plants, boulders and pots, for example – in the foreground, with smaller ones in the background. As the distance between them appears longer, this creates an illusion of depth.

16. Choose garden storage that doubles up as plant displays

Every item should earn its keep in a small garden, especially where it comes to garden storage. You won’t be able to avoid looking at it, so all garden storage will need to be good-looking as well as practical.

If you need to hide away clutter, our selection of the best small garden sheds is a good place to start; we really like the Aldsworth tall outdoor storage box, but there are tons of options to pick from.

Latchmere garden storage, Garden Trading

(Image credit: Garden Trading)

17. Stick to a coherent planting scheme

In a small garden, try to avoid cramming too many different types of plants, as the effect will likely be cluttered. To keep things interesting, go for seasonal combinations, so that you have at least three different flowering species adding colour to your garden at any given time.

(Image credit: @ Frances Lincoln)

18. Choose garden furniture you can leave out all year

Small gardens usually mean little or no outdoor storage – and likely not much space indoors either, so you’ll want an outdoor set that will be fine outside throughout the winter. A hardwearing wood such as teak or eucalyptus will be your best bet – rattan is usually too delicate unless it’s a weatherproof synthetic version, and metal will rust.

Find out more about choosing garden furniture in our guide.

Venice eucalyptus garden furniture, John Lewis & Partners

(Image credit: John Lewis & Partners)

19. Stick to easy-to-clean materials

Small gardens are prone to getting dusty, since they’re often in urban areas and close to roads and other sources of pollution. For that reason, we advise choosing materials that are easy to clean often – think easy to wipe plastic or resin, rather than high-maintenance linen cushions.

(Image credit: Danetti)

20. Plan garden lighting carefully to make a small garden look bigger

Lighting can do wonders for making a small garden look bigger – one of the best ways to do so with lights is by suspending a string of fairy lights or lanterns above your outdoor dining set. Instantly, you’re encouraging people to look up rather than across, making the garden seem more spacious.

Get more advice on how to plan your garden lighting in our guide.

Festoon Outdoor Line Lights, John Lewis & Partners

(Image credit: John Lewis & Partners)

21. Make the most of window boxes

(Image credit: Joe Wainwright)

Using windowsills – or putting up shelves or a garden console table just below a narrow windowsill – to display pretty plants makes good use of vertical space and keeps the garden flooring clear. The result? Bags of colour without sacrificing square footage. Use our guide to creating window boxes to find out how to get the best from yours.

More on small gardens:

  • Be inspired by this beautiful small garden
  • How to create a cottage garden
  • 26 small garden ideas

Small Spaces Month:

This article is part of Small Spaces Month, brought to you in association with the new Real Homes Travel Edition. A compact version of our hugely respected monthly magazine, Real Homes Travel Edition brings you all the same great content as the full-sized edition, but in an even more bag-friendly format that’s perfect for inner city commutes and French riviera holidays. Get yours now at WHSmith, Easons and selected newsagents.

Make your garden seem bigger with 13 genius small garden ideas

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Whether you have a small garden in a complex, a courtyard or just a small patch of grass, there’s loads you can do to make it seem so much larger. Try these small garden ideas and make the most of the space you have!

Read more: Inspiration and ideas to turn the patio into your favourite room in the house

1. Plant a few big pots filled with lots of plants

Your garden will seem larger than if you have a clutter of little pots all over the place. It will also seem much tidier and more stylish, especially if you stick to the same material for them all — say, terracotta or glazed ceramic.

2. Make everything work twice as hard if you have a small patio

Use folding chairs that are easy to store, build your raised beds with walls wide enough to sit on, use modular seating or buy furniture with built-in storage for your cushions or chairs.

3. ‘Lift the skirts’

No, we don’t mean those skirts, we mean taking off the lower branches off deciduous trees and shrubs so you can pack in more. This is one of the easiest (and cheapest) small garden ideas to put into practice, and it really makes a difference. Plant spring bulbs, like crocuses and daffodils, underneath — they’ll be in bloom before the shrubs have leaves.

4. Paint your Wendy house or tool shed a pretty colour

This much-needed dumping ground for bikes and tools is often painted brown, which looks heavy and seems to suck up light. Paint it a pretty colour, but put up a trellis (which you could paint, too) and grow a climbing rose or black-eyed Susan up it. That way, it becomes an attractive feature of your garden.

5. Use mirrors to make your garden seem bigger

This is one of those super simple but incredible effective small garden ideas. The mirrors reflect the plants to make your garden seem double the size and flood it with light. They can make visitors think there’s another route through to a different part of your garden. We suggest that you don’t put the mirror flat on a wall, but rather angle it down so it reflects more plants — the prettiest part of your garden.

Read more: How to grow a peace lily — a plant that cleans the air as it grows

6. Divide up your space

Even if you just plant a lemon tree or add a border to your lawn, breaking up the line of vision will immediately make the garden seem larger.

7. Use blue plants at the far edges of your garden

They’ll recede into the distance, similar to looking out to the horizon. Try blue agapanthus, lavender or a plumbago hedge. Hot colours, such as oranges and reds, will make the edges seem nearer. Genius!

8. Match landscaping materials

So if your house is brick, for example, then have a brick terrace or brick walls, too. As a general rule, try not to use more than three different sorts of surfaces to make this work in your small garden.

9. Don’t use too many colours

This can also create a cluttered feel. You’re not trying to recreate a kid’s paint box, so keep a disciplined palette.

Read more: How to grow and maintain a water wise garden pathway

10. Change the levels in your garden

It’s amazing how much bigger it will seem. If you could walk out onto a patio, then up a few steps past a border to a lawn, for example, you’re getting three gardens in one. And you can use the retaining walls of the raised areas as seating for the patio.

11. Grow tall perennials to send the eye upwards

Sometimes to make the best small garden ideas work, you have to think big. So many gardens have teensy weensy little plants at below-the-knee level and nothing higher up. Choose from foxgloves, strelitzias, wild irises, verbascums or the airy Verbena bonariensis (commonly available at garden centres). And send the climbers such as honeysuckle, clematis and jasmine over arches and up walls or fences.

12. When it comes to trees, think dainty

Although they give height, they can make a garden feel crowded – which is why neighbours often argue about high trees. Try a pompom tree or birch, which are both small and pretty.

13. Divide the garden into different zones

For example, somewhere for sitting out near the house, with an arch in a border across the width, then a lawned area and a path leading to a terrace at the bottom — perfect for sun loungers or a braai area. A winding path slows your journey through the plants, allowing you to take much more in.

Read more: 5 clever DIY ways to enhance your outdoor space

If you are anything like me, you love to garden but also know that sometimes it can be difficult to know how to start out. This is especially true if you live in an apartment or don’t really have the space to start a garden, and if money is tight.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to garden in a small space, all while sticking to your budget and not breaking the bank. This easy guide will help point you in the right direction.

Come Up With A Plan

The first step in growing plants in small spaces is to come up with some sort of game plan. If you live in an apartment and only have a balcony or patio, then you are going to have to be a bit more creative when it comes to finding a way to plant everything, while not taking up all of your space with vegetation. You still need a bit of room for smaller sized outdoor furniture and seating.

The first step to coming up with a good plan is to find inspiration. I have found that following gardening, DIY, and landscaping boards on Pinterest has helped inspire some of the best and most creative ideas when it comes to growing my favorite plants!

Occasionally, these ideas have also helped me save a few dollars in the process. If you do not already have a Pinterest account, I highly recommend you get one and start following a few gardening boards.

They are loaded with all kinds of fun and quirky ideas!

Follow Gardener’s Path’s boards on Pinterest here.

Collect Items

Once you have a plan, or at least some sort of idea on where you are going to start with your garden or what you would eventually like to achieve, the next important step in gardening in small spaces is to start collecting the tools and items you will need.

One of the easiest ways to get started with growing plants in small spaces includes growing them in containers. Container gardening doesn’t have to mean clay or terra cotta planters, or perfectly formed plastic pots.

With a little imagination, you can recycle a vast number of items that you’ll find all around your home. Virtually anything can be transformed into a garden container, with very few limitations.

Just be sure that the items can hold enough soil for the plant, and that it will permit adequate drainage. The drainage issue can be resolved with a simple household drill to the bottom of the vessel.

Also ensure that you are not gardening with any containers that were used to hold toxic chemicals, especially if you are growing edible crops. And be sure to clean your containers thoroughly before planting, no matter what they were originally used for.

Reusing and recycling household items are great ways to garden efficiently, all while saving space and money. Chances are, you have many household items that can quickly be turned into unique garden containers.

Look around, and see what you can find. You’ll be surprised at the small treasures that await you.

Looking for items on websites like Craigslist or Freecycle, or checking for supplies at resale and thrift shops are more great ways to get more bang for your buck, and find unique items that will work great in any space!

Some of my favorite garden treasures have come from thrift stores.

Once you select an item that you’d like to recycle into a garden container, examine it for any signs of rust or mildew. Again, it’s a good idea to thoroughly clean out the container to remove any debris or potentially dangerous chemicals.

In addition, if you’ve selected an older wooden object, you may want to consider treating it with a clear waterproof latex sealer. This will extend the life and durability of the container.

Household Items That Work Great As Planters:

  • Cans
  • Milk Crate
  • Bottles
  • Jars
  • Toilet Paper Rolls
  • Lanterns
  • Fish Tanks
  • Fish Bowls
  • Tires
  • Old Toolboxes, Mailboxes, or Baskets
  • Glassware
  • Gutters
  • Pipes
  • Cinder Blocks
  • Concrete
  • Wagons, Wheelbarrows, Wagon Wheels
  • Coffee Mugs
  • Pallets
  • Old Bird Baths
  • Laundry Baskets
  • Broken Terra Cotta Pots
  • Metal Tea Canisters
  • Watering Cans

Get To It!

Once you have a plan and the items you will need to start your garden, you will want to buy soil, seeds, and plants if you have not already done so.

I have learned from experience that planting flowers, fruits, veggies and herbs from seeds tends to work better than transplanting plants that are already half grown and sold at the stores.

Seeds are also usually fairly inexpensive to buy, with prices ranging anywhere from $1-4. I’ve found a variety of good seed starters at places like Home Depot, Target, and Amazon.

Another thing you might consider when purchasing seeds is trying to find items that you can reuse later. What I mean by this is being able to save the seeds again for next year, or replanting by recycling plant parts (like green onions, celery, pineapples, and so on).

Once you’ve got all your seeds and everything else you need, it’s time to get to it!

Some Cool Ideas to Help Get You Started:

Shoe Organizer

One cost effective and quirky way to garden in a small space is to invest in or recycle a canvas shoe organizer.

This can be hung up and kept off the wall with a few strips of wood. And this type of planter works great for growing herbs.

Salad Box

If you are looking for an ideal way to plant lettuce, kale, spinach, or other greens, then you might consider creating your very own salad box.

Raised beds on table legs or platforms work great for this type of planter, and also require less bending over to tend to your plants, which is even better.

You can create your own simple salad box by upcycling and hollowing out an old desk, or taking the drawers out of a dresser. Other items that work well are redwood planter boxes with a few 1 x 4s.

Simply piece these items together with a hammer, nails, and some glue, and you’re good to go.


One of the easiest and most efficient ways to garden in a small space, like on a balcony or patio, is to get a pallet and set it vertically.

This type of planter works great for herbs like basil or rosemary, or even to make a “catio” for your feline friend. You can grow some catnip and other types of cat grasses within the pallets.


Gutter Gardens are becoming more and more popular in small gardening spaces. This brilliant solution involves taking gutters and connecting them to walls in a sunny area, so that they are off the ground, away from bugs, animals, and a foundation that can sometimes become too wet.

Rain Boot Planter

Another cheap and whimsical way to add a bit of style to any outdoor space or even wider window ledges is to use old rain boots as planters. (And when you’re ready to toss the old ones, check out our review of the best gardening footwear to pick your next pair!)

They can be hung from the walls, a fence, or just sit on top of a table or the ground. This specific planter is a fun idea to try with your kids.

Canning Jars

Making a wall mounted herb and spice rack from canning jars is another cheap and easy way to garden in small spaces.

This idea can even be used by those individuals who don’t have any outdoor space.

A canning jar garden will work great outdoors on your patio, fence, balcony, garage wall, or indoors on the wall of your living room or kitchen. They’re perfect for planting fresh herbs or microgreens.


Terrariums are a fun idea for any gardener who loves to get creative and have fun.

Some of my favorite terrariums that I’ve made came from items that I thrifted (like old fish bowls and spice bowls with lids, gnomes, fake flowers and vines, rocks, pebbles, sand, and so on).

A terrarium will add flair to any garden that is on a patio or balcony, or any indoor area that gets some natural light.

Window Boxes

Another cute and simple way to grow some of your favorite flowers or a few of your favorite herbs is to invest in a window box. These can usually be found at your local gardening store, home goods store, or online at Amazon.

You can even reuse household items like wine boxes, baskets, and wooden crates to make your very own window box.

To add a bit of pizzazz, try painting your box and distressing it. You can even buy some stencils and write some cute messages or words on the box, to turn any plain old box into an adorable window box in no time.

Wheelbarrow or Cart

Another excellent idea is planting in a wooden wheelbarrow or an old garden cart. This is one of my favorites.

Not only is it an interesting way to display a beautiful arrangement of colorful flowers, but it’s also a movable vessel.

This would provide a simple way to change up the look and feel of your garden, and eliminate any concerns with too much or too little sun exposure.

Coffee and Soup Cans

A coffee and soup can gardening is another easy idea when it comes to maximizing your use of small spaces. Both are everyday items that you probably already have lying around the house.

If you paint them to add a bit of charm and then plant your favorite flowers or herbs in them, they can be placed on the ground, window ledges, or tables, or even be hung from ceilings, rafters, roofs, walls, fences, trees, and poles.

Square Foot or Raised Bed

Making your own raised bed doesn’t have to be as difficult as it seems. In fact, you can even measure out your gardening square footage very specifically.

You’d be surprised by just how many vegetables and flowers you can manage to fit in a few square feet. Cinder blocks work great for this, especially if you are planting something like strawberries.

If you don’t have enough space to build a raised bed garden, you might consider using a few cinder blocks by themselves, and planting a select few plants inside them.

Laundry Basket

Laundry baskets work great for growing things like potatoes (and harvesting them, too). They also come in handy when it comes time to harvest your plants.

Because it’s filled with holes, a laundry basket works as a natural strainer or like a giant colander to rinse off the produce. Gone are the days of having to lug everything in the house one item at a time to rinse and strain!

Artistic and Unique Ideas

Gardening is a fun way to express yourself, and your creativity. Don’t be afraid to let your freak flag fly a little!

Check out these cool artsy ideas and suggestions for upcycling:

  • Mosaic Walls
  • Tile Paths
  • Teacup Flowerpots
  • Broken Terra Cotta Herb Garden
  • Vertical Planters
  • Birdhouses and Birdfeeders
  • Upcycled Pallets and Wooden Crates
  • Repurposed Wooden Barrels
  • Porcelain Bathtubs
  • Wheelbarrows, Wagons, and Bicycles
  • Wicker Baskets
  • Umbrella Stands
  • Stone Sinks
  • Old Mailboxes

Feeling inspired yet? Hopefully, this list will inspire you with a few ideas of your own.

Believe it or not, I’ve even seen a toilet used as a garden container. And one close neighbor annually housed her daisies in her husband’s work boot! If nothing else, these items would certainly make an interesting conversation piece.

Remember, just because a space is small doesn’t mean it lacks potential.

When I lived in an apartment, I literally just went into the woods and collected buckets full of stones.

Then I dug around our windows where the grass was dead, and laid down some soil and river pebbles that I got at a summer sale at Lowe’s, and then I outlined the landscape with the collected rocks.

I planted seeds and spread mulch around, bought $2 solar lights from Target, and thrifted gardening tools like watering cans and materials to make terrariums.

At our new place, I bought 6 red bricks from Home Depot for less than $20 and just dug up a bit of grass in front of our patio where I wanted to place them, set them down in a curved path, and patted the dirt back down.

It took about a year for the grass to grow in around this (sure, I could have bought grass seed and planted, but I was lazy). Within a year’s time, we now have a cute DIY path leading from our patio to our small garden.

With a little bit of imagination, and creativity, and a bit of hard work, your small space will be thriving in no time. And you don’t even have to spend outside your budget to make it all happen.

What’s your favorite small space gardening technique? What will you create and grow? Let us know in the comments!


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Although we dream of having a home on acreage with animals, big gardens, and plenty of room for our littles to play and roam, we currently live in a home with a smaller sized backyard. We are working toward our goal of land, but in the meantime, I am a big believer in finding contentment, gratitude, and happiness where we are, right here, right now.

I have had a garden in this home now for nearly a decade and have not let the small size prevent us from having a peaceful and plentiful outdoor space. I have a real passion for gardening, and thought it would be fun to share 10 of my best tips for gardening in small spaces.

Here are a few of my favorite tips to for gardening in small spaces.

1. Stop fighting with your yard. I know this sounds funny, but for years I had a garden in the place where we have our current swingset. I was constantly fighting to make it work, and was struggling to produce a yield due to the shade from a neighbor’s tree. Finally, after a couple of years, I decided to move my garden to a different spot in the yard and it has thrived ever since. I have decided that no matter how hard I try, or how much I wish for it, my yard is what it is and I need to embrace it and create the best I can with it.

2. Build a garden box that best works for your space. I dream of having a beautiful, huge garden with many tall, raised beds but that isn’t what was the most practical in my small yard. Instead, I custom built a very easy and cost effective box (see tutorial here) that produces the highest yield possible in our space. It is bigger than most boxes, but it works for us.

3. When you don’t have enough space to grow out, grow up! I was determined to have pumpkins in my little garden. I LOVE pumpkins, but I knew because of how big the vines grow, that if I didn’t think of an alternate solution, it would be the only thing that would fit in my garden. Since I still wanted to have everything else I normally grow (especially tomatoes!!), I concocted a plan to grow the vines up and over the fence using basic wire fencing arched over and attached to the fence. I did it this way for the first couple of years, but ended up building a sturdier one using wooden poles, fencing and zip ties. This helped to support the weight of the pumpkins. In order to train vines, I use strips of pantyhose to attach them to the fencing. When the vegetable gets too heavy, I also support them with panty hose or netting. I also grow different kinds of pumpkins, cucumbers, lemon cucumbers, spaghetti squash, small watermelons, cantaloupe, and more this way.

4. Use the space you have. I plant vegetables alongside my flowers in various beds. Cabbage, herbs, and especially zucchini or yellow squash. I even grow them in beds in the front yard. My kids love being able to harvest zucchini every day, so I always try to plant more than one around our yard.

5. Use your patio space. There are so many plants you can grow on the patio. I always plant herbs on the patio and have hanging baskets (see herb box here and free DIY markers here). Sometimes I grow potted hot chili peppers for my hubby. Many people plant tomatoes and more. I also add color and flowers to my window boxes (see how to build an easy window box here).

6. I have created different zones in my small yard and it actually functions very well for our family. Garden, patio, play area adjacent to the largest expanse of grass, and my she shed (see She Shed here). Our yard is mostly U shaped, with our side yard having the largest area so that is where we have the kids playset, small trampoline, and sandbox that my hubby built into the corner.

7. Add furniture to the patio that will best suit your family’s lifestyle. I had wanted a sectional out on our patio for years, but thought that we wouldn’t have the space for that AND a table (which was more of a need than a want). I measured, and measured and made them both work even on a small patio! It turns out that we use both a ton. With enough rearranging, we were able to make it very functional. You can find our table and benches HERE and a very similar sectional HERE (affiliate links).

8. Consider lighting. I wanted us to be able to sit outside after our kids were in bed and enjoy our patio, or even be able to entertain into the evening. I bought these awesome patio lights from Costco and they have held up so well. We put them up 3 or 4 years ago and I am just now needing to replace some of the bulbs. I have them on a timer and they come on every night- so every night for 3 or 4 years isn’t bad! I see and enjoy the twinkling lights and pretty patio from the inside of the house every night as well. It makes our home almost feel bigger.

9. Consider functionality. This goes along with the furniture, but one thing that is an absolute must on our patio is our smoker. My hubby is the best barbecuer that I know and it is perfect for our family to have a way of cooking outdoors in the summer.

10. Keep a Journal and test for what works. Each year I grow my old faithfuls- the plants and flowers around the yard that work well. I add new things that I want to try and omit the things that didn’t work well the year before. Then I will evaluate what worked (what I loved) from those things that I tried and add them to next year’s list. Up until now, I have kept track of all of this in my head, but I am determined to write it all down and start journaling it this year. I might share a printable for that if there is interest.

Well, those are my best 10 tips for small space gardening. Really, many of those tips that would do well in any space. Do you have a small yard? What would you add to this list?

I hope you get a chance to visit these friends’ beautiful outdoor spaces for plenty of gorgeous inspiration:

French Country Cottage

Kindred Vintage

Jennifer Rizzo

Liz Marie Blog

Dear Lillie

My Sweet Savannah

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Small-Space Gardening Tips

Gardenerd HQ was recently graced with a visit from John Kohler of Growing Your Greens,where he shot a lengthy video highlighting the bio-intensive power of our small-space garden. We grow 70% of the produce we eat in under 300 square feet. Bio-intensive gardening is our specialty.

We started growing on a balcony, then an apartment patio with inadequate sunlight. Then we graduated to a community garden plot with full sun. Our 15×15-foot space still pumps out produce season after season, but Gardenerd HQ has a little bit more space, 12×17′. Here are our techniques for growing a lot of food in a small space.

Use Bio-intensive Methods

We use a combination of Square Foot Gardening from Mel Bartholomew and GROW BIOINTENSIVE from John Jeavons. We toggle between planting per square foot like this:

Radishes and kale planted in Square Foot Gardening fashion, 1 per sq. ft. for brassicas, 4 per sq. ft. for lettuces and bok choy, and 16 per sq. ft for root veggies.

…and planting hexagonally or in offset rows like this:

Our 4×4 bed is planted on 5″ centers in offset or hexagonal rows. Offset rows work great for growing a lot of one thing, like wheat, corn, shelling peas or other cover crops.

It’s More Than Spacing!

You can’t expect to grow food successfully in a bio-intensive fashion without starting with (and maintaining) incredible soil. Plants that share root space need more nutrients to deal with competition. Here’s what we use:

  • Home made biologically active compost, compost tea, and worm castings to fortify soils with beneficial microbes, nutrients, and minerals so plants can grow big and strong.
  • Organic veggie fertilizer if needed.
  • Mulch to feed soil microbes (mulch is a fungal food).

If you don’t start with the best possible soil, you won’t see success. Feed your soil, not your plants!

Watch the Tour and Interview Here

Check out John’s video tour of Gardenerd HQ and the interview that follows. The interview starts at 41:25.

Find more information about bio-intensive gardening in Gardening for Geeks (new edition coming soon in 2020). Or check out these blog posts:

Podcast – Grow BioIntensive with John Jeavons

Grow BioIntensive Training – Part 1

Margo and Dan’s BioIntensive Farm

Beef up your garden productivity with small-space, biointensive methods like these. Get the most out of your space and help restore the planet at the same time.

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