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Garden Design Ideas for Small Spaces

Good design is essential for small space gardens. If you have limited room to grow as many of us do in urban areas, maximising the area you can garden in and wise plant selection are top priorities. These space saving solutions may be just what you need …

 

It's important to use good design principles to make the most of small garden spaces. | The Micro Gardener

Sometimes it just takes a little inspiration to make some simple but creative changes to your space.

 

There are many scenarios where garden space is minimal including rental properties; apartments and units with balconies; villas and townhouses with small courtyards; retirement homes; caravan parks; community garden allotments and many suburban blocks.

 

“Your space may be limited, but don’t let this limit your imagination to what you can achieve!”

 

Margie's balcony garden | The Micro Gardener

With some thoughtful plant selection and design ideas you can create a beautiful and functional space.

 

Space Saving Solutions

 

Stacks of Space

Stacking is a technique for maximising vertical space and simply means creating layers or tiers on which to grow. Here are some examples:

 

Adding hooks or brackets to the wall or fence surface can also open up more opportunities to take full advantage of your space.  | The Micro Gardener

In an otherwise difficult corner, this space has been utilised by stacking plants in containers at different levels.

 

Shoe pocket planter L - view from below & R - edibles from above  | The Micro Gardener

This nifty hanging shoe pocket storage system has been turned into an edible planter. The ultimate in efficient stacking with no wasted space! Left: view from below Right: view of lettuce, basil & strawberries from above. Yum!

 

Kimberly McKinnis has made clever use of space here with her container garden.

Fence and wall space has also been utilised with a planter on a bracket and three hanging grow bags.  | The Micro Gardener

Make the most of a tiny courtyard by stacking plants in groups from the largest at the back to the smallest at the front. Repetition of pot colour also brings unity to this space and positioning pots in one corner still allows room for a chair, table and pathway.

Narrow Niches

If all you have is a window ledge, slimline balcony or walkway these areas can still be planted out with suitable containers or plants. Better still, add some lattice on an adjoining wall for climbing plants.

A simple, small but sensational space!  | The Micro Gardener

Colourful ornamental & edible kale has been interplanted with flowers in this narrow trough which doubles as a feature garden.

Edible colour - gorgeous greens and herbs including lettuce, tatsoi and spinach.  | The Micro Gardener

Another great example of how much edible abundance is possible in a narrow shallow planter. Perfect for a balcony or pathway.

If you haven’t got a window ledge wide enough for pots, add some brackets with a planter. Try herbs outside a kitchen window so they are within easy reach.

Colourful begonias collection in odd pots  | The Micro Gardener

This colourful begonia collection in odd pots takes advantage of a window ledge.

Lattice can be added to many surfaces with a couple of hooks or screws. If you want to hide an unattractive wall or screen a utility space, try this technique.  | The Micro Gardener

You can brighten even the most rustic garden shed with a flower box and some screws. Does your garage or carport present new opportunities?

Step it Up

Steps, terraces and ladders are crying out to be utilised as practical growing spaces and are a simple solution for many people. Steps are engineered to be structurally strong so can take heavier weights such as fruit trees in pots, feature plants and large containers.

Wide steps provide a perfect tiered position for pots  | The Micro Gardener

Make a grand entrance with welcoming feature pots on one side of your steps.

A-frame tiered garden for small spaces | The Micro Gardener

Here's another variation on stepping it up! This tiered A-frame concept could be scaled down for a tiny space with even a small step ladder. Look how much you can grow!

Get creative with planters  in spaces you may not have considered using. Love this fantastic teapot collection!  | The Micro Gardener

Another clever idea: This unusual planter selection takes advantage of railings up steps as hanging space.

A little garden in which to walk, and immensity in which to dream. At one’s feet that which can be cultivated and plucked; over head that which one can study and meditate upon: some flowers on earth, and all the stars in the sky.” – Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

In the Bag …

Need more sun? On the move as a renter? No room for a raised no-dig garden bed and need an alternative?  Portable natural fabric bags are one of the easiest solutions for lots of issues. Not only do they look good and come in a variety of colours, but with handles they are easily moved around to suit your situation. They are also very economical and last well.

In the bag - strawberries on the left; basil, tomatoes and herbs on the right.  | The Micro Gardener

They are an ingenious way of growing edible crops that need depth like carrots and potatoes and are also perfect for dwarf fruit trees which will happily live in them for years.

As they are easily removed, if your plant outgrows its bag, simply loosen it and slide your plant out and transplant into a larger bag. Put the plant back inside the next size up and backfill with fresh compost or potting mix!

Grow bag with a harvest of sweet potatoes | The Micro Gardener

Grow bags also make the perfect gift for children who are starting a garden, those moving into a retirement home and perhaps have to give up their larger garden or apartment dwellers who have no access to soil.

Succession Plant to Maximise Space

In my garden I only have one raised tank garden so space is at a premium. When I planted it out about 3 months ago, I chose a variety of edible plants that would mature at different times. This allowed me to take advantage of space around the edges for fast growing ‘cut and come again’ lettuces (ready in 3-4 weeks) & flowers, while the zucchini (that loves lots of personal space) was filling up the internal area (about one square metre).

My raised tank garden with succession planted edibles to take maximum advantage of growing space. | Photo: The Micro Gardener

Around the edge on the left are a variety of capsicums with lettuces at the far end and lettuce seedlings & calendula on the right with shallots, chives & bulb onions near the worm farm in the middle. In the large middle spaces you can see the two zucchinis filling out.

 

The lettuces were harvested by the time the zucchini reached the edges of the bed so I’d had weeks of food before its leaves started to shade out the edges and it started to flower and produce. The flowers (alyssum & calendula) also attracted pollinators so by the time the zucchini and capsicums were flowering, they had lots of helpful visitors to set fruit!

In the micro garden behind, you can see some delicious lemony sorrel and spinach sharing space together. They have similar water needs so it makes sense to pair them up.  | Photo: The Micro Gardener

Another space saving strategy I use is to 'snuggle up' skinny guys from the onion family. In this micro garden you can see a variety of chives, shallots and bulb onions all harvested from a tiny space. I'm constantly amazed by what can be grown in one small box!

 

Clever Plant Choices

If you don’t have the space for large plants or those that take up a lot of ‘personal space’, there are still some great alternatives:

 

Enjoy your own home grown fruits with a mini orchard in pots. | The Micro Gardener

Have your own urban orchard! Select dwarf fruit tree varieties that can be grown in pots.

 

  • Try dwarf, semi-dwarf or miniature varieties of vegetables and herbs e.g. Dwarf bush beans that produce high yields instead of climbing varieties; Dwarf blue curled kale, Coles early dwarf broad beans, Fino Verde or Spicy Globe basil are just a few but there are loads to choose from. See resources below.

 

Many herbs have both culinary and medicinal uses and are a great choice for small spaces.  | The Micro Gardener

Herb gardens can double as your backyard pharmacy in many cases as well as adding fragrance, colour, texture and flowers.

 

 

Indoor herbs are such easy micro gardens to grow | The Micro Gardener

Start an indoor garden (many edibles are shade tolerant or can be grown on a sunny windowsill).

 

  • Choose plants with an upright form rather than spreading habits that take up less room;

 

Shallots and other members of the Allium family don't take up much 'personal space' and can be squeezed into tiny areas. | Photo: The Micro Gardener

Long thin edibles include the onion family (chives, shallots & leeks); aloe vera; bulbs; rosemary & celery.

 

  • Try ‘cut and come again’ salad greens and lettuces that only require minimal space but produce a high yield harvest;

 

Strawberries & scented geraniums make full use of the space in this hanging basket | The Micro Gardener

Hanging baskets allow you to grow up and down depending on what plant species you choose and are an attractive, space saving solution.

 

  • Plant a table top garden that you can use as an edible centrepiece;

 

Lemon thyme, parsley, common thyme & oregano in black pots | Photo: The Micro Gardener

A slimline planter or a single pot in the middle of your outdoor table is decorative and functional.

 

  • Garden on your nature strip to increase your yard space!

“Be tough! Don’t waste time, space or money on plants unless they perform a specific role and provide you with high value. Make EVERY plant count!”

To save space and money, I suggest:

  1. Instead of short lived annuals, consider perennials that last at least 2 or more years; and
  2. Choose plants that perform multiple functions so you can use them in many ways.
Lemongrass foliage | The Micro Gardener

An example is Lemongrass which can be used as a border plant, cut for fragrant mulch, medicinal herb teas, as a culinary herb in the kitchen and is easily propagated to make new plants you can grow, swap or sell.

 

Or if you have a fruit tree in a pot and want to mulch it, consider planting an edible living ground cover such as oregano or thyme.

 

Thyme in a pot as living mulch | The Micro Gardener

Low maintenance herbs like thyme provide you with fresh flavour for the kitchen and fragrant flowers that attract beneficial pollinating insects straight to your tree!

 

The Plant This Plant Selector can help you choose plants to suit your garden.

Learn how to Use Containers in Small Garden Spaces in this video – it has some handy design tips and planting ideas:

YouTube Preview Image

Dwarf and Miniature Edibles – here are  a few suppliers (or search for “dwarf” varieties in your area):

 

What are your favourite mini plant varieties to grow?  Please take a moment to share your ideas, successes and challenges with other readers here.

Related ArticlesClever Design Ideas and Inspirational Small Garden Ideas.

 

DIY Project:  Make your own Garden Gift Basket


With Christmas around the corner, if you’ve got a little extra produce or plants in your garden, why not add to a basket and give as a gift? Some simple ideas are fragrant herb cuttings, a packet of seeds or a plant you’ve propagated. Recycle a pot or container and add your own personal touch. This is a gift basket I made recently for a friend:

Step 1: To the base of a basket or container, scrunch some paper bags. This will fill the space so you have a flexible surface to add the vegies, herbs or flowers and they will sit nicely when finished.

 

To a gift basket or box, add scrunched paper bags | Photo: The Micro Gardener

Other suggestions you can use are shredded paper, recycled gift wrap that doesn’t matter if it gets scrunched or pine cones – whatever you have handy!

Step 2: Choose a variety of different colours and gradually add the larger vegies to the basket.

Add your vegies to the basket, putting the more robust ones underneath and layering so all the colours show. | Photo: The Micro Gardener

Leave space at the top for the more delicate and smaller edibles and flowers that would get crushed if added too early.

Cover the paper well with the contents | Photo: The Micro Gardener

I used the paper underneath to prop up vegies or herbs so they display nicely. If you have limited contents, add some fresh foliage from your garden to fill the gaps.

 

Step 3: Keep it simple. Think about what you could include like herbs for teas, culinary or medicinal uses; edible or fragrant flowers; salad ingredients; or your own invention.

Add a nice mix of flavours and colours | Photo: The Micro Gardener

Another idea is to theme it for a favourite cuisine like Italian (tomatoes, basil, oregano, parsley etc) or Asian stir fry ingredients (tatsoi or other Asian greens, green & red chillis, tumeric, ginger root, garlic bulb, sticks of lemongrass etc)

Step 4: Check the height and balance looks right and give ‘au naturale’ with no gift wrapping – less waste!

My final fragrant edible gift basket ready to go! | Photo: The Micro Gardener

This basket has two kinds of eggplant, zucchini (including their flowers), cucumbers, baby cos lettuce, cherry tomatoes, parsley, basil, lemon myrtle (tea/culinary herb), edible nasturtium flowers and gardenias for fragrance. With this much visual appeal, who needs wrapping?

If you haven’t got surplus edibles, make a simple herb posy.  Grab a paper doily, cut a cross in the centre with scissors and poke a bunch of mixed fresh herbs in the centre and tie with some string or curling ribbon. Easy!

Parsley, sage, rosemary & thyme make perfect partners! | The Micro Gardener

Parsley, sage, rosemary & thyme - perfect partners for an aromatic gift!

Parsley & chives in a terracotta pot. | The Micro Gardener

Just as easy: sow some seeds directly in a pot, let them sprout & give away an edible herb garden ... or sow seeds for a 'Wait & See' surprise garden! Add Care Instructions on a gift tag or plant marker in the pot. Children love a bit of mystery so try flower & herb seeds. This project gives them something to do in the holidays nurturing their own micro garden!

 

Like these ideas? If you don’t want to miss future posts, subscribe to my newsletter at the top of the page (and grab your free eBook) or click on the RSS feed below or to the right.

 

© Copyright Anne Gibson, The Micro Gardener 2010-2013 – http://www.themicrogardener.com. All rights reserved.

15 responses so far

15 Responses to “Garden Design Ideas for Small Spaces”

  1. Debon 20 Dec 2011 at 2:44 pm

    I love the basket of home grown goodies for gifts. I have decided to give a slightly different version of this. I have had such success with growing salad greens in foam boxes on my front veranda that I decided I would plant some extra’s and give them away as Chrismas presents to people I knew would appreciate home grown organic salad mix. The trouble is that more and more people keep hinting they wouldn’t mind one and my local fruit shop is getting a bit fed up with me asking for more boxes.

  2. The Micro Gardeneron 20 Dec 2011 at 5:47 pm

    Hi Deb – Wow! How inspiring. I just love stories like this. I’m sure you’ll have all your friends and neighbours lining up for such wonderful gifts. How much more rewarding to ‘give a garden’ than just about anything else?

    Oh, and the fruit shop? I like to think ‘win-win’! Why don’t you suggest working together on a promotional ‘good news’ story with your local paper? “Growing Greens from Waste!” You’re both keeping the polystyrene boxes out of landfill with this initiative and the grocer is helping you repurpose them into a new life so you’re giving a gift in the community to help others enjoy their own mini garden.

    Would love to see a photo of your lovely boxes too! Thanks for sharing Deb.

  3. narf7on 20 Dec 2011 at 2:56 pm

    What a beautiful basket of home grown organic produce! My daughters are getting a huge basket of gourmet treats from their interstate brother, but I would much rather get something like your basket that would have immediate use and that would feed your body as well as your eyes. Have a fantastic Christmas Annie. I hope that you and your family have a wonderful time and we will be keeping a keen eye on our email inbox for each and every edition of your informative and most interesting newsletters. I am so glad that we found you this year :o)

  4. The Micro Gardeneron 20 Dec 2011 at 5:51 pm

    Hi Fran & Steve – thanks for your feedback. Keep up your wonderful blog … I get lots of laughs and inspiration from you both too and love hearing these ideas are useful.

    Enjoy your time with your own family (including all the animals!!) Plenty more to come … on lots of topics from How to projects to Soil and more ways to frugal garden.

    Stay in touch and happy growing!
    Anne 🙂

  5. […] a design feature.  Many gardens, especially micro gardens fail to make the most of the space they have.  They are often missing a special feature to draw the eye, become a focal point for the […]

  6. Kimberlyon 08 Feb 2012 at 3:40 pm

    Hey, thanks for linking to my blog… would you mind terribly fixing the misspelling of my name? It’s McKinnis, not McInnes. Us Scots take it seriously 😉

  7. The Micro Gardeneron 08 Feb 2012 at 3:48 pm

    Hi Kimberley – no problem! All fixed – sorry about that. 🙂 Love your blog too – aren’t the Green Zebra tomatoes wonderful? Just been saving some seeds here for planting next year. Had some Roma shaped red zebras too. Thanks for stopping by and all the best with your garden.

  8. […] Garden Design Ideas for Small Spaces | The Micro Gardener | What Surrounds You | Scoop.it […]

  9. home ideas | Pearltreeson 10 Sep 2012 at 10:24 am

    […] Garden Design Ideas for Small Spaces | Good design is essential for small space gardens. If you have limited room to grow as many of us do in urban areas, <b>maximising the area </b> you can garden in and <b>wise plant selection </b> are top priorities. These space saving solutions may be just what you need … Jars for Things | Yellow Brick Home In addition to the cigar boxes , I had this idea of on-display storage for most of my Pet Shop items. With the studio housing white furniture and soft pink walls, my color-loving heart wanted my crafty supplies on display in clear vases, jars and the like, using the built-in shelves as the backdrop. Between my product packaging (shades of blue-green and goldenrod like our logo) and ready made art prints , I have plenty of color to show for. Are you as forgetful as I am about watering the plants? Well look no further than this handy dandy planter that not only does the watering for you but is earth friendly to boot! Made from recycled wine bottles, all of my planters come complete with everything you need – minus the plant and water of course, just too hard to ship – including instructions on how to put everything together. While I've found that small succulents and herbs (as seen with the Boxwood Basil pictured here) tend to do the best, you may also consult with your local nursery or garden center to see what else they may recommend. This particular listing is for one crystal clear planter measuring approx. 10" tall by 5" in diameter. All of my glassware is made from bottles collected from local bars, restaurants, and from my lovely friends who keep me up to my neck (pun intended) in materials. […]

  10. Sanchitaon 22 Nov 2012 at 9:46 pm

    Hi Anne,
    Your ideas are awesome and worth trying. I have a small front garden and trying to change its look. Definitely I will keep your ideas in mind.

  11. The Micro Gardeneron 23 Nov 2012 at 10:11 am

    Hi Sanchita
    Welcome and glad you have found some inspiration for your garden here! I suggest dreaming big but starting small! The smaller the space, the more important the design! I use Permaculture principles to design small spaces with beauty, functionality and access in mind. If you haven’t already, I invite you to join my newsletter and get my free eBook which gives you a checklist of what to think about when designing your garden. Hope this helps. 🙂

  12. […] Choose a feature – for example, this may be a plant, statue, piece of garden art or even outdoor furniture.  Whatever is special to you, highlight it by drawing the eye to it.  Some ways you could do this […]

  13. […] Need some space saving garden solutions? These simple design ideas & alternative plants that don't need a lot of room to grow can solve many common problems.  […]

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