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 …
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!”
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:
Kimberly McKinnis has made clever use of space here with her container garden.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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 back fill with fresh compost or potting mix!
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).
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!
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:
- 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.
- Choose plants with an upright form rather than spreading habits that take up less room.
- Try ‘cut and come again’ salad greens and lettuces that only require minimal space but produce a high yield harvest.
- Plant a table top garden that you can use as an edible centrepiece.
- 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:
- Instead of short lived annuals, consider perennials that last at least 2 or more years; and
- Choose plants that perform multiple functions so you can use them in many ways.
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.
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:
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.
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 2: Choose a variety of different colours and gradually add the larger vegies to the basket.
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.
Step 4: Check the height and balance looks right and give ‘au naturale’ with no gift wrapping – less waste!
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!