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 for Small Gardens
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.
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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.
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- 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).
- Daleys Fruit – fruit trees
- Rangeview Seeds – Search for “dwarf”
- Harvest Wizard
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 Articles: Clever 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 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!
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© Copyright Anne Gibson, The Micro Gardener 2016. https://themicrogardener.com. All rights reserved.
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Am happy for this wonderful tips pls in box me how makeyou small garden of Letus ,spinach and onions
Above Designs are amazing…
Oh no I faced a mishap when planting my Dracena white stripe. This plant was a medium lighted plant. Unknowingly I placed in the terrace which was having high sunlight and the leaves went dried off. Just as you said I would have placed in my backside of my garden so as to save more space and it may lookes more gorgeous in the baclony of my home.
Anyways thanks for this post.
It really helped when you said the stacking plants in a vertical space is a viable solution for gardening woes in a limited space. I chose to live in a suburban area so I wouldn’t have to travel that far to work. The problem with suburban apartments is that they have very limited space to grow greens. I’d be sure to follow your stacking tips and get myself small garden decors while I’m at it. Thanks for this very insightful read!
Designing for small gardens isn’t always easy — but constraints drive creativity, so there’s no reason to assume limited space means a boring garden. Thank you for sharing!
Hello Anne, I was looking for some ideas for my garden, glad I found your blog. Flowers are the pride of each garden. Each garden is incomplete without flowers. This is a wonderful blog ever. Thank you so much for sharing.
WOW! These are really fantastic design ideas for creating a beautiful garden.If you want to make your own vertical garden by stacking crates, make sure to reinforce them with wood planks!
Thanks for the post. There are many great small garden ideas for me, I too have a small garden space need to implement some of the above ideas.
I was looking for some ideas for my garden, glad i found your blog. Love the Narrow Niches…
I was very happy to find this website. I need to to thank you for your time for this fantastic read!!
I definitely appreciated every bit of it and i also have you book marked to check out new information on your website.
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.
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. 🙂
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 😉
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.
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)
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!
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.
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.