Garden Ideas for Small Spaces

By Little House on 20 October 2010 (Updated 7 July 2014) 12 comments
Photo: KSmillie

There's no better way for me to wind down at the end of the day than by relaxing on my patio, staring off into luscious green foliage. Yet with a move on the horizon, from residential house to suburban apartment, I realize I can't forgo the garden even if my patio is a scant 8 feet by 10 feet. I need the fresh flowers and green leaves that give me the sanity only nature can provide. After measuring out my patio, plotting creative container ideas, and utilizing my outdoor space efficiently, I found that almost any area can be turned into a garden oasis, no matter how diminutive the space. (See also: Vegetable Gardening: 4 Cheap Hacks)

Containers of All Sizes

The solution to my patio predicament comes in the form of containers: small, narrow, and vertical. Since my patio is rectangular in shape, the best solution for me is utilizing the three walls surrounding the perimeter and keeping my plants growing up and out, leaving me plenty of room for my bistro table. Space-saving containers include the following:

  • Window boxes — Window boxes are normally narrow and horizontal in shape, but they need not only be used in front of windows. Window boxes can be securely anchored to the top of a patio ledge or placed on the ground. An alternative idea is hanging them from a wall or, if your apartment building or complex allows, hanging over a ledge. Not only do window boxes take up less space, they have multiple functions.
     
  • Hanging baskets — Half moon-shaped baskets can hang from any wall, or a drop-down basket can hang from an awning or overhang. Hanging baskets are space savers, leaving the ground clutter-free. They can be used at various levels creating a rich garden surrounding your patio.
     
  • Small and narrow containers and pots — Small round pots and narrow containers can be clustered together at different levels using plant stands. Not only can one corner hold many plants, but lifting the plants off the ground allows room for the others to grow.

Raised Beds

Small gardens don't only exist in apartment living. Many houses found in condensed cities have small yards that are begging for some flora. For areas with a small patch of dirt, raised beds can add color and utility to a cityscape.

  • Raised beds — Most raised beds are DIY. Purchasing rot-resistant wood at a local lumber yard, begin with 2-by-4s varying in length. Since you'll be adding your own soil, the existing dirt can be used as the floor of the bed. Raised beds can come in many shapes and sizes depending on how much room you have to work with. Raised beds also provide plants with excellent drainage.

Making the Most of an Indoor Environment

What happens if a patio or outdoor area is too small for a garden or non-existent? Use your sunlit windows and create an indoor garden sanctuary. Varying the size and height of plants with the help of plant stands and hanging baskets can turn a corner into a mini-garden. Some indoor plants I've had luck with include:

  • Philodendrons — In particular the heart-shaped variety. They tend to grow with very little care, a deep watering every couple of weeks, and pruning. I've even grown a couple in my shower (they love the misted moisture).
     
  • Corn plants — They look similar to mini-palm trees with waxy green leaves and thick trunks. They tend to prefer filtered sunlight and require minimal watering.
     
  • Herbs — Cilantro, mint, and rosemary, to name a few flavorful herbs, can be grown indoors. Be sure to provide ample sunlight and drainage.

With any container plant, adding nutrients every so often will benefit your plants.Checking the amount of water and sunlight the plant needs for optimal growing conditions will help reduce any plant troubles and keep them disease free.

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Guest's picture
John

Great ideas for having a garden in a small space. I have never had much luck growing rosemary inside and never even considered trying to grow mint inside. I may have to give it a shot.

Thanks!

Guest's picture
Guest

A quick, easy, and economical plant stand can be made from a small stepladder. All takes is a coat of paint (add stenciled designs on the ladder for more personalization) and some colorful pots perched on the rungs and the top of the stepladder.

Little House's picture

That's a terrific idea! I like it because it keeps the plants moving vertically - saving space. Thanks for sharing.

Guest's picture

I love the herbs idea! Here in Texas, Basil and Oregano are fantastic for small spaces. :-)

Little House's picture

I forgot to mention basil and oregano; those are great herbs and used in many dishes. Thanks for that addition!

Guest's picture
Forest

Never thought about growing corn plants. Is it possible to harvest any corn indoors?

Little House's picture

I realize the "corn" name in the palm plant makes it easy to confuse with actual corn! The corn-plant is a type of palm tree plant - so it doesn't actually produce any veggie or fruit. But now that you mention growing corn, I probably could on my patio!

Guest's picture

I love the idea of using the corn as an indoor plant. Great idea! :)

Guest's picture

I bet your patio will be wonderful. It actually made me think back to Green Acres. The Douglass' were living in New York and Oliver was growing corn on the balcony. :)

I need to start that indoor herb garden!!

Guest's picture

I love your idea for herbs in a window box. My friend does that. It's like having your own little grocery store right at your fingertips. Plus, I love cooking with fresh herbs versus dried. It really makes a huge difference. Thanks for the mini-gardening ideas, Little House!

Guest's picture

I know exactly how you feel (at least in the summertime)! I like to go out on my deck around dusk, and just soak it all in. Not to mention the great sunsets (even if my neighbor's house blocks part of it...

I like the Cornstalk idea, to give a palm tree kind of appeal... I'll have to try than next year!

Guest's picture
Dave

Great tips! I've had great success with raised bed gardens. I've also grown herbs in super small flower pots that fit almost anywhere.

If you need some more indepth info on how to prep your soil or care for your veggies, check out Essential Garden Guide. There's an iPhone app or the website - http://essentialgardenguide.com/iphone-app/index.html

Thanks,
Dave