Get the Most out of Your Small Garden Space

Small gardens are charming, but they can also be challenging, especially if you have big-garden aspirations. With a little ingenuity, you can transform your small garden space to produce on a large garden scale.

If you want to get the most of your small garden, use these strategies to help:

Get the Most out of Your Small Garden Space


Before you start planting, start planning. Map out your available space, and make a list of the plants you want – then “prune” that list to fit within the confines of your garden. In your plans always allow for how big the mature plants will be, whether they’re annuals, perennials, shrubs or trees.

With an emphasis on combined, close plantings, cottage gardening can be a great “style” for a small garden. Container gardening is another option for small spaces, and vertical “containers” like pallets can make the most of even a tiny garden.

Trick the eye

Using light, cool colors – white, cream, silver, grays, blues, lavenders – in your planting or if you stain or paint furniture, walls or trellises, will make your small space seem larger. Going with a monochromatic color scheme will help too.

Place a mirror at the far end of the garden. This will give the impression that your garden continues on rather than ending at the fence line.

Go vertical

Gardeners with plenty of space can let plants ramble, but in a small garden, directing that growth vertically will allow you to put more plants in a smaller space. Contain tomato plants in cages. Grow flowers (and even strawberries) in hanging baskets. Plant potatoes in “towers” made out of old tires.

Double up

Everything in your small garden should do double-duty. A bench can be used for storing tools. Your water-butt can be an attractive feature AND have a container full of herbs sitting on top. Your fence should provide privacy and provide a place for a water feature or support a trellis for cucumber or melon vines.

Plants should work twice or three times as hard too. An apple tree will provide shade, fruit and a place to hang a bird feeder or two. Herbs like garlic and dill are essential in the kitchen, and keep insect pests away from decorative and food plants too. Nasturtiums have beautiful flowers, and keep insects away from fruit trees – their seeds can be pickled as a substitute for capers.

Combine and conquer

Interplanting is a great way to grow more plants, especially to grow vegetables in a small space. Beans and corn are a classic combination – the beans scramble up and around the corn. Combing plants with different harvest times (radishes and carrots for example) can stretch available space too. Decorative plants and vegetables can be combined to great effect.

Think small

Fruit trees on dwarf root stocks save space, and if trained into an espalier can form a “fence” between different areas in your garden or can be trained to grow on a south-facing fence or shed.

Square Foot Gardening

Square Foot Gardening is a strategy for growing all the vegetables a family needs in a series of square-foot spaces. The emphasis is on feeding the soil rather than feeding the plants, staggering plantings and planting just enough for the household’s consumption.

Keep it tidy

Finally, if you have a small space it’s essential to keep it neat and tidy. Have a place for everything – return tools to the shed, remove dead or excess vegetation as soon as possible, and keep intruding branches and stems trimmed.

A small garden can be a challenge, but the results can be quite satisfying and even spectacular if you get the most out of the limited space you have. If you plan well, even the most finite space has infinite possibilities!

Barb Webb. Founder and Editor of Rural Mom, is an the author of "Getting Laid" and "Getting Baked". A sustainable living expert nesting in Appalachian Kentucky, when she’s not chasing chickens around the farm or engaging in mock Jedi battles, she’s making tea and writing about country living and artisan culture.
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