The Plot Shrinks: Tips on Small Space Gardening
Last updated May 2019
Not everyone has a large yard to tend: For many, personal green spaces are limited to balconies or small plots.
Small-space gardening, which can sprout up on spots from skinny balconies to tiny backyards, can often be just as rewarding—and a whole lot easier and cheaper—than tending your own back 40. Here are some dos and don’ts.
Do: Consider raised bed or container gardening. Even if all you’ve got is a balcony, you can probably grow herbs or a few petunias in a pot. And in teeny backyards, raised beds let you grow veggies on a small scale.
Don’t: Let plants dry out or drown. If you’re container gardening, be aware that plants in pots dry out more quickly than ones growing in the ground, so you’ll need to water them more frequently. But you’ll also need to be sure anything in a pot has proper drainage so roots don’t get waterlogged. A base of pea gravel in the bottom of a pot will help.
Do: Allow for growth. Read labels on seed packets or plants to see how large your purchases will get. You don’t want weensy flowers that’ll look sad and puny in your small front yard, or a rampaging mint plant that takes over your herb patch. Top-rated garden centers should have staff who can advise you on plants suited to your space.
Don’t: Buy the wrong pots. Fancy stone planters shaped like lions. Cheap-yet-chic terracotta pots. Plastic window boxes. There are so many vessels in which to plonk herbs, veggies, or geraniums that it can be hard to choose. For the most part, any vessel with a drainage hole can shelter a growing thing. In colder weather, some ceramic pots can freeze and crack. If you’re going to leave containers outside in the winter, look for frost-proof varieties or stick with stone or plastic pots.
Do: Think outside the flower box. In a weensy space, don’t limit your green thumbing to the ground or a pot. Vertical planters, espaliered trees that grow along patio walls, and green roofs can all turn unused space into blooming wonders.