How to Start Small Space Container Gardens

Want to garden but not sure you have enough space to grow the fruits, vegetables, and herbs that you’re interested in? There’s a growing trend toward small space container gardens that will help you to build out the garden of your dreams, even in a small space!

This is a type of gardening that maximizes both gardening technologies and design to generate the most produce in the least amount of space.

It incorporates everything from a small windowsill herb garden to a raised garden bed on your back porch. You can grow amazing fruits and vegetables in containers on an apartment patio or build a vertical garden against a wall and grow a variety of herbs and vegetables. You’ll be quite surprised at what you can grow in a small space.

small space container gardens

What Can I Plant in a Small Planter Box?

Glad you asked! It turns out, you can actually grow quite a bit of food in small planter boxes!

Any herb can grow in a small container. The plant will tend to grow to the size of the pot, which means you can keep them in tiny containers on your windowsill, in a flower box outside, or in larger planters.

Other fruits and vegetables that grow well in containers include peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, and even blueberries and raspberries. Tomatoes can be grown in containers as long as they’re provided with a cage or a means to grow vertically and have their branches supported.

Speaking of tomatoes, lots of other veggies grow on vines that are perfect for small space gardening.

How to Start a Vertical Garden

Any vegetable or fruit that grows on a vine like tomatoes, beans, and even grapes can be grown in a vertical garden. Squash and zucchini along with watermelon and cucumbers all enjoy climbing up a structure.

You can plant them in a small raised garden bed that you build, or you can plant them in containers. The key to success here is to give them something to climb on like this simple but strong netting so they don’t grow horizontally and take up space.

Vertical gardens along walls are also growing in popularity and can be a great way to grow herbs and veggies in a small space, using hanging garden pots with multiple layers such as these.

How to Start a Raised Garden Bed

Got a patio or a small backyard? How about a raised garden bed?

The ideal size for a raised garden bed is four feet across and four to six feet long. The narrow width means that you can stand or kneel on one side and reach the plants on the other side. It’s also appropriate for small yards and patios.

The good news is that you can grow just about anything in a raised garden bed. From carrots and garlic to asparagus, Brussels sprouts and celery – you’re only limited by your personal preferences. Keep in mind that to maximize space you’ll want to provide a vertical growing structure for any plants that tend to vine or need a lot of space.

If you’re using a raised garden bed, consider embracing the practice of square foot gardening where you can pack as much produce as possible into your small space. We’ll take a look at square foot gardening next.

Related: How to Start an Indoor Herb Garden

Square Foot Gardening

Square foot gardening, also called SFG in many gardening communities, was developed in the 1970s by Mel Bartholomew. Prior to his career as an author and a television presenter, he was an engineer. When he retired, he began gardening and quickly realized that the traditional method felt wasteful.

He spent hours weeding the gaps between the rows of plants and decided that getting rid of the rows was a better idea. A gardening concept was born. Through his television programs and his book, the concept of SFG took off. In fact, many manufacturers embraced it and created what they marketed as “ready to assemble” gardens.

With a square foot garden you’ll have a small raised garden bed. The standard size is four feet by four feet. You’ll create a grid on the top of the bed that sections off your bed into foot squares. The key to success with a square foot garden is to create a deep bed. They’re usually six to eight inches deep. This gives the plants plenty of room to find nutrients in the soil.

Another essential element of a successful square foot garden is the use of a specific type of soil mix. This mix is designed to prevent weeds from growing and to retain water and nutrients. The mix is a combination of compost, peat moss and vermiculite. Each element comprises one-third of the combination.

How to Configure Your Squares

The squares or the grid that you create with string are important. It allows you to maximize the number of plants in the box and it helps with crop rotation. There’s a specific pattern to follow.

Each square has either 1, 4, 9 or 16 plants in it depending on the size of the plant. You can use your fingers to mark the spots in the soil before you add the plants so you can see what will fit and how it all comes together. If you have larger plants they might take up two side-by-side squares and you can plant climbing plants like beans into mini-rows with four per square.

When you’re taking care of your SFG, you don’t have to walk on the bed. You can reach right across it. It’s also recommended that you harvest your herbs, fruits, and veggies with scissors rather than plucking them as this can harm the roots.

Square foot gardening works well for many situations and you can expand on it if you have a larger garden and want to maximize your space. It does require a little more planning in the beginning. However, it’s a great way to garden efficiently.

small space container gardens

Choosing Your Small Containers

Container gardening is a fun way to grow flowers, fruits, herbs and vegetables in a creative, ecofriendly and simple way. The fact is, you can grow things in just about any type of container. One of the reasons container gardening has become so popular is that it’s a fun way to decorate a patio, porch or yard.

You can use any type of container from an old bathtub to a wooden crate. Feel free to recycle and reuse items or head to the home goods store to find planters that fit your design tastes and needs.

Have an old fish bowl or aquarium? You can grow vegetables in it. Do you have a mug that you never use? It might be great for herbs like chives. Small plants like herbs and lettuce, and even root vegetables like carrots and radishes, grow well when they’re in smaller planters. 

You can pack them tightly together for an ornate appearance and to maximize space. You can also add these vegetables to flower pots. For example, you might have a planter that has petunias, daisies and lettuce.

Containers for Medium Plants

You can find lovely plants for medium size planters too. For example, peppers – both sweet and hot – are beautiful plants. You can use the containers as a decorative element on your porch or patio and enjoy the harvest in later summer.

If you like spicy foods, try habanero peppers. They have a bright orange color that is quite stunning.

Tomatoes are somewhere between medium and large. If you plant them in a planter, make sure to place a tomato cage over them so they have the support they need to grow up. Look for smaller varieties like cherry tomatoes.

small space container gardens

Tips for Small Space Container Gardens

Container gardening is easy but there are a few tips and rules of thumb that make it even simpler.

  • Holes – If your container doesn’t have holes, then you will want to drill them. Your container needs some drainage so your plant doesn’t become waterlogged.
  • Soil – A good potting soil can make all the difference in your success. You can make your own or buy bagged soil from your nursery.
  • Check regularly – While you don’t have to worry about too many pests eating your plants and you certainly don’t have to worry about weeds, it’s a good idea to create a habit to check, and water, your container garden on a regular basis.

Container gardening is fun and it’s an easy way to start turning your thumb green. Identify a few types of plants you’d like to grow, find the appropriate container and get started.

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