Smart Solutions for Small-Space Gardening Article

That picture-perfect backyard garden might seem unattainable to those with little green space to work with – especially would-be gardeners in urban areas. Before you hang up your gardening gloves, though, here’s the good news: Growing is always a possibility. Any amount of space, from the corner of a yard to a fifteenth-story balcony, can be an adequate space to grow vegetables and herbs. You just might need a little imagination and resourcefulness to do it.

Get Creative
Use what you’ve got. Growing in smaller spaces doesn’t have to be expensive, so you can decide on the aesthetic that works for you. Do you have old sections of gutter? Use it to hang buckets, baskets or secondhand planters to expand your planting space. And maximize that space by growing vertically. Build trellises to grow varieties of vining green beans, cucumbers or snap peas. Picking the right veggies can help you take full advantage of above-ground space (more on that below).

Whatever containers you choose to use, make sure they have adequate drainage, or spaces for water to exit through the bottom. This will prevent too much moisture from building up, which can cause plant disease and even drown your plants.

Pick the Right Plants
Consider size and space. Some vegetables are better suited for containers, others not. Some great starting options may include lettuce varieties, Swiss chard, chives, basil and sweet or hot peppers. Some seed companies provide container gardening suggestions to help you if you don’t know where to begin.

Some veggies and herbs need more room to grow than others. To make sure they have enough space, follow these simple guidelines:

  • One gallon containers are perfect for spinach, leaf lettuces and small greens with shallow root systems.
  • Two gallon containers or larger will work for peppers, eggplant and bush beans.
  • To grow tomatoes, your container should be a minimum of three gallons (preferably five gallons). Tomatoes are heavy feeders, have deep roots and require a lot of water to produce fruit.

Consider Water and Sunlight
Container-grown plants have different needs than their in-ground counterparts. Wind and sun dry out soil much faster in containers because they’re more exposed to the elements. On hot summer days, you might need to water two or three times a day to prevent your plants from drying out. Also remember that vegetables require, at a minimum, six to eight hours of sunlight. Take advantage of the mobility of planters to catch enough sunlight for growth.

Growing vegetables outside of the conventional garden requires us to mimic nature as much as possible. Environmental factors, plant varieties and vegetable size all play a role when you are trying to make the most of the space you have. By keeping these guidelines in mind, you can experiment with whatever space you have to get fresh, homegrown food on your table.