Deborah J. Benoit, Extension Master Gardener University of Vermont
You don’t need a lot of land to have a garden. It doesn’t even matter if the usable space in your yard is the size of an area rug or if you live in a second-floor apartment with no yard. The options for gardening in small spaces are not small at all.
Start by taking a good look around at the space you have available. Don’t limit yourself to locations for in-ground planting. Containers can make a great small-space garden.
Look for a spot with good light and a convenient water source. The ideal location will receive at least six to eight hours of sunlight each day, a must to successfully grow fruits, vegetables and many flowering plants. It can be a patch of ground in the yard or a sunny spot on a deck or at the side of the driveway.
If you have a suitable place in your yard, no matter how small, you can have a garden. First, in selecting plants, consider those which will grow to a smaller size at maturity so you can fit more plants into the space available. Varieties intended for smaller spaces are often described as “dwarf” or “compact” or “patio.”
Some plants by their very nature are going to take up more space. Vining plants such as cucumbers and squash have a tendency to sprawl and take over the garden. The best way to tame them is to encourage them to grow up instead of out.
Using a trellis or arbor or other similar support system will keep both the vines and fruit off the ground and result in space for additional plants in your garden. Be sure to put the trellis in place at the time of planting so you won’t disturb the roots later. More information on vertical gardening can be found at the UVM website.
But what if you have no room for a new garden bed of any size?
If you already have flower beds around your home and want to include a vegetable garden but have no space, consider interplanting vegetables among your ornamentals. A colorful pepper plant can look right at home among a bed of perennial flowers. Or add a trellis at the back of the flower bed to support beans or cucumbers.
But what if your space is really limited and there’s no available ground to be found?
There’s no need to limit yourself to existing garden spaces. Or in-ground planting for that matter. Grow in containers.
Containers come in a variety of sizes, are portable and can be placed wherever the sun shines in your yard. You can place them singly or in groups, wherever conditions are best.
What can you grow in containers?
Small containers are perfect for herbs or salad greens. This includes traditional pots as well as window boxes and those that fit over a deck railing.
Larger containers, including grow bags, can accommodate more substantial plants and crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers, corn or potatoes. Just be sure the pot is sufficiently deep to accommodate the plant you want to grow.
Larger pots can contain not only a single large plant but also smaller plants, such as basil planted at the base of a tomato. Elevated planters can be home to a miniature garden of tomatoes, peppers and herbs with flowers to attract pollinators.
Container gardens will need to be watered more frequently than in-ground plantings, particularly during the heat of summer or dry spells, but they can be just as successful.
With a little creativity, even the smallest of spaces can be transformed into a productive garden.
(Deborah J. Benoit is a UVM Extension Master Gardener from North Adams, Massachusetts, who is part of the Bennington County chapter.)