Small-Space Gardening


Small-Space Gardening Growing food in small spaces can be fun and productive — you just need a little sunshine and some imagination.

Choose Your Small-Space Adventure

Here are my top suggestions for creating a productive garden within the constraints of whatever space you have to work with:

No Space. If you have a large, south-facing window, you can grow herbs and salad greens in pots, containers or a window box. You may also succeed with container-grown crops such as tomatoes and peppers depending on the amount of sun you can provide them. The key to success is picking compact varieties suited to your taste and available space (see “Compact Varieties for Small-Space Growing” near the end of this article).


In addition to the options above, a person in this category can grow crops that require more sun and vertical space. For example, try growing large pots of strawberries or trellising cucumbers. The most inspiring gardener I know from this category is Mark Ridsdill Smith, who grows more than $1,000 worth of food each year on his 9-by-6-foot balcony and five south-facing window boxes in London

Small Yard. Perhaps choose plants that go well together. For example, you could plant a salad garden (i.e., different varieties of greens and lettuce), a soup garden (i.e., carrots, onions and celery) or a salsa garden (i.e., tomatoes, peppers and cilantro). For people just starting out and those growing in shady conditions, I think a small salad garden consisting of a few varieties of “cut and come again” lettuce varieties or mesclun mixes, one to two favorite herbs and a compact tomato plant or two is a great introduction to the pleasures of the kitchen garden. Leafy greens such as spinach and chard also do well in small, shady plots. (For more on successfully growing food in shady areas, read Best Vegetables to Grow in the Shade).

  • ‘Alibi’ Cucumber. You’ll need an alibi to tell your family after you’ve picked this short-vine variety clean and eaten all of the cukes yourself. Matures in 50 days.
  • ‘Bush Delicata’ Squash. If you absolutely must plant squash in your tiny space, ‘Bush Delicata’ is a good choice. This open-pollinated heirloom variety only spreads about 4 to 6 feet, and you can save its seeds for the next year.
  • ‘Compatto’ Dill. It may not grow any taller than 20 inches, but ‘Compatto’ will deliver the dill taste you need for salads and garnishes.
  • ‘Green Tiger’ Zucchini. This stout, bushy variety produces brilliant, 6- to 8-inch fruits with glossy, dark green skin and pale stripes.
  • ‘Mohawk’ Pepper. Picture 4- to 5-inch, brightly colored bell peppers spilling over your deck railing or window box, and you’re picturing ‘Mohawk.’
  • ‘Ophelia’ Eggplant. This one is perfect for the patio. The eggplants are small — a little more than 2 ounces each — and grow in clusters like tomatoes do.
  • ‘Temptation’ Strawberry. Compact, vigorous growth makes ‘Temptation’ well suited for hanging baskets, grow bags and short-season climates.
  • ‘Totem’ Tomato. Growing no taller than 2 feet high and requiring no staking, ‘Totem’ offers big tomato taste in a small package.
  • ‘Tumbling Tom’ Tomato. ‘Tumbling Tom’ is a heavy yielder of beautiful, bright red cherry tomatoes. Perfect for hanging baskets, as the tomatoes really do tumble over the edges.
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