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Small Space Gardening: How to Grow a Garden in a Small Space

March 23, 2023
Woman gardening on her small patio space

Having a backyard garden can be an enriching experience. You have fresh and healthy produce right outside your door, gardening has been proven to reduce stress and improve your mood, and a backyard garden adds beauty and visual interest to your outdoor space.

If your outdoor space requires you to be more strategic with your garden plan, don’t worry! Continue below to find our favorite gardening ideas for small spaces.

Choose the right plants

Select plants that are best suited for small-space gardening such as herbs, salad greens, strawberries, and dwarf varieties of vegetables and fruit trees. Plant breeders are constantly introducing vegetables that take up less space. Be sure to consider which vegetables you can easily purchase fresh in your area, and those that you truly love but can’t buy locally. That may help you decide which to incorporate and which to purchase.

A vertical herb garden in a small urban garden space

Grow up, not out

Use vertical space. Utilize trellises, hanging baskets, and wall-mounted planters to grow plants vertically. Make sure to put them on the north side of your garden area so you avoid shading the smaller plants. Cucumbers, tomatoes, peas, and pole beans are all eager climbers.

You can also stack containers to create an herb tower. It’s an easy DIY project that is not only a welcome decorative element to any small garden but creates even more room for various herbs, making the most of a small space garden.

Turn your unproductive wall space into a living herb wall. Just about any herb can be used in an edible wall. Herbs such as oregano and thyme will trail and spill, while basil and sage add a leafy fullness. The aesthetic will change and improve as the herbs grow and fill out the wall.

Small gardens in the backyard of Mulholland Plan 3 at BLVD by Brookfield Residential NorCal

Have a planting strategy

Group plants with similar water, sunlight, and soil requirements together to maximize the use of space. Plants that are too close together end up competing for nutrients and light. So, fewer plants that are properly spaced will give you a better yield than squeezing in as many as possible in a small space.

Companion planting

Companion planting involves planting different crops together so they benefit from each other and the combination of plants can deter pests. Shade-tolerant plants benefit from being planted next to taller crops. For example, basil and lettuce both love the shade provided by taller plants like tomatoes.


Interplanting or intercropping is the practice of planting small crops between bigger ones. The small, fast-growing crops will be ready before the big ones need that extra space. This allows you to use your area more efficiently and for a longer time.

Early-harvested vegetables, such as spinach, radishes, and peas, can be planted with slower-growing crops, such as broccoli or peppers. You can also interplant using flowers. The vegetables will look ornamental, and you will attract pollinators to your vegetable crops – a win-win!

Succession planting

Succession planting keeps your garden in continual production. Whenever one crop is harvested, have seedlings ready to transplant in its place. It’s a useful technique for any vegetable garden, but even more so when space is limited.

Various potted herbs and plants growing on home wood balcony

Make the most of natural light

Position plants in areas with sufficient natural light and supplement with artificial light if needed. Leafy greens, herbs, and some varieties of flowers, like impatiens and begonias, do well in the shade. If you want to grow produce you can eat like tomatoes, cucumbers, and strawberries, you’ll need sunshine – and lots of it.

Use a variety of small containers

Using containers in various sizes is a “must” when growing plants in small spaces. Containers can be placed on balconies, patios, or windowsills. When looking for plants that will thrive in containers, look for terms like “compact,” “tidy plant habit,” or “short stature” on plant or seed pack descriptions.

Large plants like beans, cucumbers, and tomatoes require large pots (two feet in diameter or more), while smaller pots are perfect for things like peppers, greens, kale, and herbs. If you have a bit more room, invest in a raised garden bed. Depending on the natural light, you may be able to utilize the space underneath and further maximize your gardening space.

Windowsill gardens are great for herbs, annual flowers, and leafy lettuce. A 2-foot-wide box will easily host four to six herb plants or a small crop of salad greens.

Tomato plants in a windowsill garden

Optimize soil quality

Use high-quality soil that is rich in nutrients and organic matter to ensure plants grow healthy. Fertile soil is important to the growth of all plants, but even more so with vegetables as the taste is affected by the quality of the soil. Sprinkle fertilizer granules in the hole before adding the plant to give it a boost. After planting, add an organic mulch to help deter weeds and keep the roots moist.

Maintain regular watering and fertilizing

Plants in small spaces tend to dry out faster, so keep them well-watered and fertilized to promote healthy growth. Gardening is a hobby to which you have to devote time. You must stay on top of regular watering, weeding, and fertilizing, especially during those hot summer months. Start small, with just one or two containers your first year, and reassess the next season. If you take on too much, it can be frustrating to have your hard work not yield the results you desire and put you off from trying again in the future.

Community garden at University District by Brookfield Residential in Calgary AB

Find a Community Garden

If your own outdoor space just isn’t quite right for a garden, check out your local community. Many neighborhoods have their own community garden that you can join. Brookfield Residential proudly includes community gardens in many of our neighborhoods throughout North America. Boulevard in Northern California, University District in Calgary, Central Park in Denver, and Two Rivers in Odenton, Maryland are just a few locations of our thriving community gardens.

Growing a garden is a great way to produce your own food, reduce stress, and create something beautiful in your backyard. With the right plants, a thoughtful strategy, and some time and energy, you’ll have a successful garden even in a small space.

Be sure to check out the Brookfield Residential blog for more design advice, homebuying insights, mortgage tips, and more, including easy ways to refresh your outdoor space or the most durable patio furniture. You can also explore where we build and connect with our sales team when you’re ready to learn more. We’ll be expecting you!