Gardening in Small Spaces

Gardening in small spaces is becoming more and more of a reality these days. Not everybody has the room for a big garden these days, many of us live in smaller homes and apartments, or you may be renting and don’t have the option to dig up someone else’s yard.

Container gardening is a great way to garden in a small space. Gardening in pots lets you take your plants with you if you move house. It’s a cost efficient way to grow a crop of vegetables, fruit trees, herbs, flowers and even ornamental shrubs and trees. If you have the right size tub you can grow almost anything in a container.

Choose a suitable container for the position and size of your plant

Gardening in small spaces

The bigger the plant, the bigger the pot. You can plant quite a variety of vegetables in the same pot. If your container is in a hot and dry location, choose a lighter colour pot as darker colours will attract the heat. If using terracotta pots these may need a sealant as they tend to dry out faster than other pots.

Making sure your container has sufficient drainage

Gardening in small spaces

Make sure any outdoor container has drainage holes in the bottom so the plants roots aren’t sitting in water which can lead to root rot.

If you are recycling an old bucket or tub from home you can make your own drainage holes, alternatively, you can place rocks at the bottom of your pot so the water has somewhere to go.

Choosing the right potting mix

Gardening in small spaces

A good quality potting mix is best. Try and choose a potting mix that has wetting agent to help with keeping the plants watered over summer. Long term fertilisers will be included in the mix.


Gardening in small spaces

Plants in pots dry out much quicker than plants in the ground. You will need to water every day in summer and far less in winter. Most plants require a moist soil, so try not to let the soil dry out.

Feeding your plants

Gardening in small spaces

Watering regularly in pots can wash out the fertilisers, make sure to top up with a slow release fertiliser at least every six months. A liquid fertiliser such as Tui Organic Seaweed Plant Tonic may be used for optimal health every fortnight. Use a watering can or spray bottle and feed through the foliage.

Vertical Gardening

Another way of gardening in small spaces is the vertical garden. If you have a spare wall or fence this option may be for you. Shallow rooted plants are best suited to a vertical garden. Plants such as strawberries, herbs, succulents and annual flowers are well suited to the vertical garden to create the cascading look. Plant herbs such as thyme, marjoram and oregano that are also cascading and combine them with cascading flowers such as lobelia.

Some plants that are well suited to pots that you may want to try out are:

Annual flowers:

Gardening in small spaces

  • Petunias will really fill out a container
  • Marigolds add great summer colour
  • Snap dragons are long lasting and are available in a compact form
  • Dianthus parfait mix is compact and provides long lasting blooms
  • Alyssum is a great filler, low growing and has an amazing scent
  • Lobelia is a great cascading option
  • Chrysanthemum makes a great show of colour

Herbs and vegetables:

Gardening in small spaces

  • Parsley
  • Mint
  • Lettuce, pick as you go varieties for daily salads
  • Tomatoes, dwarf varieties for smaller pots, larger tomatoes may require a bigger pot and staking.
  • Perpetual spinach

Fruit trees:

Gardening in small spaces

  • Citrus
  • Blueberries
  • Dwarf plums and nectarines
  • Tamarillo

Ornamental shrubs and trees:

Gardening in small spaces

  • Loropetalum, one of my favourite ornamental shrubs in a pot. I love plants with weeping habit.
  • Fairy magnolia has an amazing flower, great for creating a bit of privacy
  • Star jasmine, climb it on an obelisk for a stunning effect and a beautiful scent

If you’re on a budget find some unused containers from around the house, follow the simple guidelines and get creative. A great way to get the kids involved is to get them to paint a terracotta pot and plant a flower of their choice. They will take pride in caring for it and seeing it grow.