Gardening is a wonderfully rewarding experience — a great way to add healthy and organic food to your family’s meals. Many people would love to garden, but have little to no yard space for a traditional garden.
Good news! That doesn’t mean you can’t garden. You just have to learn to garden creatively. There are many options for folks with little to no outdoor space for gardening. Container gardens, windowsill gardens, rooftop gardens, balcony or patio gardens…there are many possibilities that will work!
So grab your gardening gloves and follow these tips on how to grow a garden without a yard.
1. Be realistic. Use your space wisely. While you can grow quite a bit of food in small spaces, you won’t be able to grow everything your heart desires. Be realistic with your space and use it wisely. If you have just a small patio, you will want to use it as fully as possible.
Before you get started, let’s look at a few things.
- Go outside and measure your space physically. How much space do you really have?
- Pay attention to how much sun the area gets.
- Check out your soil conditions. If you have soil, is it clay or sand?
- Do you have any “clutter” that can be moved to allow you more gardening space? Can you relocate that bicycle, box, or table to make more room for plants?
- Can you share a garden or plot of land with a neighbor or other tenant?
- Do you have homeowners association (HOA) restrictions you will need to follow or work around?
2. Determine where your water will come from. This may seem like a silly question but it’s actually very important: Will you have access to a hose or water supply? Will you need to carry out water from your apartment or home? Carrying water too far can become bulky and cumbersome – so it’s good to have a plan before you plant. If you live in a truly urban environment or big city, you may want to check on summer water restrictions if there is a drought and have alternate plans in place for caring for your plants.
3. Choose your gardening style, and decide what you want to grow! What is the purpose for your garden? Do you want to grow flowers, herbs, or food? Do you want to grow a little bit of everything? Prioritize what you want and then allot your space to fit your needs. Make sure the plants you want to grow will actually work with your space. If they are sun-loving plants, they will need plenty of sunlight. Don’t waste your space or time trying to grow things that won’t thrive in your conditions.
4. Think outside of the box! While small-space gardening has limitations, it doesn’t mean you’re stuck with only lettuce, carrots and tomatoes! There are plenty of other options for small space gardening. You just have to decide what you want to grow, what you’ll eat and enjoy, and how much work and time you can put into the project.
We’ve seen urban and small-space gardeners grow beans, cauliflower, beets, potatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, blackberries, and more within their limited spaces. You can even grow lemons and avocados in small spaces if you have the right resources and a little bit of know-how! And would you believe me if I told you I knew some urban gardeners who grew two apple trees out on their patio…with great success?
5. Garden UP. Sometimes you can grow “up” to maximize your gardening space. Typically it’s your horizontal space that is limited. Try building a vertical garden instead. You can utilize taller containers, share plants in large containers, or train a climber to go up a wall or fence. Window boxes or other mounted containers can also help with maximizing your space. Building your own trellis boxes is an easy weekend project for those who truly want to maximize their space and make their space look beautiful at the same time.
Try trellising beans around the sides and top of your space, and use your lower horizontal space for growing plants that don’t vine, trellis or climb. You can trellis beans and other climbing vegetables in the same pots as your tomatoes, carrots, and lettuces…but you will need to make sure to use a large pot or box to accomplish this.
6. Grow what you can indoors…. Some things like greens and herbs can be grown inside with just a little bit of dirt, water and a sunny window. If you have access to a sunny window or two, save your outdoor space for other plants and grow lettuces, herbs and some of your favorite flowers indoors.
If you’ve never tried growing microgreens,  and you are limited on space, you owe it to yourself to give them a try. They are easy to grow, delicious to eat, and they are ready in just a few days — all grown indoors!
One last word for new small-space gardeners: Don’t get overwhelmed. Start small. You don’t have to have it all figured out to get started…you just have to start! So pick a few things you’d like to try and grow them this season. As you learn more about small space gardening, you can add to your repertoire and really maximize your growing capabilities.
Here at Off The Grid News, we will be talking more about small-space and urban gardening in future columns. Stay tuned!