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The Dirt on Small Space Gardening

Pansy Summer Flowers

Have you noticed that as our lives evolve, the spaces where we can garden are often getting smaller? At the same time, other would-be gardeners who’ve never grown anything but houseplants may find their circumstances changing, letting them expand their options and plant in containers or raised beds. Either way, with a bit of thought, gardening small can still be gardening big in terms of productivity and beauty.

Let’s take a look at some things you should consider if you’d like to transform your small space into a mini-farm or a tiny flower-filled oasis.

First, the basics

While it’s fun to re-invent certain notions of gardening when it comes to small spaces, it’s important to remember that the basic rules still apply. Specifically, your garden will need proper sunlight, good soil and easy access to water.

Sunlight in certain types of small or confined spaces can be tricky. For example, crops like leafy vegetables and many types of flowers can thrive in the morning sun of an east-facing balcony. An identical balcony on the west-facing side of the same building may be a first-class heat trap. For plants grown there, it’s not about just the amount of the sunlight. To thrive, those plants will need to be tolerant of especially hot temperatures, too. But both small space gardens can work if you’re careful to choose the appropriate flowers or veggies. Tagawa’s Annuals and Perennials staff can be a big help with your selections.

Excellent soil is essential for growing the best plants possible. If a small-space garden offers in-ground options, maybe compost could help improve that soil and help it drain properly, so it’s more root-friendly for your plants.

And as for soil in containers or raised beds, always use the best soil you can get! Plants growing in containers can easily and quickly deplete the soil in a confined space like a big pot or raised bed, making proper fertilization essential as each season unfolds.

And as for water… a lot of small spaces that can be adapted to accommodate a tiny garden may not have a hose or sprinkler nearby. Watering cans and buckets can be put to good use, but it’s important to think about a routine for delivering water, especially to thirsty raised beds and containers that dry out faster than in-ground beds.

Speaking of containers and raised beds…

Many small-space gardening options may not have any in-ground planting options at all. For balconies, decks and patios, good-sized pots and raised beds can literally make those places come alive.

The garden shown above is overflowing with pots and plants of all shapes and sizes. Granted, this small space and its dozens of containers, would require a fair bit of maintenance, including watering and deadheading (removing spent flowers). Still, it would deliver a colorful and lush oasis for those quiet moments of showing your flowers some T.L.C.

And how about those endlessly versatile raised beds?

It’s not as if raised beds are exactly new on the gardening scene, but their increasing popularity and practicality have brought them center stage when it comes to small space gardening.

Just imagine the harvest that’s coming from this set-up! Squash, kale, tomatoes, Swiss chard, basil and so much more will be on offer at this gardener’s table, thanks to the intense planting techniques and deep, well-designed beds. Note the flowers tucked in here and there. “Interplanting,” mixing flowers and veggies in the same space, is an excellent way to get the best of both worlds. The plants are definitely tucked in tight, but as long as they’re all getting adequate sun and water, they should be fine.

One other requirement: These closely-planted beds can succeed as long as the caretaker sees to the health of the soil. Growing this many plants will deplete the soil’s fertility quickly, so additions of compost each spring will be needed, along with an appropriate fertilization routine. Rotating the crops… planting them in different beds each season, will also help to reduce problems with disease.

Perennials in small space gardens? Sure!

If space permits, a few well-chosen perennials can definitely play a welcome role in smaller gardens. Note I said “well chosen…”

The small garden space shown here is a great example of combining a few perennial vines (and their space-saving habit of growing up) with some perennial lavender. You’ll also find some in-ground petunias and other annuals in large pots. Taken as a whole, this garden doesn’t feel small at all. Along with some tasteful fencing, this definitely becomes a place to escape!

Simple touches can add up!

Whatever small space gardening design appeals to you, don’t forget the value of simple touches here and there. They can make a big difference! Try creating different heights and adding tiny accents.

These beautiful pots of smiling pansies would be a winner in any setting, but displaying one just a bit higher than the other makes them that much more appealing. Varying the heights of the plants you include, whether flowers or veggies, adds a lot to a small garden’s eye appeal.

And what if you want a low-maintenance small garden?

That’s when you need to think “hardscapes.” That’s a garden-planning term that refers to permanent, non-plant features like patios, decks and sidewalks. If you’d like an oasis of your own but don’t want the routine care that goes along with growing lots of plants, think hardscapes, ones you already have or ones you can create.

This garden uses a bit of boardwalk off of a deck, some vines and a few small but lush perennials to make the corner of this yard totally inviting. Add a couple of simple but comfortable chairs, and let the lazy conversation begin!

See the fun in small-space gardening!

If you find yourself with a bit of space and a desire to garden, try to see it as an adventure! Take note of the essentials, including sun, soil, and water. Then do a bit of research and see what kind of tiny “outside room” you’d like to create for you, your family and friends. And remember that Tagawa Gardens is always there to help!