Top 10 Tips for Growing Vegetables in Small Spaces


Only have a small yard? Or maybe a balcony?

It doesn’t matter! You can still grow plenty of great-tasting, healthy vegetables and save money on groceries by gardening in a small space.

I’m going to let you in on some helpful tips for growing vegetables in small spaces. With just a few basic facts up your sleeve, your little garden will be unstoppable!

So, let’s get into it!

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10 Tips for Growing Vegetables in Small Spaces

Get Container Gardening

Depending on the space you have available, growing your crops in either container or raised beds are your options.

Raised beds work well if you have a grassy area and come with many benefits over and above simply planting directly in the ground. Containers or large pots will be what you go with if you have a balcony or concrete yard with no access to soil.

growing vegetables in containers

Almost anything can be grown in a container, including things like carrots and potatoes which you may think of as ground-loving crops. The trick is to make sure that the soil is of good quality with enough nutrients and drainage.

Choose Compact Varieties

One of the most important tips for gardening in small spaces is actually about the varieties of plants that you choose to grow.

Thanks to the science of plant breeding, there are now many more compact cultivars available to choose from which work well in containers. They take up less space but still provide a good amount of produce.

Examples include dwarf varieties of peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, and cucumbers.

On a similar note, if you have access to a bit of soil, you could consider an espalier fruit tree. You don’t necessarily need to choose a compact variety for this, as growing an espalier tree is a method of controlling the growth form through strategic pruning.

But, there are also dwarf varieties of fruit trees available (and they often come with the advantage of maturing and producing fruit sooner than regular size fruit trees!).

Some dwarf fruit trees can even be grown in containers so they are definitely worth checking out!

Make Use of Vertical Space

Making use of vertical space is another of the most valuable tips for gardening in small spaces.

You may have limited ground area but the sky is your limit, literally, when it comes to growing upwards!

Many vegetables can be encouraged to grow upwards on a cane or small trellis. All you need are some bamboo canes and garden twine.

Great examples of vegetables that don’t require much ground space but can grow upwards include, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, all varieties of beans, peas, sweet corn, dwarf squash, and melons.

You might even get your companion planting hat on and encourage some nasturtiums to grow up a stake to help keep the aphids at bay and pretty up your patch with some edible flowers!

tomatoes growing indoors

Make Use of Window Sills

A garden doesn’t have to be outside. Growing inside in general is a great way to maximize production when you don’t have a lot of outdoor space.

There can be a lot of advantages to growing indoors – you don’t need to worry about cold nighttime temperatures or pests so much, just to name a couple. But the main criterion for your indoor growing to be successful is light. If you have a large window sill that gets lots of sun, then that’s a great option.

Herbs like Mint are especially are well suited to window ledge growing.

Alternatively, investing in growlights can result in an extremely productive indoor garden.

There are different kinds of grow lights (eg. LED and HID) and some may be better suited to your setup than others, so be sure to check out our guides before you commit to any new purchases.

Lastly, if you have the funds and are keen to learn, hydroponic growing is another indoor growing option that removes a lot of variables (and mess) from the equation and can result in really high yields.

If you’re not sure what hydroponic growing is, this article will explain everything you need to know.

Think About Time

How long it takes each of your crops to grow should also be a factor in deciding what to plant. Some things, like garlic and leeks, take half a year to grow.

When you’re gardening in a small space, your yield will be substantially bigger over the course of a year if you grow vegetables with a shorter grow time.

Radishes, rockets, and lettuce are all very fast to grow and can give you multiple harvests in one growing season. Or, crops like tomatoes and beans which produce fruit over the course of a whole summer are also a great option.

Invest in Good Quality, Organic Compost or Fertilizer

Growing in a small space usually means growing more intensively, and growing in containers.

Growing crops closer together and getting multiple harvests in a season takes a lot out of the soil.

Containers are also especially prone to a little nutrient depletion as they don’t typically have a large ecosystem of earthworms and microbes like the ground. The roots of your plants are also contained and prevented from growing further to seek out more nutrients.

In order to counter this and still reap a bountiful harvest, you will need to give your soil a little love.

Adding good quality, organic compost or fertilizer throughout the growing season will ensure that your plants maintain good health and are able to provide you with lots of good quality food.

The organic part is really important here. You want your fertilizer to be composed of nutrients from natural sources like blood and bones, seaweed, animal manure, and fish meal. These ingredients will feed the soil in more ways than one, giving it a nutrient boost while also improving overall soil quality.

Using synthetic fertilizers gives your plants a very quick, short-term boost but degrades the soil over time to the point where you need to replace it completely and start again. No one wants that!

If you want to understand more about fertilizer use in general, have a read of this quick guide.

Pair up Your Garden with a Home Compost or Worm Farm

Owning a small home compost or worm farm is one of the best things you can do for your wallet and the environment. Turning your food waste into food for your garden means that you reduce the amount of waste going to the landfill and save money on buying in compost or fertilizer.

Man putting food scraps in compost bin

There is a load of options for creating a compost or worm farm in a small space. You can even start a small kitchen compost indoors!

Though most kitchen compost bins are designed more for the storage of food scraps before they get transported to an outside compost heap, indoor composting is possible. Check out this guide if indoor composting is something that interests you.

Alternatively, invest in a compost tumbler that can sit on your balcony or in your yard. It won’t take up much space if you choose a small one and it will make composting a breeze!

Lastly, if you’re interested in a worm farm, the right worms will dramatically speed up the process and a worm farm may even take up less space than a compost tumbler.

Plant for Your Climate and Sun Orientation

Maximizing yield can be as simple as planting the right crops for the temperature and sun exposure of the space you have available. Growing warm-weather crops in a cool yard that doesn’t get enough hours of direct sunlight during the day will likely result in poor yields.

I experienced this myself when I tried to grow a tomato plant in a pot on a patio that only got a few hours of direct sun per day  – the plant stayed small and only produced about 3 tomatoes the entire summer!

Similarly, if your spot gets a load of sun, growing things that prefer cooler temperatures and less sun, like radishes, rockets, and spinach, will likely result in them going to seed almost immediately.

In saying all that, there is no reason why you can’t grow amazing veggies all year round in your small space. If you’re interested in how to get started in the colder months, have a read of our little ‘how to’ guide for winter growing.

Succession Planting and Companion Planting

These are biggies for small space gardening. The planning side of gardening isn’t fun for everyone, but it can be the deciding factor in how successful your garden is.

How to grow vegetables in a small space basically comes down to being smart about it.

Succession Planting

Succession planting is basically a way of organizing when you plant seeds and transplant seedlings throughout the season so that you always have new seedlings ready to be planted as soon as something is harvested.

For example, if you know that your lettuces will take one month to mature after transplanting, but also take one month to grow from seed to seedling, you need to be planting more seeds once per month to have seedlings ready for transplanting when the mature plants are harvested.

Companion Planting

Companion planting is essential for the maximum use of space. It basically means that you choose what plants to plant next to each other depending on what nutrients they use (or return to the soil), what pests they attract (or repel), and what diseases they’re prone to.

For example, beans are not a fan of growing next to many bulb crops like onions and leeks. They also don’t like marigolds or any kind of pepper. Similarly, tomatoes, eggplant, and potatoes are all nightshades and therefore susceptible to the same diseases so it’s a good idea to keep them away from each other.

Tomatoes hanging in a vine

However, planting basil and marigolds next to tomatoes is a great idea! Both help to repel pests and basil is even thought to boost the quantity and flavor of tomatoes produced.

Grow What You Like to Eat, What Tastes Best Fresh and is Expensive to Buy

This might not sound like a big deal, but if you’re not going to be eagerly harvesting and enjoying the food that you produce, there’s not a lot of point in growing it in the first place.

When you have a big garden, you can grow a wider variety of foods, including things that you may not eat that often, things that take up a lot of space (like pumpkins), and things that are usually cheap to buy (like potatoes).

But, when you only have a small space, to make it worth your while, it’s better to focus on things that are best eaten as soon as they’re harvested and can be pricey in the shop. Examples might be mesclun salad, cherry tomatoes, peas, and runner beans.

Summary

Feeling confident about growing vegetables in small spaces? I hope so! You can produce so much more food than a lot of people might think so it is worth it!

Just remember, plan carefully, choose your varieties carefully, work with the amount of sun you have and you will be away laughing!

Do you already grow some vegetables in small spaces? Do you agree with what I’ve written here? Maybe you have some additional pointers? I’d love to know what you think so feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Andy Gibson

My name's Gibson. Andy Gibson. I like to think of myself as the Bond of the backyard, that is if yard work ever became sexy. I write about everything about indoor and outdoor gardening and the dread-it-but-still-need-to-do-it chores around the yard, like cleaning out the gutter guards.

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