What Vegetables Can You Grow in a Tiny Garden?

Do you long for a garden but don't have the space for one?

Is your yard too small, or do you live in an apartment and only have a patio or balcony? Perhaps you are waiting and hoping to move to a home with more land.

You can still have a small garden. Start planning now, gather your pots and containers, and get growing this spring!

Location is important

Whether you're growing on a balcony, a deck or concrete patio, or in the ground in a corner of your small yard, location is the most important consideration of all.

Most vegetable plants crave a lot of sunshine, so choose the sunniest location you have available.

On the other hand, some vegetables don't like full sun or the extreme heat of direct summer sun. Read the seed packets and do some research to discover your plants' favorite growing conditions.

For instance, lettuce and other spring vegetables prefer cooler weather, and will grow quite well in bright locations that aren't necessarily in full sun. Afternoon shade will make these plants happy if you live in a hot climate.

Look for small-growing tomato varieties to grow in containers.

Choosing plants to grow in containers

So let's say that you have a small patio or balcony off your apartment or condo. You'll need to use containers, of course. The size and shape of your containers will depend on the plants you want to grow.

Root crops such as beets, carrots, radishes, onions and garlic do well in wide pots that are at least twelve inches deep. The plant above the ground isn't large, but you'll need to space the plants according to what's growing underground.

Young beets are more tender than large, more mature beets, so you can squeeze in a few more plants by planting a little more closely than recommended.

There are several varieties of short carrots, and radishes are small just because they're radishes.

Strawberries can be grown in gutters from the home improvement store. You could use one row of guttering all around your space, installed above your containers, or use several short rows of gutters one above the other along a section of balcony railing or fence.

Medium-sized fruiting plants such as peppers, eggplant, beans and peas require larger containers, but the plants aren't over-sized. You might need to stake these plants.

Bush beans might be a better choice to grow in containers than pole beans that will sprawl all over your limited space.

There are several varieties of small tomato plants. You probably won't be able to grow a dinner plate-sized beefsteak, but salad tomatoes are a definite possibility. You'll need to stake these plants or use tomato cages.

Determinate tomato varieties are smaller plants that will grow to a certain size, produce fruit and call it a season. While these might fit your small space well, you could also grow an indeterminate variety - which will continue to grow into a huge plant until frost kills it in the fall - and simply keep the ends pruned so it won't grow too large.

You can also grow small melons and cucumbers. These will need a trellis of some sort, which you might be able to lean up against a fence, wall or balcony railing.

Zucchini can be grown in a wide container. The plants can be large but they don't spread very much.

Can you grow zucchini in a container? Yes, you can!

More container ideas

Kitty litter buckets make great plant containers; ask your cat-owning friends to save their empties for you.

Check out farm stores such as Tractor Supply and farm-and-fleet type stores for large black rubber feed bowls or small water troughs to use as containers. Five-gallon buckets are a staple for container gardens.

Planter boxes that attach to a balcony railing are an attractive place to grow small vines that spill over the sides.

Cut the top third off of milk jugs and use them to grow small vegetable plants and herbs.

Be sure to drill holes in the bottom of all containers for drainage; most plants don't like having wet roots.

Growing in the ground

If you have a sunny corner in your yard that you can devote to vegetables, growing vertically is the best way to maximize your harvest.

Choose plants that grow vertically such as pole beans, cucumbers and vining squash. Use trellises to train the plants to grow upwards. You can plant smaller plants underneath the trellises and increase your harvest for this small space.

Try placing your plants a little closer together than recommended, and when one crop is finished, plant something else in that spot.

Maximizing your space

Some plants are multi-purpose and are a good solution for a small garden space.

As well as eating beets when they are young and tender, you can eat the beet greens in salads or blend them in smoothies. The greens from young onions can be snipped like chives, or you can eat the young plants as green onions.

Choose a packet of mixed gourmet looseleaf lettuce varieties for delicious salads with plenty of variety in shape, texture and color.

Cut your lettuce and spinach leaves as you need them, leaving the rest of the plant to continue growing.

Placing small containers on shelves will maximize the space on your balcony or patio. A 3-shelf unit will triple your growing space. Be aware that shelves can sometimes limit the amount of light your plants might receive.

Growing herbs

Herbs are another great candidate for container-growing. Chances are you can grow your favorite herbs on your patio or even indoors on a windowsill. Many herb plants are smaller in size, and you can trim them back (and use the trimmings in your cooking) to keep their size under control.

Many herb plants have beautiful flowers and lovely fragrances too, which is a bonus.

A shelf of potted herbs on a balcony or patio is visually appealing as well as food-producing.

Maintaining your small garden

Inspect your plants for insects and pests regularly. Because they are grown more closely together, insects are more likely to move from plant to plant and can be harder to spot.

Ventilation is important to keep your plants healthy. Balcony gardens might benefit from a fan's breeze.

Plants grown in containers need to be watered more often than those growing in the ground. Check your small garden regularly and water when needed.

Be considerate when you water your container garden. Water dripping from an overhead balcony might not make you a favorite neighbor.

Enjoy the produce from your small garden and the "fruits" of your labor.

For more gardening and simple living ideas and inspiration, subscribe to The Acorn, Oak Hill Homestead's weekly-ish newsletter, and join me on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. I'd love to see you there!

Are you held back by a small yard or an apartment balcony? Here's what you can grow in a small garden.

This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.


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Catherine said...

What a lot of great healthy looking crops :) Especially the beetroot, I've tried growing it time and again, without any luck to date - they just never reach a decent size, and the flavour leaves a lot to be desired.

Marla said...

Hi Kathi,
I love you garden patio ideas. There are many plants that you can grow on a small place and in pots that do very well as you have shown. I love your pictures too. Sharing

Kathi said...

Thank you, Catherine. I hope you can figure out why your beets aren't growing well. Some people say beets taste like dirt. I've never thought so, but perhaps in some soils they do?

Kathi said...

Thank you for sharing the post, Marla! I appreciate it.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Kathi, you have inspired me! But not to plant a fall garden; that's a bit soon for me to get off the dime. But spring? Yes!

Kathi said...

Oh good! I'm so glad that I've inspired you, Jean. Keep us updated on your adventure, please.

Katy SkipTheBag.com said...

Great suggestions! I've really only thought about herbs, and never would have thought about growing root veggies! Thanks for sharing on #sustainablesunday

Kathi said...

Katy, herbs are extremely easy to grow in containers.

Unknown said...

I've thought about doing a "patio garden" in my house through the winter...somehow. It's so hard having a short growing season! It seems like somethings would work inside though, wouldn't it? :)

Kathi said...

Absolutely some plants work well indoors. This week I'm doing a post on shady gardens; most of the plants and advice in that one will apply to indoor gardens as well. I hope it's helpful.

Jan said...

I did sweet potatoes in a raised bed and they went everywhere, but they just grew and grew and now I have a ton!it worked out great! Stopping by from Country Fair Blog Party!

Kathi said...

Sweet potatoes can be a space hog! They're pretty though, as well as producing something very tasty and useful. Thank you for stopping by, Jan.

DebbieInGeorgia said...

Love the idea. I can move the tomato plants around in the hot ga sun and out of it if I need to :D

Kathi said...

The best reason to use containers!

Unknown said...

Hello! Thanks for sharing. I want to grow a garden so badly but have a horrible black thumb. lol This is the year I make it happen though.

Kathi said...

Good for you, Gabrielle, for not giving up! Start small the first year, and good luck!

Unknown said...

The kitty litter bucket idea is perfect! A friend offered to give us some buckets to build nesting boxes. She then brought 30 of them! So, the nesting boxes are built and I still have 20 buckets left. I didn't want to send them to the land fill, so I've been storing them hoping for inspiration. Thanks, for sending the inspiration. I'm hoping maybe I could put eggplants and tomatoes in some of them. I'm running short of garden room and the great expansion plans can't happen until next year.

Kathi said...

They do make excellent plant containers! Here are a few more ideas to use up the extras, Anne - 20 Ways to Re-Use Kitty Litter Buckets

SkipTheBag said...

I wouldn't have though about growing root vegetables in a container. Neat idea. Thanks for sharing on the #WasteLessWednesday Blog Hop!

Kathi said...

Most root veggies grow well in containers, as long as the container is big enough. Thanks!

Kathryn Grace said...

I wish I had a balcony! Alas, all I can grow on my north-facing, city window sills so far are microgreens and sprouts. But they do make for tasty additions to salads. If ever I get a balcony again ...

Kathi said...

I'm sorry you don't have a balcony, Kathryn. I hope that you'll have one again someday!

A Green and Rosie Life said...

You are so right and there is such a lot of veg you can grown even with the smallest of gardens. 💚 I just need the weather to warm up as I am itching to get growing but know I still need to wait a bit longer. #WasteLessWednesday

Kathi said...

It's tempting to plant too early, isn't it?

Marla said...

You have so great tips here. There are many plants you can grow in small pots or large pots and you can make use of the smallest areas. Pinned & tweeted.

Kathi said...

I agree, Marla. :-)

Powell River Books said...

I grow a lot of my plants in containers because I don't have any land at my floating cabin. I space the pots out around the cabin deck so their isn't too much weight in any one spot. I've grown lots of the things you mentioned, but I save my root crops for my floating garden. - Margy

Kathi said...

How interesting, Margy! I'd love to hear more about your floating garden sometime.

A Green and Rosie Life said...

I am going to do parsnips inside loo roll inners later this afternoon and maybe some sweet peas. Spring is hopefully on her way and at least both these are hardy.

Kathi said...

Those are perfect early-spring plants. I've never grown parsnips but I enjoy them in stew. :-)

Linda S said...

Our first attempt at a patio garden did not go well. We had hoped for tomatoes and peppers, but just do not have enough sunlight on our balcony.
I am going to let the kids give root veggies a try - do you think they do well with less sunlight as compared to tomatoes and peppers?

Kathi said...

Yes, root veggies would probably grow well there, but you can also increase the light to your balcony with mirrors or shiny metal. I've written more about that here: http://www.oakhillhomestead.com/2016/08/grow-vegetables-in-shady-garden.html Good luck!

Daron said...

Great post and one more to add to the list - there are raspberry and blackberry varieties that do great in containers and don't need support to stay upright. Adding some berries to the veggies and herbs would make for a fantastic little garden.

Kathi said...

Adding berries is a GREAT idea. Thank you for that suggestion!

Cockeyed Jo said...

Kathi, don't forget gutter gardening for shallow rooted plants like lettuce and strawberries to take advantage of vertical spaces. (G) I use this still even though I have land now.

Kathi said...

Thanks, Jo! I mentioned strawberries but hadn't even thought of lettuce.

AnnMArie Lewellyn said...

What a great bunch of ideas! I love the gutter garden idea! I do that with lettuce here at my homestead! Thanks for sharing such great tips and ideas!

Kathi said...

Thanks, Annie! I'm going to hang gutters on the top of my garden fence to grow lettuce and keep it safe from the bunnies! Like Peter Rabbit, they have found a way to get through my fence. I've only used this method with strawberries before.

Sarita said...

Love this! We grow lettuce indoors in pots through the winter. Lots of ways to garden for fresh produce if you stick with it and get creative.

Kathi said...

Love that you are growing lettuce indoors, Sarita. You're so right!

AngieOuellette-Tower said...

This wonderful post is a GARDEN feature on the March 2020 You're the STAR blog hop: https://www.godsgrowinggarden.com/2020/03/youre-star-week1-garden-march-2020.html