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Big Bites in Tiny Spots: How to Find Space to Grow Your Garden

By Martha Michael

Spring Planting

You don’t need a sprawling estate or a working ranch to harvest a little of your own homegrown food. Residents in urban areas or suburban homes with patches of small spaces can pick up a watering can and find their inner gardener too.

Whether in a corner of the yard or a balcony’s edge, there are ways to grow edible plants where space is in short supply. You just need to be innovative.

Windowsill Gardens

The most charming scenes of a country town or a European village often include window boxes brimming with bunches of lush, colorful geraniums. Indoors or out, growing plants in your windowsill is not only picturesque, if it gets enough sunlight it has the conditions you need for a successful garden.

To maximize the chance your plants survive, they need to be kept in areas with consistent bright light and warm temperatures, says an article on By choosing the proper site, even a beginner has half the battle won. When there’s inconsistent light, the best plants for windowsill gardens are herbs and leafy greens. Experts recommend using a south-facing window in the winter because it’s typically the most sunny and warm.

When you’re ready to begin, fill the pots with soil and either plant seeds or transplant the startup. Initially, be sure to water them well and on a weekly basis; you need to determine the frequency of watering by checking the top inch of its soil. When you feel that it’s dry, you need to pour water at the base of the plant. For the greatest growth, rotate the pots on the sill.

Balcony Gardens

Similar to a windowsill filled with plants, a garden on a balcony that’s visible to others can provide beauty as well as edible pleasures. Unless you typically use your balcony to stretch out on chaise lounge chairs, you don’t need more than a few feet in length and width to create a thriving garden on your balcony, says an article in Gardeners’ World.

Before you begin planting, make sure your balcony can sustain the weight of heavy pots filled with soil. Stone and terracotta filled with wet compost can be heavier than you think, so you may need plastic or resin containers.

Balconies and rooftop terraces are prime locations for such flowering plants as begonias and petunias. Succulents are also a good choice. For the sunniest balconies you can enjoy the color and scent of flowers, as well as the usefulness of herbs such as oregano, rosemary, and lavender.

Patio Gardens

While we typically think of the patio as a place to dine, it can also be the site where some of the food originates. You don’t need a flower bed to grow herbs and vegetables -- a group of containers are capable of holding a thriving collection of plants that serve a greater purpose than being visually appealing.

Assess the sun’s rays on your patio to select prime real estate for edible plants. Vegetables such as peppers and tomatoes grow best in 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight per day. For shadier spots you can grow lettuce for salads.

Water is equally important. Hand watering separate containers on a regular basis can be burdensome so you may want to look into self-watering planters. Soaker hose systems are effective for raised beds.

There are limitations in draining potted plants, so some experts recommend using a planting mix instead of typical garden soil. Fertilize them regularly because mixes are sterile rather than fertile.

Gardening With Limited Backyard Space

The tiniest yard can pull off an herb garden just like certain indoor spaces. You don’t need excess property to grow your own spices, including:

  • Thyme
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Garlic
  • Onions

With a little creativity and know-how, you can pull off a healthy crop of edible plants too, says an article on Martha Stewart’s website. It includes tips for growing your own food in small spaces:

Choose super-productive plants - Instead of huge tomato varieties, grow cherry tomatoes such as “sun gold.”

Find a dwarf variety - From eggplants to artichokes, plant breeders are serving up new, smaller versions of vegetables.

Use vertical space - With hanging planters, walls with hardware for vegetation and column-shaped containers, you add visual drama to the area in addition to maximizing the potential for variety. Speaking of vertical, it’s healthier to garden while standing than being hunched over, so don’t lose sight of your posture.

A corner of the yard for watermelon or a balcony’s edge for peppers, however your little slice of heaven is situated, it’s easy to bring homegrown fare to your table with minimal investment of time and money. You can boost your health with a diet of fresh food, and you’ll probably need no more than a trowel and a set of gardening shears.

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