Best Ways to Garden in Small Spaces

If you are anything like me, you love to garden but also know that sometimes it can be difficult to know how to start out. This is especially true if you live in an apartment or don’t really have the space to start a garden, and if money is tight.

A small court yard of a stone residence demonstrates that it is possible to garden in small spaces

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to garden in a small space, all while sticking to your budget and not breaking the bank. This easy guide will help point you in the right direction.

Come Up With A Plan

The first step in growing plants in small spaces is to come up with some sort of game plan. If you live in an apartment and only have a balcony or patio, then you are going to have to be a bit more creative when it comes to finding a way to plant everything, while not taking up all of your space with vegetation. You still need a bit of room for smaller sized outdoor furniture and seating.

The first step to coming up with a good plan is to find inspiration. I have found that following gardening, DIY, and landscaping boards on Pinterest has helped inspire some of the best and most creative ideas when it comes to growing my favorite plants!

Occasionally, these ideas have also helped me save a few dollars in the process. If you do not already have a Pinterest account, I highly recommend you get one and start following a few gardening boards.

They are loaded with all kinds of fun and quirky ideas!

Follow Gardener’s Path’s boards on Pinterest here.

Collect Items

Once you have a plan, or at least some sort of idea on where you are going to start with your garden or what you would eventually like to achieve, the next important step in gardening in small spaces is to start collecting the tools and items you will need.

One of the easiest ways to get started with growing plants in small spaces includes growing them in containers. Container gardening doesn’t have to mean clay or terra cotta planters, or perfectly formed plastic pots.

With a little imagination, you can recycle a vast number of items that you’ll find all around your home. Virtually anything can be transformed into a garden container, with very few limitations.

Just be sure that the items can hold enough soil for the plant, and that it will permit adequate drainage. The drainage issue can be resolved with a simple household drill to the bottom of the vessel.

Also ensure that you are not gardening with any containers that were used to hold toxic chemicals, especially if you are growing edible crops. And be sure to clean your containers thoroughly before planting, no matter what they were originally used for.

AN old yellow and white procelain claid footed bathtub being used as a planter

Reusing and recycling household items are great ways to garden efficiently, all while saving space and money. Chances are, you have many household items that can quickly be turned into unique garden containers.

Look around, and see what you can find. You’ll be surprised at the small treasures that await you.

Looking for items on websites like Craigslist or Freecycle, or checking for supplies at resale and thrift shops are more great ways to get more bang for your buck, and find unique items that will work great in any space!

Some of my favorite garden treasures have come from thrift stores.

Once you select an item that you’d like to recycle into a garden container, examine it for any signs of rust or mildew. Again, it’s a good idea to thoroughly clean out the container to remove any debris or potentially dangerous chemicals.

In addition, if you’ve selected an older wooden object, you may want to consider treating it with a clear waterproof latex sealer. This will extend the life and durability of the container.

Household Items That Work Great As Planters:

  • Cans
  • Milk Crate
  • Bottles
  • Jars
  • Toilet Paper Rolls
  • Lanterns
  • Fish Tanks
  • Fish Bowls
  • Tires
  • Old Toolboxes, Mailboxes, or Baskets
  • Glassware
  • Gutters
  • Pipes
  • Cinder Blocks
  • Concrete
  • Wagons, Wheelbarrows, Wagon Wheels
  • Coffee Mugs
  • Pallets
  • Old Bird Baths
  • Laundry Baskets
  • Broken Terra Cotta Pots
  • Metal Tea Canisters
  • Watering Cans

Get To It!

Once you have a plan and the items you will need to start your garden, you will want to buy soil, seeds, and plants if you have not already done so.

I have learned from experience that planting flowers, fruits, veggies and herbs from seeds tends to work better than transplanting plants that are already half grown and sold at the stores.

Seeds are also usually fairly inexpensive to buy, with prices ranging anywhere from $1-4. I’ve found a variety of good seed starters at places like Home Depot, Target, and Amazon.

Another thing you might consider when purchasing seeds is trying to find items that you can reuse later. What I mean by this is being able to save the seeds again for next year, or replanting by recycling plant parts (like green onions, celery, pineapples, and so on).

Once you’ve got all your seeds and everything else you need, it’s time to get to it!

Some Cool Ideas to Help Get You Started:

Shoe Organizer

One cost effective and quirky way to garden in a small space is to invest in or recycle a canvas shoe organizer.

This can be hung up and kept off the wall with a few strips of wood. And this type of planter works great for growing herbs.

Salad Box

If you are looking for an ideal way to plant lettuce, kale, spinach, or other greens, then you might consider creating your very own salad box.

Raised beds on table legs or platforms work great for this type of planter, and also require less bending over to tend to your plants, which is even better.

You can create your own simple salad box by upcycling and hollowing out an old desk, or taking the drawers out of a dresser. Other items that work well are redwood planter boxes with a few 1 x 4s.

Simply piece these items together with a hammer, nails, and some glue, and you’re good to go.

Pallets

One of the easiest and most efficient ways to garden in a small space, like on a balcony or patio, is to get a pallet and set it vertically.

This type of planter works great for herbs like basil or rosemary, or even to make a “catio” for your feline friend. You can grow some catnip and other types of cat grasses within the pallets.

two pallets being used to form a vertcal gard with soil and plantersbeing placed between boards

Gutters

Gutter Gardens are becoming more and more popular in small gardening spaces. This brilliant solution involves taking gutters and connecting them to walls in a sunny area, so that they are off the ground, away from bugs, animals, and a foundation that can sometimes become too wet.

Two rain boots hund on whit picket fence and used as plantersRain Boot Planter

Another cheap and whimsical way to add a bit of style to any outdoor space or even wider window ledges is to use old rain boots as planters.

They can be hung from the walls, a fence, or just sit on top of a table or the ground. This specific planter is a fun idea to try with your kids.

Canning Jars

Making a wall mounted herb and spice rack from canning jars is another cheap and easy way to garden in small spaces.

This idea can even be used by those individuals who don’t have any outdoor space.

A canning jar garden will work great outdoors on your patio, fence, balcony, garage wall, or indoors on the wall of your living room or kitchen. They’re perfect for planting fresh herbs or microgreens.

Terrariums

Terrariums are a fun idea for any gardener who loves to get creative and have fun.

Some of my favorite terrariums that I’ve made came from items that I thrifted (like old fish bowls and spice bowls with lids, gnomes, fake flowers and vines, rocks, pebbles, sand, and so on).

A terrarium will add flair to any garden that is on a patio or balcony, or any indoor area that gets some natural light.

Window Boxes

Another cute and simple way to grow some of your favorite flowers or a few of your favorite herbs is to invest in a window box. These can usually be found at your local gardening store, home goods store, or online at Amazon.

a window box with a spray of colors from different types of flowers and herbs

You can even reuse household items like wine boxes, baskets, and wooden crates to make your very own window box.

To add a bit of pizzazz, try painting your box and distressing it. You can even buy some stencils and write some cute messages or words on the box, to turn any plain old box into an adorable window box in no time.

Wheelbarrow or Cart

Another excellent idea is planting in a wooden wheelbarrow or an old garden cart. This is one of my favorites.

Not only is it an interesting way to display a beautiful arrangement of colorful flowers, but it’s also a movable vessel.

This would provide a simple way to change up the look and feel of your garden, and eliminate any concerns with too much or too little sun exposure.

An old antique garden cart serves as a unique garden planter

Coffee and Soup Cans

A coffee and soup can gardening is another easy idea when it comes to maximizing your use of small spaces. Both are everyday items that you probably already have lying around the house.

If you paint them to add a bit of charm and then plant your favorite flowers or herbs in them, they can be placed on the ground, window ledges, or tables, or even be hung from ceilings, rafters, roofs, walls, fences, trees, and poles.

Square Foot or Raised Bed

Making your own raised bed doesn’t have to be as difficult as it seems. In fact, you can even measure out your gardening square footage very specifically.

You’d be surprised by just how many vegetables and flowers you can manage to fit in a few square feet. Cinder blocks work great for this, especially if you are planting something like strawberries.

If you don’t have enough space to build a raised bed garden, you might consider using a few cinder blocks by themselves, and planting a select few plants inside them.

This raised bed in a cottage garden demonstrates gardening in small spaces

Laundry Basket

Laundry baskets work great for growing things like potatoes (and harvesting them, too). They also come in handy when it comes time to harvest your plants.

Because it’s filled with holes, a laundry basket works as a natural strainer or like a giant colander to rinse off the produce. Gone are the days of having to lug everything in the house one item at a time to rinse and strain!

Artistic and Unique Ideas

A bunch of showe and boots on a shoe rack servey as an "Artsy Fartsy" garden for a small space

Gardening is a fun way to express yourself, and your creativity. Don’t be afraid to let your freak flag fly a little!

Check out these cool artsy ideas and suggestions for upcycling:

  • Mosaic Walls
  • Tile Paths
  • Teacup Flowerpots
  • Broken Terra Cotta Herb Garden
  • Vertical Planters
  • Birdhouses and Birdfeeders
  • Upcycled Pallets and Wooden Crates
  • Repurposed Wooden Barrels
  • Porcelain Bathtubs
  • Wheelbarrows, Wagons, and Bicycles
  • Wicker Baskets
  • Umbrella Stands
  • Stone Sinks
  • Old Mailboxes

Feeling inspired yet? Hopefully, this list will inspire you with a few ideas of your own.

Believe it or not, I’ve even seen a toilet used as a garden container. And one close neighbor annually housed her daisies in her husband’s work boot! If nothing else, these items would certainly make an interesting conversation piece.

Remember, just because a space is small doesn’t mean it lacks potential.

When I lived in an apartment, I literally just went into the woods and collected buckets full of stones.

Then I dug around our windows where the grass was dead, and laid down some soil and river pebbles that I got at a summer sale at Lowe’s, and then I outlined the landscape with the collected rocks.

I planted seeds and spread mulch around, bought $2 solar lights from Target, and thrifted gardening tools like watering cans and materials to make terrariums.

At our new place, I bought 6 red bricks from Home Depot for less than $20 and just dug up a bit of grass in front of our patio where I wanted to place them, set them down in a curved path, and patted the dirt back down.

It took about a year for the grass to grow in around this (sure, I could have bought grass seed and planted, but I was lazy). Within a year’s time, we now have a cute DIY path leading from our patio to our small garden.

With a little bit of imagination, and creativity, and a bit of hard work, your small space will be thriving in no time. And you don’t even have to spend outside your budget to make it all happen.

What’s your favorite small space gardening technique? What will you create and grow? Let us know in the comments!

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