Growing Up: A Guide to Great Gardens in Small Spaces

March 5, 2013 by


Photo: travelnerd

Living in the middle of a bustling city doesn’t mean you can’t create a gorgeous garden space, no matter how tiny your outdoor area may be.

As long as you have a spot with a little sunshine and a place for a container, you can grow the flowers, veggies, or greenery that make up your own private oasis. The secret is to grow upwards! Whether you only have a small balcony,  terrace, or courtyard with no soil, you can always create a vertical garden. There are four major elements to consider when creating your own vertical garden: design, base elements, live elements, and care.

Photo: jfeuchter, flickr

Planning and Design
Think about what type of garden you would like. Are you gardening for food? Vegetables make great vertical growing plants. Or maybe you just want to have an inviting outdoor space in which to relax.  Are you interested in watching hummingbirds and butterflies?  Would you rather just stretch out, sip coffee in the morning, and smell the flowers? No matter how you want to use your space, it’s a good idea to have a plan.

Photo and design: Shades of Green Landscape Architecture

Start by taking stock of your space. Measure your area and brainstorm what you’d like to put in it. Remember to take into account:

• the sun exposure of your area.

• how much do you want to work in your small space garden?

• and what sort of plants you want (flowering, food plants, or perennial.)

Photo: Plants on Walls

Base Elements
Now you can begin to think about the pieces you need to make your garden work. At most, you need two things: a place for you to enjoy the garden, and a system for housing the plants.

Photo: Happy Sleepy, via Flickr

• A spot for you: no matter how tiny the space, you have to be able to enjoy it. That’s the whole point of creating a vertical garden.  Choose one or two seating pieces that will fit your needs.  A small patio table and chairs are a good option for a courtyard.  A really fantastic option for a balcony or terrace is a set of outdoor chairs with ottomans, like this great Nemor Set below, $1,595 from OpenBrook.


Be certain that your furniture is specifically suited for outdoor conditions such as rain and dirt. You’ll never worry about kicking back with dirty hands after working in your own tiny slice of heaven.

• A spot for the plants: there are many options for vertically growing your plants. You could create a pergola, an arch, a veranda, a trellis, or a living wall. You could use planter baskets on railings or simple containers on walls or tables.  Just remember to securely anchor your support structures before you plant. Don’t forget to purchase any weights or braces you may need.

Photo: Tokyo Green Space

Live Elements
Now for the fun part: the plants!  Some fantastic options for growing vertically include:

• Climbers: roses, vines

• Succulents: little soil or water

• Vegetables: tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and peas

• Cascading greenery and flowers: Lantana, creeping phlox, verbena ,  trailing Impatiens

Photo: Green man verbena” by ripplestone garden, via flickr

The final major consideration you’ll need to make is how you’ll care for your plants. A few things to keep in mind:

• Sunlight: Remember to provide plenty of light. Place trellises on the north so that you don’t shade your other plants

• Water: Once they’re well established, most vertical gardens can be watered easily once a week with a watering can, since everything is compactly contained in a planter. In hot weather, it’s a good idea to spray the foliage occasionally. You may even wish to set up a simple drip irrigation system for your space.

• Don’t forget about pruning to encourage blooms, trimming to keep desired shapes, and anchoring trellises and containers to protect them from the weight of the plants and the wind.

Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton, Urban Gardens

No matter how small it may be, you’ll love your outdoor space once you’ve turned it into a green oasis. You’ll find vertical gardening to be easy and relaxing. Everything’s at eye level, so pest control, pruning, and harvesting are all a breeze.  So stretch out in your gorgeous new outdoor space and enjoy nature’s bounty in your own tiny corner of paradise.

Guest Contributor:  Ashleigh Lynn is an aspiring writer, elementary physical education teacher, and self-proclaimed outdoor living guru. Ashleigh’s undeniable passion for design and modern patio living shows in her caffeine-fueled and often long-winded posts found throughout the web. Ashleigh works as the lead lifestyle and entertaining expert for the luxury patio furniture company, and blog, OpenBrook. The OpenBrook company mission is to create awareness for its sponsored charities through commerce and sharing. Follow her @ashleighsview 


  1. Muse Pingback said:

    […] #bestsellers #amazonbestsellers #topratedproducts #productreviews #customerreviews – Product Descrip…ages/I/51DPQLwvEtL._SL160_.jpg" alt="Muse" /> Product Description: Muse seeks to stimulate, delight, and challenge every curious kid ages 9 – 14. Sponsored by Smithsonian and from the publishers of Cricket, Muse features articles on space, genetics, rain forests, computers, physics, math, visual arts, earth sciences, and almost everything else in the universe.Muse magazine is a children's magazine aimed at kids between the ages of nine and fourteen who love to learn about new things. The magazine delights children with stimulating images, articles on space, inf Product Features: […]

    — March 13, 2013 @ 18:05

  2. Skip Stein said:

    I am reaching out to Urban Garden
    organizations to introduce them to our FOODY vertical gardening system (for
    home or commercial use). With the FOODY,
    you can grow 60 plants in about two square feet by going UP, not out! Our FOODY system can be used with traditional
    soil, as hydroponics units, with Aquaculture or even as an adjunct to worm
    farming (using the worm tea as nutrients) and a whole variety of configurations.

    I hope you will take a few minutes to
    visit our web site, watch a few short videos and explore how our FOODY Systems
    can assist you in achieving your goals of providing healthy and nutritious
    foods to those who need it!


    Skip Stein
    FOODY Hydroponics Systems

    — April 12, 2013 @ 16:41

  3. | Live green, garden hard. Pingback said:

    […] Reading [Urban Gardens | Growing Up: A Guide to Great Gardens in Small Spaces] [The Gazette (Cedar Rapids) | Container Gardening 101] [ | Choosing Plants for a Small […]

    — April 14, 2013 @ 23:08

  4. Four Practical Ideas for Greening Indoor Spaces - Urban Gardens Pingback said:

    […] is great, but what about supplemental indoor lighting? Think about how you can enjoy your little slice of green heaven on rainy days or in the evenings without the proper illumination. You’ll want to shine some light […]

    — June 7, 2017 @ 14:56

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

The freshest innovative and eco-friendly designs, trends, and ideas for urban gardens and stylish small places.

Visit Robin Horton @UrbanGardens's profile on Pinterest.

Discover more from Urban Gardens

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading