Container gardens Gardening Landscape design

Creating a Garden in the Smallest of Spaces

By Katie Brenneman

We’ve all dreamt about owning a large garden with hedges, flower beds, water features, lawns, and patios.

But, somewhere along the way, we moved into city apartments, terraces, or townhouses to be close to work or to take in the joy of city life.

For many folks, living in an urban area means that you have to give up a large garden. But that doesn’t mean you must abandon your dreams of creating your perfect garden — the scale may have changed, but the dream doesn’t have to disappear.

So, here are a few ways you can reap the stress-busting rewards of gardening, even in the smallest of spaces.

Get Inspired

Moving into a new home with a small garden should be exciting. You’re gifted with a canvas that you can see in its entirety when you look out the window, and, with just a few strokes of your green-tipped garden brush, you can quickly make meaningful changes.

Balcony garden.
Look online for suggestions for your small-space garden. Photo: vicspacewalker, depositphotos

But, how to start designing a small garden that meets your vision? The best place to begin is to go online and find some inspiration. You can, of course, take a browse through Pinterest or Instagram, or you can take a deeper dive into gardening in small spaces by watching shows like the BBC’s Big Dreams Small Spaces or through interactive garden designers.

Wherever you draw your inspiration from, be sure to keep a notebook and pencil nearby, as actually creating the garden will involve plenty of planning.


Planning your garden is half the fun of gardening. But, for many first-time gardeners, it can be daunting, and a little overwhelming. Here is a skeleton plan to get you started:

  • Pull tape: we all believe that we’ll remember the dimensions of our gardens. But few of us have an accurate enough mental image of our space — and there’s nothing worse than going to a garden center, finding the pot of your dreams, then finding it won’t fit when you bring it home. So, pull tape and write down measurements in the front of a gardening notebook.
Vegetable garden on balcony.
For vegetables, you need plenty of light. Photo: ChiccoDodiFC, depositphotos
  • Sunlight: you need to have an accurate idea of how much sunlight your small garden will receive. This helps you start to make the early plans, as you will need to give flowers and crops priority over sun-rich spaces.
  • Soil: your soil quality will make a big difference to the health of your plants. For example, a vegetable patch needs slightly acidic soil, whereas lavender and honeysuckle usually prefer more alkaline soil. Take note, and consider changing your soil if need be.
  • Structure: if you have pets or children, you’re going to need to account for them and should create clear barriers between your prized plants and the open spaces in your garden. You should also strongly consider getting pet insurance to give yourself peace of mind if your furry friend does wander off into the vegetable patch.

These four factors are a great place to start with your gardening plans. Accounting for measurements, sunlight, soil quality and structure will give you direction and will help you understand the best way for you to use your garden.

Nooks and Crannies

Garden on fire escape.
The most unlikely spaces often make the best small gardens. Photo: sophieost, depositphotos

Finding tiny nooks and crannies is the best part of gardening in small spaces. By taking full advantage of overlooked spaces like windows and doorsteps, you can add a certain “magic” to your garden and bring dull areas to life.

Fitting plants into these small spaces needn’t be expensive, either. You can easily DIY a window box using leftover wooden boards and basic DIY supplies. DIYing also allows you to fit the box to your specific space, so the planter will look natural and will fit in seamlessly.


Most people see a small garden as a compromise, but that needn’t be the case. Instead, you should embrace the challenge of gardening in small places and should look to take full advantage of every pot and planter by fully planning your space and getting stuck into DIY projects.

About the Author

Katie Brenneman is a passionate writer specializing in lifestyle, mental health, education, and fitness-related content. When she isn’t writing, you can find her with her nose buried in a book or hiking with her dog, Charlie. To connect with Katie, you can follow her on Twitter.

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

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  9. i just recently started gardening in my very small space. I’m loving it. I wished I could have started earlier

  10. Many years ago Marjorie Harris wrote about these ‘pocket gardens’ in a lovely little book. No space is too small.

  11. Sheila Eberhardt

    I see from the photos that most plants are in containers in these small spaces. Also the plants I recognize are mostly annuals. I’m interested in planting native perennials. I have the impression that wouldn’t work in small spaces.

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