Many of us grow our fruits, vegetables and flowers in a garden that’s smaller than we’d like. If your horticultural ambitions are bigger than your plot, there are a number of clever design techniques you can use to fully utilise every scrap of space at your disposal.
Read on or watch our video to discover how to plan your own small garden paradise.
Use Vertical Space
All gardens – even small ones – have lots of vertical space, so make the most of it! You can attach planters to walls or fences, or secure mesh or trellising to encourage climbers to reach for the skies. Even walls that are shaded at the base may still have plenty of sunlight for climbing plants, setting up the perfect combination for many perennial plants of cool, moist roots and sunny leaves.
Naturally climbing or sprawling plants that can be trained to grow upwards include delicious kiwi fruits, grapevines, and a whole host of climbing beans, peas, squashes and vining tomatoes. Make sure supports are sturdy enough to hold the plants up – a squash in full fruit, for example, can be very heavy.
Many tree fruits such as apples, pears and peaches can be trained into particular shapes to hug walls or fences. Single-stemmed cordons, espaliers with their parallel branches, or radiating fans look beautiful while making incredibly efficient use of ground space.
While most of these fruits will prefer a wall that catches plenty of direct sunlight, there are still fruits that will thrive on shadier walls, including sour cherries, varieties of gooseberry and red- and whitecurrant.
Underplant your fruit with perennial flowers and herbs to make use of all the space available.
Mix Plants Up
The traditional approach is to set aside a dedicated area for growing vegetables, fruits and herbs, but in the smallest gardens that simply isn’t possible. Try growing edible and ornamental plants together instead. The results can be stunning, and in fact there are many benefits to this approach.
Planting flowers and vegetables together makes it harder for pests to hone in on specific crops, while an abundance of blooms ensures there are always beneficial insects on hand to pollinate flowering vegetables and all types of fruit.
Select edibles with both good looks and taste. Contrast different leaf textures or colours, for example billowing green curly kale with red cabbage, or lettuce in green and red. Choose varieties with interesting flowers – pretty climbing beans for example – or unusual but handsome looks, such as bulb or Florence fennel, or a variety of chard with colourful stems.
Include edible flowers like nasturtium and calendula, or flowers such as alyssum that are known to attract pest-eating predators like hoverflies. You can use the Garden Planner to find out the best flowers to include with specific crops using the Companion Planting feature. Simply select the crops you wish to match then click the heart-shaped Companion Planting button. The Selection Bar will then show suitable companions, including flowers.
Choose High Value Crops
As well as mixing different types of plant together, you can proactively plan to maximise your garden’s overall productivity.
One way to do this is to select only high-yielding or high-value crops. Tomatoes will give lots of fruits over the summer, while chard can be cut repeatedly over a long period to give several harvests from the same plant. Runner beans and zucchini are notoriously prolific, while radishes are so quick growing you can sow, grow and pick several generations of roots in a single growing season, or plant them in between slow-growing crops and harvest them early.
You could give over some space to Square Foot Gardening, a method of growing that enables crops to be grown at a far higher density by using a high-nutrient moisture-retentive soil mixture. Use the Garden Planner to work out exactly how many vegetables you can grow in this way. Just click on the SFG button to switch to Square Foot Gardening mode. The Garden Planner will automatically calculate you how many plants can be grown in each square foot.
Containers, with potting soil tailored to suit the plants grown within them, will also yield a surprising range of harvests. Choose compact varieties suitable for growing this way and arrange them to maximise their visual impact. Add further interest by selecting pots in pretty colours, glazes and designs, or upcycle everyday objects to create unusual yet eye-catching containers. And don’t forget hanging baskets, which can be positioned to catch valuable sunlight.
Somewhere to Linger
You’ll want your garden to be somewhere beautiful to relax too, so remember to include seating within your plan. Make a seat or bench as rustic or sleek as you desire, and surround it with aromatic herbs or fragrant flowers to enjoy.
In a small garden every surface counts, so opt for attractive paths and handsome hard surfacing. The Garden Planner includes a range of options – paths in, for example, stone or a brick herringbone pattern, or paving in all manner or textures and colours.
You can add additional vertical interest to your plan with an arbour, arch or pergola, perhaps cloaked with climbers such as melons or beans to create a spectacular focal point to your garden.
Every garden, no matter how tiny, can be both productive and stunning. If you have more tips for planning a small garden, we’d love to hear them, so do drop us a comment below.