When we moved into our old house, the very steep front yard was filled with pineapple plants (undeniably cool, I know).
It was probably an easy way for the previous resident to use the awkward space, but we wanted more productivity from the only sunny spot in the yard.
The pineapples ripened over the course of several months, and as they did, we pulled out the plants and shared them with friends and neighbors. We still have some pineapple plants, tucked here and there, but large-ish plants that bear only a single fruit over a long growing season just wasn’t the best use of a small space.
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We had different small garden ideas!
We’re lucky that our new place has more space, but even so we’re trying to make the most of it.
Small Garden Ideas for Urban Spaces
If your only open space is awkward and steep, terracing allows you easier access to care for your vegetable plants and for harvesting, but it also prevents erosion and helps to retain water in your growing area.
Transform unexpected spaces.
For me, it was the driveway. The concrete drive was situated in the sunniest spot on our lot.
Instead of battling the shade and poor soil conditions that existed in other parts of the awkward yard, we imported some soil to create raised beds.
This allowed us to start growing in good soil immediately. I used Smart Pots and planters made from stacked banana stumps. The banana stumps only last a season, but worked for our purposes. You could to the same with logs.
Try container gardening.
Planting in raised beds or containers allows you to turn a condominium patio or apartment terrace into a producing tiny garden.
You can tuck a container full of pretty vegetables on a porch, hang some from an arbor or pergola, or line them up in a side yard if it’s sunny enough.
Container gardening also allows you to extend the season. You can move pots around as the seasons change to catch the most sun.
And you can bring pots inside if frost is threatening before your crop is ready to harvest.
Creating trellises is easy, and it allows you to train certain plants to grow up rather than out.
This leaves precious square footage for more plants. If you have chickens, you might be able to grow some veggies on the outside of their enclosure. Or you might try growing from the top down with hanging containers. Here’s how to grow upside-down tomatoes and here’s how to grow lettuce in containers.
Choose plants with high yields
If you’re limited on garden space, it makes sense to choose plants that are great producers. Try these for a start!
We’ve all heard stories about people running away from a gardening neighbor bringing yet more zucchini to the door.
Squash does take up a fair amount of space in the garden, but it’s also prolific.
If you’ve got a neighbor who grows and shares squash, you might want to save that space for something else. If not, you will be pleasantly surprised at the abundance a single seed can produce. Here’s how to grow squash vertically so save space — another smart small garden idea.
Caged and supported, a tomato plant takes up roughly a 2′ x 2′ piece of ground and produces a steady flow of ripe red fruit during the summer months.
As I estimated in an earlier post, a single tomato plant can bear 20-30 pounds of fruit.
A happy green bean plant will awe you with how many pods you can pull off during the season.
Six bush bean plants can produce a colander full of beans every few days. Or, save space and grow pole beans vertically.
Unless you like your food fiery, you probably only need one hot pepper plant for fresh use. A jalapeño pepper produces fruit all season long, so you’ll be able to spice up your meals throughout the summer.
You might need two plants if you plan to preserve homemade salsa for the pantry. Bell peppers, on the other hand?
I’ve not had enough success with them to invite them back to my garden, with one exception. Gypsy bell (a hybrid) is a smaller sweet pepper that is prolific and has a shorter growing season.
Those with warmer weather to contend with should try Swiss chard, which will produce new leaves all summer long.
A single Japanese long eggplant takes up roughly 15 square inches, but continually produces fruit throughout the growing season. Varieties that put out larger fruit take up a bit more space.
If you’ve got a place to grow cucumbers vertically, it will save ground space. But no matter how you grow them, a healthy cucumber plant will produce high yields over a long period.