Small vegetable garden ideas – 8 ways to live the good life in a small space

Want to taste the sweetness of life in the city? Armed with the best small vegetable garden ideas, you can do just that. Whether you have a small garden, a balcony, or a compact yard, you can turn your outdoor gem into a thriving plant paradise.

And luckily, according to garden designer Pete Adams, it’s easy to grow your own, no matter what small outdoor footprint you’re working with. He says, “There is so much that can be grown in a small space, sometimes you just have to think outside the box and consider every potential for growth.

“Things shouldn’t just grow at ground level, use vertical space to maximize what you can get in an area. Pots and containers can help make the most of difficult areas, and potatoes can even be grown in a large container or compost bag. Maximizing intercropping can make the most of the available space you have – plant fast-growing crops among slower ones, making the most of all the available space. Sneaking into a fast-growing crop of arugula or radish can pay dividends after the main harvest.

So if you’ve ever wanted to establish a sustainable lifestyle by sowing your own seeds, keep reading. We’ve compiled a list of the best small garden ideas for growing vegetables so you can get started.

1. Use hanging baskets

Hanging baskets got a 21st century twist - load them up with veggies and you're good to go.

(Image credit: elho)

Use any walls, fences or even ceilings when it comes to modern garden ideas by adding a hanging basket to your compact outdoor setup. Not only can hanging baskets save space, they also add style and sophistication to any empty space.

Adams says, “Growing tomatoes in containers or even hanging baskets can utilize underutilized space, with varieties like ‘tumbling tom’ cascading over the edges, ideal for easy picking.

“Strawberries in hanging baskets are really easy and fun ways to grow, and having them in hanging baskets will often protect them from common garden pests. Try growing a variety called ‘Toscana’ for its pretty deep pink flowers as well as tasty fruit.

2. Invest in planters and balcony pots

Onions growing on a balcony

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Put your balcony ideas to good use and make them work even more by hanging planters above your small patio or fence. Comes with a built-in water tank, so your vegetables won’t go thirsty.

Adams says, “There are many dwarf varieties of vegetables that can be grown in tight spaces. Little Gem lettuce and ‘Hestia’ dwarf bean don’t take up much space, and there are many varieties of tomatoes that have been bred for container growing such as the ‘Balconi Yellow’ tomato.

3. Think vertically

Tomatoes growing on a balcony

Grow vertically, instead of horizontally to make the most of your small space

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We can’t all be blessed with sprawling gardens with acres and acres of land. Especially if you live in town. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get creative with your space. Instead of thinking horizontally, push up and create a living wall to maximize your outdoor space.

Adams tells us, “Black Forest Zucchini is known for its climbing ability and is ready to scale a fence or trellis. You could even get creative and try growing some vegetables on an arch.

4. Grow vegetables in a planter

Small balcony garden with vegetable boxes

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If you have deep windowsills, add a planter to your outdoor space. Not only do they add a bit of interest to your home, but they’re also a great way to maximize your planting space if your backyard is small.

For an elegant look, choose matching planters and let the vegetables speak for themselves. Or, you can try adding pops of color to coordinate with whatever produce you decide to grow.

Adams tells us, “By growing them on your kitchen windowsill or in a planter, you can reach out the window and grab a handful while cooking up a culinary storm in the kitchen.”

5. Use raised beds to grow vegetables and add interest

Small vegetable garden with raised bed

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Do you have a spare corner for your vegetables? So why not save it for raised beds, which look great and do good by helping you grow your own produce. If you’ve ever wanted to sow your own salads, you’re in luck.

Adams explains, “Finally, Cut and Piece Salad Leaves are quick, easy and fun to grow in a pot or small bed. The best part is that once you cut them once, they will regrow for a second harvest.

And note the texture they can add to a garden too. Switching up a traditional design for a woven willow raised bed becomes more of a feature of the space.

6. Stock up on jars when space is really tight

Potted tomatoes on the step

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When it comes to small spaces, all you really need is a will to grow, water, sunlight, and pots to grow your seeds. That’s why container gardening can be the way to go when space is tight.

Like Isabelle Palmer, founder of The balcony gardener, tells us, “A window, patio, or balcony is all you need to grow crops. As long as you have good soil, plenty of sun and water.

“I always tend to grow things that I can’t buy locally in stores or use easily, like herbs. Container gardens are also great for small spaces because you can grow almost any fruit, vegetable or herb as long as they are large enough to accommodate their full grown size.

7. Learn how to grow companion plants

Vegetable garden on a small balcony

(Image credit: Getty)

Everyone has a different opinion when it comes to living more sustainably. But one thing is certain – the topic of sustainability has seen a dramatic and marked increase in awareness. So why not incorporate a sustainable lifestyle into your gardening?

Enter: companion planting – which maximizes growth and crops by planting mutually beneficial plants next to each other.

Palmer tells us, “Companion planting reduces pests, but it also saves space. Shade-tolerant plants benefit next to taller crops. Vegetables harvested early, such as spinach, radishes and beans, can be planted with slower growing crops such as broccoli, zucchini and peppers.

How to start a small vegetable garden?

Andrea Bellamyauthor of Small Space Vegetable Gardens: Growing Great Edibles in Containers, Raised Beds, and Small Plots said, there are many benefits to growing your own vegetables in your compact space.

She says, “You will have access to fresh produce and instill joy in working outdoors and caring for living things. And, unlike a large garden, smaller gardens are generally easier and less time-consuming to maintain.

But how do you start a small vegetable garden?

Bellamy explains, “First, assess your space: how much sun do you get daily? This will determine what you can grow. Most fruit crops need more than six hours of sunlight a day, while leafy greens, legumes and root vegetables can get by with just four. Then start small, maybe with a pot or two of perennial herbs like rosemary, thyme and oregano. They are easy to care for, hardy, drought resistant and attract beneficial insects like bees.

“You need fewer tools in a small garden. No need to invest in shovels and long-handled rakes: a multi-purpose weeder, a trowel and an effective means of watering (watering can or hose with a good nozzle) are enough.

Which vegetables work best in small vegetable gardens and why?

Luckily, there’s not much you can’t grow in your small vegetable garden.

Bellamy says, “In addition to herbs, shallow root vegetables like lettuces and other leafy greens are great in containers. Peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants are also good choices for growing in small spaces, as they make compact but productive plants.

“Seed companies are investing in the development of varieties for small spaces due to the rise of urban gardening. Look for varieties bred to stay small or to thrive in containers.

According to Pete Adams of RHS Garden Rosemoor says there are many dwarf varieties of vegetables which can make it easier to select a lot of variety in a small vegetable garden.

Adams says, “Dwarf green beans come in a range of different colors, from yellows and greens to purples, which not only look attractive but also taste delicious. Beets can become a dual-purpose crop because not only will you get the root, but you can also pick a weird young leaf to toss into a salad for a little extra color. Growing tomatoes in containers or even hanging baskets can utilize underutilized space, with varieties like the ‘tumbling tom’ cascading over the edges ideal for easy picking.

How to best maintain a small vegetable garden?

So you’ve done all the hard work to create a small vegetable garden. Now comes his interview.

Adams says: “Always consider how much time you have – it’s better to grow a few things well than a lot of things which then become too difficult.

‘Look at what will work best for you, and how much time you have to achieve it. Why not try integrating your new little vegetable garden into your daily and weekly routine, taking 10 minutes here and there to do the odd jobs and keep things in check.

While Isabelle Palmer says, “Watering is the key to a healthy, plump crop! If you are growing in containers, they will depend on you for this, so water daily (or twice a day) when the weather is warm so the plants don’t dry out. Feed twice a week during the growing season and watch out for pests and disease.

‘Support your climbing vegetables with stakes, cages and supports. This will reduce stress on the crop and allow it to recover for a bountiful harvest.