Gardening in Small Spaces

Terrace Garden
One of the biggest challenges for people who live in urban areas with little or no outside space such as townhomes, apartment complexes or multi-unit buildings is that gardening must be done on a very small scale. This would normally dictate container gardening, but the residents of hilly cities like San Francisco have raised small-space gardening to an art form. There are stunning gardens on the smallest urban properties I've ever seen. The plants they use won't grow here, but the techniques are adaptable for our needs here. One of the problems I see with gardening on the "flatlands" here is that residents are used to wide-open areas, and haven't been beset with the challenges of working in small spaces. Necessity if the mother of invention, says the old motto. Why not diversify our  gardens with some creative new techniques and materials ? The state of the art in outdoor building materials is far advanced over the old railroad-ties of my parent's home in the 1960s. Synthetic or recycled-plastic lumber is durable, as workable as regular wood, and is less damaging to forests than real wood.

Townhouse garden terrace

balcony terrace garden

Why not try a few small terraced areas around a pool ? Terracing makes plants easier to get to for weeding and pruning, as well as adding a 3rd dimension to an otherwise flat landscape. Small aquatic gardens, or even multi-layer gardens can make a big difference in the look of a small-area garden. Vertical gardening is big in southeast Asia, where living space is measured by the square foot, not by the acre. Why not try some basket gardens? Who says baskets have to be just 10 or 12 inches in diameter? Try a larger basket, say a 24 inch diameter? "Containerscaping" is a popular tactic, using clusters of pots of differing heights to show off different sizes and textures and colors of plants. This tactic works really well on balconies and decks where horizontal space can be a real problem. Look at how other cities use confined spaces to get ideas for your yard or terrace or garden. There are numerous books on small space gardens, pick up a few and try some of the techniques. Experiment ! It's OK to fail a few times; that is how we learn new methods.

Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens

A really BIG basket garden

Recycled plastic formed into lumber



  1. Thank YOU! Just moving into an apt with a tiny garden space. My first. Going to create beautiful peaceful space right in "Do-Or-Die" Bed Sty Brooklyn NY. These ideas are just what I am looking for

  2. Thank u sir.. nice ideas kool ones too :)

  3. Hey I just bought some recycled plastic lumber for a raised garden bed. I think its going to turn out really well!