Living amongst nature has been shown to drastically improve both our moods and our sense of wellbeing (see issue 94 of Permaculture magazine). Even having a plant or two in your home is likely to help with your happiness! However, there’s often the problem of space to consider, especially in modern urban environments – if you don’t have a lot of it, any sort of garden may feel as though it is completely out of the question. For most people, this is patently untrue! If you’re willing to put a little creativity and effort into it, there are plenty of ways to create a garden with small space:
1. Use your windowsills
Perhaps you still feel that you really, truly, don’t have space for any sort of garden. If you have a windowsill, that isn’t the case! A sunny windowsill can be an ideal environment for herbs, so why not make the most of yours and brighten your kitchen with a few plants? Having a windowsill garden doesn’t require a lot of maintenance – you ought just to research your choice of plants and how to pot them and be prepared to put in a little effort in keeping them trimmed and healthy. Having easy access to fresh ingredients for cooking is worth the upkeep!
2. Work your way up
If you’re working with a limited amount of space, try using your walls instead of trying to create a garden at ground level. If you have an outdoor area you can use, you might like to use a climbing plant or a selection of colourful flowers. If you would prefer your plants to be indoors, you might like to create a small wall planter in your kitchen – again, perhaps with herbs you might use for cooking? Not only will your new wall planter add some welcome greenery to your home, but it will also serve as an eye-catching decoration.
3. Create your own customised multi-tiered planters
If you have even the smallest of balconies or decks, you have room for a few planters. Planters – that is, containers used to house plants – are a great way to try your hand with different types of plants, and if you’re short on space, you might like to try stacking them. Why not try traditional terracotta pots to start with? They are available in various sizes, so are easy to stack. Being able to enjoy several types of plants is the obvious benefit to stacking planters, but you may find that they add a colourful, creative touch to your space too, especially if you choose to decorate the pots.
4. Hang a basket of flowers or two
Hanging baskets are one of the simplest ways to bring some colour to your home, and might even have the added benefit of attracting butterflies or birds to your home! The types of flowers you’ll be able to plant depend on your environment and climate, but some of the most popular flowers to plant include fuchsia, lobelia, petunia, and geranium. Creating a hanging basket is simple and relatively quick, and so long as you have somewhere to hang it (next to your door or on your balcony perhaps?), you can take advantage of the colourful environment it will help to create. Why not create several of varying sizes?
5. Try a terrarium
A fashionable way to introduce more greenery into your life, terrariums are a perfect way to satisfy the need for a miniature garden without taking up too much space. A typical terrarium is made of glass, and can either be sealed or open, depending on what kinds of plants are kept inside; cacti and succulents are particularly easy to house in terrariums, owing to their reduced need for water. You can decorate your terrarium however you like – there are plenty of creative ideas out there that you could implement, including creating miniature rivers and installing tiny furniture.
To make your own terrarium, try starting by creating one with an open top. You might choose to use any sort of glass, but for your first, it might be best to start with a container built specifically for this purpose.
- Fill the bottom of the container with small rocks – aim for about 1.5 inches worth.
- If you’re planting succulents, add a 2.5-inch layer of succulent-specific soil.
- Use a spoon to make a hole in the soil big enough for your biggest plant’s roots. Brush off its excess soil, plant it in the hole, and tamp the surrounding soil to secure it. Repeat with other plants, allowing for about an inch per plant in the soil.
- When you are satisfied with your plant arrangement, add a layer of sand around your plants.
- Add decorations as you see fit.
You can adapt these instructions depending on the size and style of your terrarium, but whether you choose to keep your terrarium on a shelf or hang it from the ceiling, you’re sure to have yourself quite the conversation piece!
6. Add a vegetable garden to your deck
If you’re lucky enough to have a deck, you’re lucky enough to have plenty of gardening options, even if you feel like your available space is small. One of these options – if you’re committed to ongoing gardening – is to grow vegetables. Vegetable gardens are versatile, so you can either use old buckets and washtubs or buy a container specifically designed for housing vegetables. You’ll need to make sure the container has adequate drainage and to plant vegetables that will thrive in your climate. Try the following steps to create your own:
- You'll need the basic tools for gardening – a hand fork, a trowel, and a pair of gloves will help. Get yourself some potting soil, rather than regular soil, as it’ll help with water retention and work as a weed preventer. If you’re not sure what you’re going to plant, start with a multi-purpose potting soil.
- Choose what you’d like in your garden. Why not start with something you’re sure to use often and be able to gift to others, like tomatoes? Tomatoes are particularly easy to grow in pots, but you need to be sure that the amount of sunlight they’ll receive will be sufficient – for tomatoes, you should aim to give them at least six hours a day.
- Pick the right size pots or containers (for tomatoes this would be something with a diameter of about eighteen inches). Once you have your materials ready, you can get planting! Create a hole that will cover two-thirds of the plant’s stem, and make sure you use a support (such as trellis) so that the plant is able to flourish. Add a fertiliser to your soil, as well as a liquid plant food.
- Maintain your vegetable garden. This will involve different steps depending on the plant, but as far as tomatoes go: if you’re in for a cold night, cover your plants, and water them regularly. The amount of water required will depend on the type of plants you’re growing, so do your research for their particular needs; so long as you put a bit of work in, you’ll soon have a thriving little patch right at your doorstep.
7. Create a table inset
If you’re low on space, why not bring some plants into your pre-existing furniture? Making a table inset will require a little DIY, but the results will be worth it – you’ll have a permanent little fix of nature in your dining room to gaze at while you eat, and it’ll look exceptionally stylish. Have a look at tutorials online to decide what is in the realm of possibilities for your furniture at home, but the sky’s really the limit here – you can work with all sorts of plants, as well as all kinds of tables.
8. Be creative with the space you have
Perhaps you have a set of steps leading up to your home, but no other outdoor area. Why not use these for potted plants? Often, valuable space is overlooked, used only for its intended purpose. Be creative! As long as you select plants that will thrive in the climate you’re placing them in, your options are limitless.
A small garden is well within your reach, regardless of the amount of space you have available. Even trying just one of the above ideas will bring a little of the outdoors to your home, and if you combine several ideas, you’ll soon have yourself something of a real garden. There are plenty of ideas for garden inspiration to be found online, so why not start your journey in discovering your green thumb today?
Johanna Cider is a New Zealand based writer with experience writing about technology, storage & home design. Johanna has written for NZ based businesses such as seacontainers.co.nz.