Small Space, Big Harvest

Think big, think creatively, and think bountiful. Your growing space may be tiny, but that doesn’t mean your harvest needs to be small as well. By matching the right plants with the right growing conditions, you’ll enjoy a delicious crop.

Growing plants for an edible crop is easy. Some plants may require a bit more attention than others, but don’t be put off trying something new and different. Before you start growing, do some preparation and decide what you want to grow and how you are going to do it. Consider your space, too, and how it can be maximized: can you put pots and containers onto paved areas and steps? Can you hang planters from railings or use a vertical space to grow plants up and down? Try planting bush tomatoes or strawberries in hanging baskets, herbs in windowboxes, mini vegetables in patio containers, squashes and beans climbing up homemade tepee structures, lettuce in a kitchen colander. Be inspired by our projects, and try them out.

Fruit and vegetable know-how

With a little careful planning, and by selecting plants that are reliable, don’t take up too much room, or can be grown in a different way, you’ll get the most out of your space, whatever its size.

Dwarf varieties are versions of plants that have been bred to be smaller, but still produce a good and tasty yield. Dwarf runner, green, and broad beans don’t need support or a frame to climb, and small carrots can easily be grown in containers, while dwarf plums, apples, peaches, and other fruit take up less space than their full-size relatives. Mini vegetables are either bred to be tiny, full-sized varieties that are picked when the crop is young, or plants grown close together, which will produce smaller and tastier crops. Micro gardening is growing plants in a tiny space or container. Choose some of the mini or

Luscious blueberries and strawberries are just some of the fruit that are easy to grow in containers.

dwarf varieties, or, if your container is really small, you can even enjoy tasty salad leaves from sprouting seeds in a cup.

Fast-growing edibles can be sown or planted in between slower-growing types as a catch crop. Summer salad plants, like lettuce, endive, radishes, beets, and green onions, are quick growers, as are spinach and bok choy. Try pea and bean shoots, too.

Training fruit makes good use of a compact growing space since it will help to maximize yields and looks very decorative. Apples, pears, cherries, currants, figs, and peaches can all be trained vertically as espaliers, cordons, standards, or fans against a fence or wall.

Mixing edibles and ornamentals will create a garden area that is pretty, productive, and like a
mini kitchen garden. Some flowering plants act as natural disease repellents—planting marigolds, with their strong scent, next to tomatoes will help to keep bugs away, for example. Add decorative features, like homemade tepees for beans and peas, or use recycled containers for your plants. Consider how your plot will look as well as what is going in it.

Essential growing tips Water well, and often Edible crops grown in containers need lots of water, sometimes twice a day in hot, dry weather. Give containers a thorough soaking—don’t just water the top section of the pot. Adding a drip tray underneath is helpful so that the plant can take up water from the roots as well.

Protect Plants grown on balconies and high spaces will be more exposed to wind, rain, and sun than those grown at ground level. Foliage and soil mix will dry out more quickly in these conditions, so keep plants sheltered by adding screening.

Feed For a plant to produce a bountiful crop, you need to fertilize it first. Without the right nutrients, plants won’t perform well and your crop will be small. Use diluted liquid feed when watering in the growing season, while diluted tomato fertilizer is great for other plants besides tomatoes and helps to boost crop production. Mix slow-release general fertilizer granules into the soil for extra nourishment. Wear gloves when handling all fertilizers.

Drainage Make sure all your containers have drainage holes for excess water to escape, otherwise roots will rot. Add a layer of drainage material, like gravel, small pebbles, or broken terra-cotta pots (crocks), at the bottom of containers before planting.

Crop rotation Don’t plant the same vegetable in the same container year after year, unless you have changed the soil, since soil-borne diseases will build up and affect the plant’s health and the quality of the crop. Rotate vegetables where you can.


Perfect for containers. Mostly smooth, long, and slender with dark purple skin, but can also be round or pear-shaped, and white, pale lilac, streaked, or red.

Care: Keep in a sheltered, sunny location, well watered, and with high humidity. Mulch when in containers.

J t e


Mostly round and purple, but can also be oval or long and bright red, golden yellow, and striped. Best eaten when young and sweet; leaves are also tasty.

Care: Sow successively for continuous supply throughout summer. Harvest remaining plants before frost.

J t e
n full sun y Partial shade U Full shade


Outdoor varieties are usually shorter than those grown under cover. Small, round cucumbers are sweet and tasty. Gherkins are preserved in vinegar or brined with herbs and spices.

Care: Grow up a tepee. Plants prefer lots of well-rotted organic matter in soil.

J t e


Lots of different types to choose from, with different shapes, textures, and colors. Cut-and-come-again lettuce is perfect for smaller containers.

Care: Sow in succession from spring to fall; some varieties can be overwintered. Don’t let soil dry out.

### – ## t – y e


Peppery and spicy, arugula is easy to grow and tasty in salads. Wild arugula has narrower leaves than milder tasting salad arugula. Plants can be kept through the winter.

Care: Pick a few leaves at a time or cut the whole plant back to allow regrowth.

### y e


Vine tomatoes have a tall central stem that needs support. Bush types are smaller and may not need support; some can be grown in hanging baskets. Fruit can be red, orange, or yellow.

Care: Choose a sunny site. Bring green fruit inside to ripen in late fall.

J t e

Also try… Chicory, Chile Peppers, Cucamelon, Endive, Gherkin, Peppers, Radicchio, Radishes

Updated: October 18, 2015 — 11:08 am