Grow Food in Small Spaces

by Seasonal Wisdom on June 26, 2011

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Want to grow summer vegetables and herbs, but don’t have a lot of space? No problem. With the right plants and container, you’ll be surprised how much you can grow in just a few feet. Here are tips to help you grow food in small spaces.

grow food in small spaces with an Easy Gardener planter

Photo copyright Kevin O’Connor

Let’s start with your container. As long as you have good drainage, there are many items that can be used for containers. Above is an Instant Garden container from Easy Gardener, which was sent for me to review after I participated in P. Allen Smith’s Garden2Blog event.

This portable container is as easy to open as a camp chair … making it convenient for urban gardens, apartment balconies and other small spaces. There is a drain hose that allows excess water to flow off a balcony, rather than straight onto your deck.  The height is ideal for those who don’t want to bend over when gardening.

Some might find the planter’s legs rather cumbersome, because they don’t allow anything underneath. Personally, this didn’t bother me. However, I would have preferred the drain hose had been a more neutral color.

Easy Gardener recommends a mix of 50 percent organic compost with 50 percent good native soil. I planted mine with Gardener & Bloome potting soil and fertilizer, which has worked well. Note: you’ll probably need to water twice a day in hot temperatures. Fill the container where you’ll keep it. Otherwise, the planter will be difficult to move later.

Grow food in small spaces. Here are three tomato plants, five basil plants and more.

Photo copyright Kevin O’Connor

Selecting plants. I’m pleased to report the Instant Garden holds quite a few plants … if you choose wisely. Consider growing patio tomatoes that don’t grow very large, and different varieties of favorite herbs. Here’s what I planted in mine:

Top Row

  • ‘Tumbling Tom Yellow’ Tomatoes: (45 days) – Patio variety perfect for containers. Small yellow fruit cascades over the edge. Two plants.
  • ‘Silver King’ Lemon Thyme: Lovely variegated thyme with delicious lemon taste. Two plants.
  • ‘Dark Leaf’ Parsley: Nice flat leaf variety. One plant.

Middle Row

  • ‘Amethyst’ Basil: Deep purple black leaves with wonderful taste. Attractive herb. One plant.
  • ‘Super Bush’ Tomato: (70 days) – Small sturdy plants with tangy red fruit. One plant.
  • ‘Purple Ruffles’ Basil: Frilly violet foliage makes lovely vinegar. One plant.
  • ‘Arp’ Rosemary: More cold tolerant than many rosemary varieties. One plant.

Bottom Row

  • ‘Window Box’ Roma Tomato: (70 days) – Small patio variety good for cooking and canning. One plant.
  • ‘Genovese Emily’ Basil: Dwarf Genovese type with fragrant foliage. Keeps longer in fridge. One plant.
  • ‘Ararat’ Basil: Heirloom with purple-tinged foliage and spicy-sweet licorice flavor. Very pretty. One plant.
  • ‘Mammoth’ Basil: Huge ruffled leaves with intense aroma. Great for many culinary uses. One plant.

Basil, thyme and tomatoes show you can grow food in small spaces.

Photo copyright Kevin O’Connor

Experiment with different colors and textures. ‘Amethyst’ basil grows alongside ‘Silver King’ lemon thyme and ‘Tumbling Tom Yellow’ tomatoes.

"Tumbling tom' yellow tomatoes help you grow food in small spaces.

Photo copyright Kevin O’Connor

Look for ways to save space. ‘Tumbling Tom Yellow’ cascades over sides of planter with yellow cherry tomatoes.

Mammoth and Arafat basil plants. Grow food in small spaces

Photo copyright Kevin O’Connor

Like a particular herb? Grow different types. This planter has four types of basils. Above, ‘Mammoth’ basil grows alongside the purple-tinged ‘Ararat’ heirloom.

'Window Box Roma' tomatoes

Photo copyright Kevin O’Connor

Not all tomatoes grow large. ‘Window Box’ Roma provides lots of tasty tomatoes in a small space.

Regardless of the vegetables you select, always provide proper growing conditions. The warm-season plants grown in this Instant Garden planter require at least six hours of sunlight daily, and should be planted after the last frost.

For best results, use fertilizers specifically for tomatoes, which supply calcium and other nutrients for optimal growth.

This planter is proof that you can grow food in small spaces. With a little effort — and in a little space — you’ll be snacking from your own small-space food garden soon.

For more about the Instant Garden.


Kerry June 27, 2011 at 11:39 am

Hey – Great post. Just got mine out and filled it with soil. It holds much more than I thought it would. Seems pretty cool to me. Love that you don’t have to bend down (I know, really lazy, but…..).

Teresa O'Connor June 29, 2011 at 9:21 am

Thanks, Kerry. It does require a lot of garden soil, but allows you to grow a lot of different plants as well. Can’t wait to see what you come up with …

Kathy Winters June 30, 2011 at 9:58 am

Great post! I love how you created your own little Caprese garden! Just harvest, add mozzerella and a little balsamic vinegar and you are set! Please post pictures as the tomatoes start changing colors. It’s going to be gorgeous!
Thank you for sharing our Instant Garden with your readers. It is a great product and has become really popular with Urban dwellers, those with small spaces, and is also great for those who have a hard time bending.

Teresa O'Connor June 30, 2011 at 11:20 am

Hi Kathy: Thanks for your comments. I’ll let you know how it looks once the tomatoes start ripening. This container has been very convenient for us this summer; usually our herbs and veggies are stuck further in the backyard. Nice to know we can have so much closer to the house. Teresa

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