Nobody has unlimited space to grow plants in, and some of us have very small spaces indeed. For some, it’s a window box, a balcony, or a little apron of earth that comes with a townhouse. But there’s bright news for those who love the process - and the rewards - of growing their own veggies. There’s actually quite a lot you can do in very small spaces. These veggie varieties are the ones to target.
Do you love those crunchy and colourful roots? You can get a double crop if you take the leaves into account. Tender young leaves taste a bit like mustard greens, and you can cook the larger ones as an unusual but tasty dish too. The best container for these would be a window box, and you might be surprised by how much you can harvest from it! Looking for something unusual in radishes? We’ve got you!
2. Dwarf and Micro Tomatoes
There’s nothing tastier than freshly picked tomatoes, and dwarf tomatoes, with fruits ranging from medium-sized to cherry, are ideal for growing in pots. They even look quite pretty, especially when the fruits begin to ripen. We love these varieties so much that we’ve gone crazy with them, and once you try them, so will you!
Micro tomatoes take this to the next level. Plant a window box, or use standard 6-inch (15cm) pots to grow your own harvest of luscious cherry tomatoes in the smallest space imaginable.
3. Chillies or Bell Peppers
From steaming hot to irresistibly sweet, chillies and the smaller sweet bell peppers make very attractive pot plants. They’re at their best when laden with ripening fruit, and you can help them to bear even more with a bit of judicious pinching out of growing tips. Best of all, they’ll last for more than one year if you take good care of them.
4. Loose Leaf Lettuce
All those gorgeously coloured lettuces that cost you a bomb in the supermarket are yours for the picking - and all you need is a surprisingly small amount of space to grow them in. Pretty? You bet! You can get super-arty with all those colours and textures. As for freshness and flavour, your homegrowns are unbeatable.
Here’s another choice that will satisfy your eyes as well as your palate. If you want colour, interest, and flavour rolled into one, we suggest the aptly-named Rainbow mixture, but even the green silverbeet varieties can be gorgeously lush and striking. Remember: don’t waste the stems. They just take a little longer to cook, so add them to stews and stir-fries, or turn them into a batter-coated snack. You heard it here first!
6. Arugula (Rocket)
The best restaurants seem to love topping off dishes with a mini-tower of arugula leaves, and apart from the look and the taste, I think I recently found out why. The other day, I stopped in a restaurant’s backyard parking lot and found a teeny but very productive bed simply bristling with rocket! That’s one gourmet ingredient they don’t have to buy - so why not follow their example? Even a couple of pots can deliver a lot since you can plant them pretty close together.
7. Bush Beans
It’s seriously amazing how many beans you can pick from a single plant that only grows about 30-40 cm tall. Bush beans are a winner for pots or garden beds with limited space! Grow them right, and the foliage is lush, the flowers pretty, and the young pods simply delicious. Mine grow in a raised bed 1.2 x1.2 metres in size and I usually end up freezing a couple of kilos that we don’t get round to eating fresh.
As long as your container is deep enough to allow the roots to develop, carrots can be a pleasure in pots. Although we grow them for those crunchy roots, the foliage is very pretty, and it can even be fun to allow a few of them to flower. They won’t be nice to eat if you do this, but carrot flowers are surprisingly pretty and complement a flower-arranging hobby as a substitute for Queen Anne’s lace or baby’s breath.
9. Leeks, Spring Onions, or Chives
Of the three, chives are probably the prettiest and definitely the most durable, but I had huge fun, quite by accident, with some surplus spring onions (non-bunching) that I left behind in a nursery plug tray. Despite the very limited root space, and a lot of neglect, these things went absolutely crazy and I ended up harvesting a good 30 or more fat and juicy plants from a space that was literally no larger than 30 x 30 cm. Small space? Give it a try!
Herbs are awesome for small gardens and containers. I’ll never forget my first “herb garden.” I planted it in a very small plastic window box which I kept on my kitchen windowsill. It had two types of basil, plus thyme, and oregano. The basil, being annual, didn’t last for longer than it was supposed to, but I picked oregano and thyme out of it for years.
Another combo that worked well for me, and still does, is a rosemary bush underplanted with creeping thyme. And when I was collecting mint varieties (there must be hundreds), I kept them in 15cm pots and could probably have got by with smaller ones if I’d wanted to.
Small Space? A Couple of Extra Tips
You might be wondering where you’ll find space for all these pots, especially if you literally only have a couple of square metres to play with. Our top tip is to go vertical, and it doesn’t have to be a fancy setup. Simple shelving will do the trick, and I’ve seen very lush vertical gardens made from old shipping pallets fitted with bidim planting pockets.
You probably won’t grow pumpkins or watermelons in limited spaces, but anything compact with a predictable root system you can accommodate will work in containers, and if you have enough space for two or three door-sized beds, you can do even more.
Are you ready for the challenge of gardening in a small space? With a bit of ingenuity, you can do an amazing amount of things despite your limited garden area. Try it and see!