Maximise Your Space - Stunning Design Ideas for Small Gardens

, written by Benedict Vanheems gb flag

Vegetables and herbs in a small garden space

Many of us grow our fruits, vegetables and flowers in a garden that’s smaller than we’d like. If your horticultural ambitions are bigger than your plot, there are a number of clever design techniques you can use to fully utilise every scrap of space at your disposal.

Use Vertical Space

All gardens – even small ones – have lots of vertical space, so make the most of it! You can attach planters to walls or fences, or secure mesh or trellising to encourage climbers to reach for the skies. Even walls that are shaded at the base may still have plenty of sunlight for climbing plants, setting up the perfect combination for many perennial plants of cool, moist roots and sunny leaves.

Naturally climbing or sprawling plants that can be trained to grow upwards include delicious kiwi fruits, grapevines, and a whole host of climbing beans, peas, squashes and vining tomatoes. Make sure supports are sturdy enough to hold the plants up – a squash in full fruit, for example, can be very heavy.

Fan-trained apple tree

Many tree fruits such as apples, pears and peaches can be trained into particular shapes to hug walls or fences. Single-stemmed cordons, espaliers with their parallel branches, or radiating fans look beautiful while making incredibly efficient use of ground space. While most of these fruits will prefer a wall that catches plenty of direct sunlight, there are still fruits that will thrive on shadier walls, including sour cherries, varieties of gooseberry and red- and whitecurrant. Underplant your fruit with perennial flowers and herbs to make use of all the space available.

Mix Plants Up

The traditional approach is to set aside a dedicated area for growing vegetables, fruits and herbs, but in the smallest gardens that simply isn’t possible. Try growing edible and ornamental plants together instead. The results can be stunning, and in fact there are many benefits to this approach.

Planting flowers and vegetables together makes it harder for pests to hone in on specific crops, while an abundance of blooms ensures there are always beneficial insects on hand to pollinate flowering vegetables and all types of fruit.

Productive small garden

Select edibles with both good looks and taste. Contrast different leaf textures or colours, for example billowing green curly kale with red cabbage, or lettuce in green and red. Choose varieties with interesting flowers – pretty climbing beans for example – or unusual but handsome looks, such as bulb or Florence fennel, or a variety of chard with colourful stems.

Include edible flowers like nasturtium and calendula, or flowers such as alyssum that are known to attract pest-eating predators like hoverflies. You can use the Garden Planner to find out the best flowers to include with specific crops using the Companion Planting feature. Simply select the crops you wish to match then click the heart-shaped Companion Planting button. The Selection Bar will then show suitable companions, including flowers.

Choose High Value Crops

As well as mixing different types of plant together, you can proactively plan to maximise your garden’s overall productivity.

One way to do this is to select only high-yielding or high-value crops. Tomatoes will give lots of fruits over the summer, while chard can be cut repeatedly over a long period to give several harvests from the same plant. Runner beans and courgettes are notoriously prolific, while radishes are so quick growing you can sow, grow and pick several generations of roots in a single growing season, or plant them in between slow-growing crops and harvest them early.

Square Foot Garden grid

You could give over some space to Square Foot Gardening, a method of growing that enables crops to be grown at a far higher density by using a high-nutrient moisture-retentive soil mixture. Use the Garden Planner to work out exactly how many vegetables you can grow in this way. Just click on the SFG button to switch to Square Foot Gardening mode. The Garden Planner will automatically calculate you how many plants can be grown in each square foot.

Containers, with potting soil tailored to suit the plants grown within them, will also yield a surprising range of harvests. Choose compact varieties suitable for growing this way and arrange them to maximise their visual impact. Add further interest by selecting pots in pretty colours, glazes and designs, or upcycle everyday objects to create unusual yet eye-catching containers. And don’t forget hanging baskets, which can be positioned to catch valuable sunlight.

Somewhere to Linger

You’ll want your garden to be somewhere beautiful to relax too, so remember to include seating within your plan. Make a seat or bench as rustic or sleek as you desire, and surround it with aromatic herbs or fragrant flowers to enjoy.

Rustic garden bench

In a small garden every surface counts, so opt for attractive paths and handsome hard surfacing. The Garden Planner includes a range of options – paths in, for example, stone or a brick herringbone pattern, or paving in all manner or textures and colours.

You can add additional vertical interest to your plan with an arbour, arch or pergola, perhaps cloaked with climbers such as melons or beans to create a spectacular focal point to your garden.

Every garden, no matter how tiny, can be both productive and stunning. If you have more tips for planning a small garden, we’d love to hear them, so do drop us a comment below.

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Garden Planning Apps

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Show Comments


"Great video I like some of the suggestions about use of the Garden Planner"
Scott on Saturday 4 January 2020
"I'm doing my best to learn all that I can on how to maximixe space by growing plants indoors and out. You gave me a lot of good ideas, and I would love to see more videos on this subject. One of the things that I do, is to get fishing worms from 7-11, and add them to my soil so that they can purify my land and also naturally detox the soil. As always, Chris Bitonti"
Chris Bitonti on Friday 21 February 2020
"Hi Chris. Very interested to hear you use fishing worms for this. Do they have a noticeable effect? Please do check out our other videos and articles - we have quite a lot on small-space gardening adn maximising the space you have. "
Ben Vanheems on Friday 21 February 2020
"Great comment about the fishing worms. I plan to try some in one of my raised beds this year. "
Scott on Friday 21 February 2020
"Hi Chris, I am thrilled by your simple tips for raising manageable veg garden mainly during the current lockdowns and homestays. Will try it. Thanks. "
M Salim on Monday 27 April 2020
"Our Swimming pool was beyond repair.. A 16 x 32 ft swimming pool became my garden. The bottom /south end 4 sections were removed.. deep hole filled in. making the pool bottom 3 ft deep level across. After recycling used patio bricks, making a set of stairs to pool decking, and creating raised beds, making a cold frame, and many pots of good, well aged barnyard beef and chicken compost, I have created a Pool Patio Garden.. since there is no means of adding a photo.. i wish i could share my garden photos.. Several summers in the making, it is awesome.. the bricks for the base, 3 ft below pool deck, . hold the summer heat and I am able to start growing earlier, and hold plants later in the fall.. My cold frame lid is a curbside find, recycled double sliding patio door. heavy, but solid and holds heat with the double glazed glass.. I love my pool patio garden.. "
Janice K on Friday 30 April 2021
"That sounds genuinely incredible Janice, really it does - a little oasis and heat trap. Beautiful! I wish you could share a photo also, I'd have loved to have seen it."
Ben Vanheems on Tuesday 4 May 2021

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