celery seedlings

Want to grow some of your own vegetables, but don’t have much space?

Not everyone has a yard with room for a garden, so we’ve put together some ideas for growing a small space vegetable garden.

If your space is limited, then containers on a patio or balcony may be the way to go. Perhaps you have some space, but the only suitable area has little direct sun. Choose vegetables that do well in partial shade. Another option is to choose to grow your plants upwards — often referred to as vertical gardening. Let’s look at each of these options in more detail.

Container Gardens

Peppers in a container garden

You can grow almost any vegetable in a container, providing you have the right sized container and it is located in a spot with enough direct sun. Even fruit trees and bushes can be container grown, providing you choose the right dwarf varieties. Containers are one of the best ways to have a small space vegetable garden.

One big plus with container gardens is that no soil is wasted — all of it is used and none of it is taken up with pathways. And because different plants require different depths of soil, you can choose the perfect sized container for your vegetable and not waste potting soil.

A second advantage is that you can often move your containers plants to catch maximum sunlight. Garden supply shops carry small wheeled dollies for putting under planters, making moving them a snap. If you can’t move your planters, then select vegetables that do well in partial shade.

Container gardening can lead to some interesting and innovative container choices, aside from the ones all garden supply shops carry. Everything from plastic soda bottles to galvanized water troughs can be put to use. You’re limited only by your imagination and what you can find. Remember, though, that plants in containers require drainage, so drill holes in any container bottoms to allow excess water to escape.

Vegetables for Partial Sun

There are several common and desirable vegetables that will grow in less sunny locations. If a seed package says ‘partial sun’ that plant will do okay with a minimum of four hours of sun, but would do better with up to 8 hours. Ones labeled ‘partial shade’ do best with no more that 4 to 6 hours of sunlight.

Here are some choices for a partially shaded garden:

Rainbow chard

  • Hardy and pretty chard grows well in less sunny spots.
  • Lettuce and related greens like mesclun mixes do best in partial shade. They will actually bolt to seed in too much sun.
  • Some herbs that prefer partial shade and do well in containers are mint, chervil, parsley and coriander. Always grow your mint in a container, since it spreads so easily it can quickly take over.
  • Choose dwarf peas and beans if you have an area with at least 5 hours of sun. They may grow more slowly than in full sun, but you will still have a good harvest.
  • Root vegetables such as carrots, beets, radishes and turnips will also grow just fine in partial shade. Remember, root vegetables grown in containers require deeper soil, so choose the right container.
  • Broccoli and cabbage do best with less sun, so they are good choices for partial sun areas. They are easily grown in containers.
  • Leafy greens will do well in partial shade. Chard, collards and kale really need only about 3 hours of sun to do well, and all make good — and attractive — container grown plants for your small space vegetable garden.

Vertical Gardening

People have created many small space vegetable gardens and ornamental gardens by inventing or choosing ways to grow vertically. You could attach individual pots along a wall or to a balcony rail to make good use of space. Many ways to grow vertically, from using traditional wood trellises to attaching rain gutters filled with soil to walls and fences have been used.

In the photo below, the space is used for colourful flowering plants, but just as easily it could hold pots of leafy greens, strawberries or herbs. Note the potted fruit tree.

vertical garden space


Many vining plants will grow upwards with support. Squashes and melons, pole beans, peas and even tomatoes all lend themselves to vertical growth. All these require support. Tie tomatoes to a support to reduce stress and prevent collapse of their pliable stems. As melons and cucumbers begin to fruit, they will need sufficient support for the added weight.

Rain gutters fixed to a wall or fence make good containers for shallowly rooted lettuces, salad greens and even strawberry plants.

Use hanging planters to conserve space. Tomatoes will grow quite well upside down, hanging out of the bottom of a 5 gallon bucket or a growing bag. With any hanging plants, keep them well watered. Strawberries are another choice that will do well in a hanging basket.

Each of these ideas allow almost anyone to grow a small space vegetable garden. Other options are available if none of these work for you. Look into whether your community has set up a community garden space. If not, perhaps you can take the initiative to start one. Community gardens offer not just a space for you to grow vegetables, fruits or flowers, but the opportunity to share ideas, information and resources with fellow gardeners.

We face many challenges already around the issue of clean wholesome food supplies. The ability to grow your own food, even in a reduced capacity in your own small space vegetable garden, is a both a skill and opportunity to become healthier and to teach our future generations.

About the Author

Nicki is a dedicated gardener, a creative artist and a published author. Passionate about what she does, her gardening articles, books and paintings reveal her love of nature and the western Canadian scene. She loves sharing her container garden success with others to inspire their creativity.

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