Small Spaces, Big Gardens

Are you dying to get caught up in the excitement of spring gardening, but lack the yard space? Never fear, we are here to help ease your green-eyed green thumb monster with some amazing ideas for small spaces gardening. The best part? You don't have to be a Pinterest master or a DIY guru to make our ideas work, you just need some quality soil, a few plants, and a little bit of sunny space. After all, the thrill, satisfaction, and rewards of growing your own food shouldn't be reserved for people with the privilege of gardens--everyone should get to experience it!

1. Window box herb gardens

These simple-to-set-up babies are perfect for growing culinary herbs. Most herbs grow well in confined spaces, and window boxes provide the excellent drainage essential for the health and sustainability of most herbs. In addition, the heat-loving plants will thrive by staying dry under the eaves in areas of high summer rainfall, but will also stay protected from the cold. Everyone can find space for a window box, even the gardener without a plot, and they are incredibly easy to grow no matter your experience level. If you have room for only a tiny box, focus on selecting herbs from among the smallest varieties: miniature thyme, ‘Blue Boy’ rosemary, ‘Minette’ basil, dwarf moss-curled parsley—and avoid those that can easily take over a small space, such as mints, chamomile, and standard varieties of oregano, rosemary, and lavender. Most importantly, select the herbs you know you're going to use. If you are fond of cilantro, why not dedicate your entire box to it? Likewise for basil, which is hearty and perfumes the air of an open window. Why not plant several varieties in one box, such as Thai, Cinnamon, Sweet, and Lemon for a diverse array of flavors? Basil is the perfect addition to lemonade, mixed cocktails, or summer grilling, and even though a window box won't yield enough for a batch of pesto, you'll have plenty to add amazing flavors to all your dishes. Make sure you pick quality boxes that won't rot--stick with terra cotta or organic wood, and be sure to give your herbs lots of room to spread out. Cramming them will destroy their root systems and lead to decay. Herbs need airflow, drainage, and space--so make sure to keep them at a reasonable distance.

2. Container tomatoes

While most types of tomatoes are happier in the dirt where they can spread their roots, many varieties are perfectly happy being potted! The key is selecting a large enough pot and filling it with top notch soil. Make sure your pot is at least 24-48 inches wide and a minimum of 36 inches deep. Even small tomatoes need deep dirt to establish their root systems, and while the sprouts may start small, they will grow quickly! Select miniature cherry tomatoes, such as Sungold, Brown Sugar, Sweetheart of the Patio, Wapsipinicon Peach, Cherokee Green, and Brandywine. I always suggest selecting at least three different kinds, since tomatoes have such broad flavor profiles and uses. I like to pick a sweet one, a tart one, and a high-yield bush for some end of the season sauces and jams. Once you've picked your plants, grab a few bags of top notch soil, some compost tea, and tomato cages. Give your new babies lots of dirt, amended with compost tea around the root once a month and a bit of fertilizer, and keep them evenly watered in the mornings. Pinch off the suckers, keep your eyes peeled for pests, and spritz the leaves with insecticidal soap once a week or so to keep rust, mildew, and chewing insects away.

3. Dwarf fruit trees

Did you know you can have a miniature orchard on your patio? With a little patience, good supplies, and dwarf fruit trees, anything is possible. The key, like container tomatoes, is selecting the right pot and the right plant. Make sure you select a tree that's either self-fertile (cherries, peaches, and apricots) or else you'll need to get two in order to produce fruit. Be sure to plant fruit trees in a pot that is at least 1 foot in diameter and 1 foot deep, as their complex root systems need space. Galvanized wastebaskets are a great choice, as they look surprisingly elegant, and can be picked up cheaply from most hardware stores, but other containers like wine barrels, reclaimed wood planters, and terra cotta pots will also do. Be sure to plant a stake with your tree to give them extra support, keep them in a sunny location, and give them lots of delicious nutrients, such as liquid seaweed, compost tea, top soil mulch, or eggshels. While many won't fruit the first year, by next spring you'll have a sweet crop made for one.