Having a small backyard doesn't mean you have to forego a vegetable patch. See these 12 ingenious solutions to small garden design and choose your favorite
Sustainability is the name of the game these days and we all want to play our part. What better way than to grow our own vegetables in the backyard? My first excursion into growing my own was spring onions in a pot. I was immensely proud of them, and nobody could persuade me they didn’t taste a million times better than shop-bought.
According to Cooped Up Life, gardening has become more popular than ever with Millennials becoming involved in garden design and growing their own food. If you’re looking at them and wondering how you can get on board with your small patch of garden, this list of 12 ideas for planters will help you make the most of the outdoor space you have.
If you’re reluctant to give up your flower garden to vegetables, you can hide your vegetables among the flowers. Symbiotic Gardening is perfect for this garden idea.
13 Types of Vegetable Gardens (Big and Small Ideas)
Our list of vegetable garden types below does not specify different vegetables. That’s obvious. Instead, the different types are defined by the garden structure (or lack of structure).
Basic “in-the-ground” LARGE backyard vegetable garden
This is the obvious veggie garden… a plot of land set aside for growing vegetables. No structure or container. Just plunk the seeds in the ground.
Veggie garden grid
I love this concept. Of course you need more space but I like how each garden is dedicated to different vegetables. It looks great.
Large container garden
These are super popular. The containers create an elevated veggie garden and clearly demarcates the gardens in the yard.
Small Container Garden
Container gardens are the most common and easiest to set up with layouts only limited by your imagination. If your space is small, use containers, whichever size fits comfortably and allows you access to take care of them. Container plants depend on you to keep them alive so check what watering requirements they have before planting. Salad plants work particularly well in containers.
Indoor Container Garden
Above is a photo of the very popular Aerogarden (buy it here). It’s an indoor container garden for herbs, veggies or whatever you want to grow. You can get larger sizes as well. It includes everything you need to grow indoors. We bought one for our parents and they love it.
No supermarket-bought vegetable can beat the taste of a vegetable you’ve grown yourself. The good news is that you don’t need loads of space. Bags, burlap or plastic or even those cobbled together from weed barrier material are perfect for the job of growing potatoes, pumpkins, or even cucumber. If you’re using plastic don’t forget to put some holes for drainage. Otherwise, all you need are seed potatoes and compost.
If you’re unsure about using any of these bag types you can buy specially made grow bags from Amazon.
Pots work well on balconies. You can pop them into brackets and hang the brackets over the side of the balcony. These hanging pots look pretty and they’re not taking up limited floor space. You can buy these railing garden pots here.
DIY balcony garden is pretty easy to create. Check out the following “bottle onion gardens” suspended on a railing.
These spring onions growing in plastic bottles might look a bit unorthodox but think about it, the bottles are being put to good use and you’ll also have some salad vegetables. It’s such a simple way to grow food, there’s no reason not to do it.
Garden in a barrel
You can take the girl out of Ireland, but you can’t take Ireland out of the girl! I was living in London with a small concrete yard and an old water barrel upended in a corner. I scrubbed it, got a couple of bags of compost, and grew myself some potatoes. You can even paint the barrel and make it a feature in your small space.
Horse Trough and other Creative Gardens
Yes, you’ve read that right. You can basically use any type of container to grow your vegetables. Have an old bath lying around? Maybe a toilet you were going to throw out? I’ve used wellington boots, shoes, I even covered the seat of a chair with Sphagnum Moss and grew succulents in it once.
Yes, I know you want color in your garden but what if you have to choose vegetables over flowers and you just don’t have enough color? Simple. Either buy colorful containers or paint them yourself. Don’t be afraid to be brave with the colors you choose. These raised beds and fencing in shocking pink look fabulous against the green grass.
Another great garden idea for balconies, elevated planters are different to raised beds. A raised bed is built up in layers, and you still have to bend down to them. In contrast, the elevated option is usually about waist height and often mobile. The added benefit to the elevated planter is that you can take it with you if you’re moving.
This is an ideal solution for a garden with an incline. Decide how many steps you want, clear the area and create steps with frames. It does require effort and a good back, and maybe an extra hand or two. The end result is worth it.
Tires are a cheap and cheerful way to pretty up your vegetable garden. Whether you have old tires laying around your garage or can get some from your local recycling centre or friendly auto shop, all you have to do is paint them in your favorite colors and plant low-growing vegetables.
That’s not all you can do with tires though. Look at this cute planter made from a smaller tire.
Another solution for a small garden is these self-watering pots placed above each other and are perfect for growing salad vegetables. You could have several sets, depending on your space, with flowers interspersed for color.
Upside Down Garden
Suppose you live in a drought-prone climate, or you know you’re going on holiday for a couple of weeks. In that case, it’s a good idea to plant tomatoes and strawberries in upside-down planters. You can buy specially-made planters such as the one below or make one yourself from a large plastic bottle and add a reservoir – this can be as simple as having a smaller plastic container with a slow leak inside the top. Either way, your fruit will get its necessary water.
You can pull out all the stops and have a carpenter create a vertical garden with individual containers, but the easiest way to make one is to use an old pallet. The only thing you have to watch out for is to ensure it’s heat-treated instead of chemically treated.
So now, with all those excuses about not having space to grow vegetables put to rest, what’s your favourite garden idea above?
Vegetable Garden Ideas and Examples (Photo Gallery)
Below are more photo examples showcasing many backyard vegetable garden ideas and concepts.
This vegetable garden uses a number of small raised garden beds to grow vegetables separately. Some vegetables need different care, so keeping them organized like this is always a good idea.
Here is a simple raised garden bed with an irrigation system in place. These kinds of accessories can add to the cost of building your garden but can save lots of labor time in the long run
This garden consists of two square raised garden beds. These are great for yards with a bit of space. Source: Zillow Digs™
These raised garden beds have a rustic appeal and are equipped with some irrigation systems. Raised garden beds are useful for keeping crops organized and can reduce bending, making the work a bit easier.
Here is a lovely vegetable garden with a seat for resting after a long day tending to the crops. You can sit here and enjoy the fruits and vegetables of your labor.
Here is an elevated planter that is great for a small vegetable garden. If you have a number of small vegetable plants, and are growing for personal use, this is ideal, as it is mobile, simple and the height makes it easier to manage. Source: Zillow Digs™
Here is a nice vegetable garden with thin and manageable strips of planting area separated by wood chips. Wood chips make great footpaths between planting areas. They add a rustic and natural appeal to your garden.
Here is a pretty and well designed garden area. The white raised garden boxes match well with the rest of the yard’s design. A vegetable garden does not need to stand out from the rest of your yard. There are plenty of ways to make them blend with your garden design.
This is an expansive vegetable garden in a large yard. If you have the space there is no need to get fancy with raised garden beds, greenhouses, or paths. If you can manage with a simple plot of dirt and the seeds, then that is all you really need for a successful and beneficial vegetable garden.
This small plot was converted into a fantastic small vegetable garden. There is no need to have a massive space to grow a few veggies. You can make do with even a small patch. With a bit of soil and proper landscape design, it can be a stunning vegetable garden in no time.
This garden area is fenced in, and it even has its own little table and chairs. The seating and secluded nature of the area transforms the garden into a sanctuary
for the lucky green thumb who works it. Source: Zillow Digs™
Here is a single box with a variable mix of vegetables, organized by dividers. When you are growing vegetables for a small group, you may not need to have many plants to get the vegetables you need. One or two of each plant may be able to yield what you want.
This vegetable garden has raised garden beds at different levels. The multiple levels of this garden allows for a great deal of organization, as well as a fantastic visual appeal. Source: Zillow Digs™
Hanging planters from railings is a way to have a small personal garden in an urban area. In the picture above, there is a lovely small vegetable and flower garden hanging above the city. It is not impossible to grow your own produce, even if it seems like you have no space. There are always creative ways.
This vegetable garden is arranged into a number of long and rustic raised garden beds. By being longer and thinner, rather than wider, this garden bed allows access to more sides of the crops.
Here is a simple and clever solution for growing small vegetable plants. A hanging garden like this is perfect for those with less space in the yard for raised garden beds, and greenhouses. Source: Zillow Digs™
A greenhouse is a great addition to a vegetable garden if you have the room for one. These can extend your growing season, and keep your crops safe from pests and insects.
and build your fence accordingly.
Even the non-gardener can appreciate this garden design.
This level of organization gives this garden visual appeal.
Vegetable gardens are a real investment, and there is a bit of start-up cost and elbow grease that goes into growing vegetables before you get any return.
What are the pros and cons of growing a vegetable garden?
- The environment – By growing your own produce, produce does not need to be grown far away, shipped to your local market, and picked up by you. This lessens the energy required to get the food to you, and is therefore better for the environment.
- For your health – This advantage is twofold. Not only are the veggies that you grow better for you than processed foods you may buy at the supermarket, but the physical labor you are putting in while tending to the garden is exercise.
- Saving money – In the long run, if your garden is successful you can save money. Seeds are cheaper than a trip to the supermarket, and if you harvest the seeds from your crops, you can keep a self sufficient cycle going which will only save more money over time.
- Reduce waste – If you make a compost heap, you will not only be helping your garden flourish, but also reducing the waste that you are producing.
- Pests and wildlife – If you are not prepared for the onslaught of nature, it can take you by surprise. There are a plethora of insects and pests that are ready to make your garden their all-you-can-eat buffet. There are ways to get rid of such pests, but this can be quite frustrating for the unprepared gardener.
- Time investment – A vegetable garden is not a set-it and forget it project. You need to actively tend to your vegetables on a regular basis to make sure things are going smoothly. This upkeep can be quite the time investment. This effort may be off-putting to many.
- It is a skill – Gardening isn’t always simple, and it is a skill that will need to be honed. Like any skill requiring practice, you will make missteps along the way. These stumbling blocks can be frustrating. Also, some crops are significantly more troublesome than others, so you may need to gain basic knowledge and skills before tackling the more difficult crops.
- You can’t grow everything – Depending on your location and the space you have, you may be limited in the things you can grow. You should look into what grows best in your area and which tools are required. There are sure to be vegetables that are just not suited for your climate.
- Loss and inconsistency – You should never count your chickens before they hatch, just as you should never count your rhubarb before they ripen. Home gardening can be inconsistent, and it is almost inevitable that you will lose crops at some point in your gardening career. This can be frustrating, but always remember that the best laid plans may go awry.
There are a number of costs that may be associated with building your own vegetable garden. You can build any number of accessories or structures to help with your vegetable garden. If you choose to build raised garden beds or greenhouses, your costs may increase a great deal.
Without any additional features, a basic vegetable garden needs soil, fertilizer, and seeds.
If you do not have usable soil in your yard, you can find rich soil at around 40 lbs. at garden stores for between $3 to $10. If you are unsure about your soil, you may want to get it tested. A soil test will run about $12.
Depending on your area, you may be able to find fertilizer easily. If you are close enough to a farm or someone who has more than they need you may be able to get fertilizer for free, or at minimum the cost of travelling to collect it yourself. If you are not fortunate enough to find fertilizer for free you may be looking at spending around $20 per truckload. (Source: Spark People)
It is also smart to start your own compost heap. With a bit of wire or fence, and a little of your time, you can reduce your garbage output and help your garden grow. This can supplement your need for manure.
As far as seeds are concerned, you can usually find a packet of seeds for only a few dollars. If you are able to harvest your seeds from the crops you grow to then replant, you can end up saving a great deal of money.