Small Space Gardening Tips and Techniques

Minimal space at home? Try container gardening and vegetable starter kits to increase your living space

Credit: Flickr / DJOtaku

Try the 10-foot diet with home-grown tomatoes from your balcony with these small space gardening tips

Small space gardening isn’t a new phenomenon, but it’s one that’s rapidly gaining traction as space-starved apartment and condo dwellers experiment with container and balcony gardens

Peter Cantley, Loblaws’ vice-president of Floral and Garden with over 45 years of garden expertise, has noticed a growing movement in recent years: people looking to revamp their space at the start of the garden season.

“It’s much more than a trend with the real estate market these days,” he says. “Condos are so hot right now and people are looking for ways to beautify their space, whether it’s large or small.”

Use Containers for Your Balcony Garden

Cantley, who is responsible for procuring product and setting up garden stores for Loblaws, can attest to the fact that people are looking for ways to garden in their homes. He notes that many people are using their balconies and decks as a way to increase their living space.

“We’re seeing so much more interest in hanging baskets,” says Cantley, adding that companion gardening, as long as the container is large enough, is a nice way to integrate both vegetables and flowers into your small space.

Cantley recommends planting edible flowers like Nasturtiums (or try these) along with your lettuce to make a quick, elegant salad. He also suggests thinking about what you like to cook and then planting those things together. For example, plant tomato and basil (add Bocconcini, olive oil and balsamic vinegar for a simple insalata), or parsley and thyme with peppers, and continue to harvest throughout the summer.

Create a Sustainable Garden

“Everyone wants to eat local and this is the 10-foot diet.” Cantley says the way to eat fresh from the garden is to begin with veggies that grow well in any situation, like lettuce and herbs. Don’t forget to have your containers exposed to as much light as possible for successful results.

Along with sun, veggies need air and water to grow and should be planted in a fairly light peat moss-based soil with plenty of drainage – use bits of an old broken clay pot, stones or an upside-down plant saucer.

Not sure if your plant needs water? Cantley says to take your right index finger and stick it two inches into the soil: if it’s dry, give the container a good soaking so the water comes through the bottom, then let it dry out before waterings.

Note: the higher up you live in your building, the windier it will be on your balcony, so monitor your plants closely as they tend to dry out faster in a windy environment.

Use Space Saving Planting Containers

For inventive DIY gardeners there are several ways to use existing containers for your new veggie garden, like Sharon Hanna’s wine box garden or using Sheena Adams’ tips on growing carrots in an old terra-cotta container, wooden packing box or punctured metal bucket.

If you don’t happen to have any of these items on hand, Cantley recommends the PC Tomato Vegetable Planter Kit and notes you don’t have to use it only for tomatoes, but pretty much everything from lettuce to radishes to herbs.

The planter ($49.99) is 26” long with a lightweight metal structure to support upward growth and comes with its own water reservoir and a 50L bag of soil to get you started.