Design Ideas for Your Small Garden
Although it’s easy to think that gardening with a limited space is easier than farming the back 40, nothing could be further from the truth. Employing small garden design ideas when every inch of space counts presents opportunities to learn about specialized gardening techniques and plant preferences. Turning a small space into an outdoor oasis requires careful planning and some care once everything is in place, but the rewards of a small garden are worth every minute of planning and effort that gardening small takes.
Implementing small garden design ideas doesn’t require a plot of soil because many plants can grow in containers. Raised beds also provide enough growing space for plants, as do hanging baskets and vertical gardens. When the budget or space is limited, wooden pallets used for shipping make good vertical gardens for growing smaller, more shallow-rooted plants, whether edible or decorative.
Climate makes a difference when selecting the type of containers for small gardens if a plot of soil isn’t available. Plastic pots may not be as decorative as ceramic or terra cotta pots, but the plastic holds moisture better, which makes them a better container for water-loving plants in hot or dry regions.
While plants adapt to most geographies, some do better than others, depending on moisture, humidity and day length. Choosing onions for a garden depends on day length. Some require long days, plentiful in northern climates, while short day onions are planted in the southern states with more even day length year-round. Tomatoes are another example of plants that have geographic preferences. All tomatoes like it warm, but a few varieties are better adapted to the hot summers found in southern states.
Employing companion planting is essential for small garden design ideas. Some plants do better when planted next to other kinds, but mixing some plants together can actually spread diseases or slow their growth. When selecting the plants for a garden, consult a master gardener, the staff at a home center or use Internet resources to learn about plant compatibility.
Besides compatibility, it helps to group plants together that have similar food and water needs, separating those that need frequent watering and feeding from those that prefer drier soils. Many kinds of herbs produce better and have deeper flavors when grown in slightly stressful conditions, like poorer soils and less frequent watering. When some herbs are stressed, the oils in the leaves intensify, giving them more flavor. Leafy greens, on the other hand, like abundant nitrogen and water, so interspersing herbs with greens could be counterproductive in a small garden.
Color, Aroma and Texture
Small gardens need a focal point, which can be a larger plant or other patio or yard object that withstands wind, sunshine and moisture. Color choices for plants are highly individual. Some gardeners like every color under the rainbow, while others like subtle changes in leaf and flower color. Spending time researching when the plant bloom helps place plants so that something is always blooming, providing color and fragrance continually in the garden.
Mixing in soil amendments to existing soil gives plants a boost when using native dirt. But it’s a good idea to use an inexpensive soil testing kit before amending the garden soil, since too much nitrogen promotes leaf growth at the expense of flowers or fruit. All purpose potting soil is good for container gardening, except for cacti or succulents, that need a sandy mix for fast drainage. Since every inch counts in small areas, placing decorative objects on top of the soil around the plants is another way to bring more color and texture to enhance small garden design ideas.
It’s the rare garden that doesn’t need supplemental watering from time to time, either from a hose, an irrigation system, or from watering cans. Drip irrigation systems use water efficiently and once the garden is established, the tubing and emitters don’t detract from the small garden design ideas. Some pots have water reservoirs at the base and use the principles of osmosis for irrigating the plants. Decorative watering cans can be part of the overall design of the garden.
Turning a barren area like a patio, balcony or corner of the yard into a fruitful and colorful retreat is within the reach of nearly anyone who likes to plan and plant. People of all ages enjoy the process and the results can be spectacular. These small garden design ideas don’t need to cost a fortune and can unite the whole family in healthy, educational and productive fun.
This story was written by Ross D Taylor, on behalf of GardenCrafters in Pleasanton, CA. They are known for their expertise in turning simple gardens into beautiful retreats. You can see their portfolio online for some samples of their work.