By Jennifer Riner of Zillow

Apartment dwellers and homeowners with limited yard spaces don’t have to give up their green thumbs or dreams of becoming self-sustaining horticulturists. Many gardening options produce beautiful shrubs without taking up too much valuable ground space, such as hanging plants and wall installments. These fixtures provide aesthetic charm, privacy and ecological interest to restricted lawns, balconies or rooftop decks.

Consider one or all of these seven ideas to create thriving small-space gardens.

1. Garden Walls

Garden walls consist of rows of cascading plants either installed on shelves or sitting on top of brick or wooden screens. To create garden walls, invest in hanging baskets and pots. Then, line containers and fill with water and pebbles. Place each plant in individual containers and allow vines and flowers to drape and cover the wall. For a more consistent, clean look, trim stems so each plant ends in a level vertical line. Or, go natural and let plants create their own organic flow.

2. Vertical Planters

Vertical planters take up less space.
Vertical planters take up less space.

Rather than lining plants on shelves to drape along a wall, vertical planters are installed directly on standing lattices or wooden fences. Homeowners and renters can even use shoe organizers as an inexpensive option for building vertical gardens. The fabric deters garden mites and pests that eat away and damage healthy shrubs. Fill each planter or pocket with soil or compost and hang in a sunny area where natural rainwater falls.

3. Hanging Gutters

Repurpose damaged gutters into interesting and unique garden fixtures. Hang gutters at various levels for a gallery look, or vertically off of pergolas or roof overhangs. Make sure plants still receive sunlight under roof extensions to keep them healthy and thriving.

4. Tree Stumps

Have some unattractive tree stumps gracing the front or back yard? Rather than uprooting them, create planters with the leftover bark. Not only are reused stumps a completely organic gardening option, homeowners save money repurposing rather than hiring professionals to remove them.

5. Bench Boxes

Don’t fear furniture in small yards. Although benches might seem overwhelming in tight areas, they are multi-functional structures. As holders, they create raised flowerbeds. Or, just place one or two pre-potted plants on the seat and move onto the ground when guests want to relax and sit amongst gardens.

6. Flower Towers

Flower towers save space and are easy to build.
Flower towers save space and are easy to build.

Garden towers are much less expensive to build than buy. Fill a clay pot halfway with pebbles and insert tall, welded wire mesh around the perimeter. Line the interior with moss, fill with soil and push plant roots inward between the wire holes. Or, use 6 feet of PVC pipe to create the frame. Cut 2.5-inch holes down one side, about a foot apart, for plants to poke through. Offset each row by 4 inches and spray paint the pipe to match the home’s exterior color for a complete look. For this project, opt for arugula, leaf lettuce, radishes and strawberries which thrive best.

7. Classic Trellis

The most important aspect of building a trellis is making sure the sizing is appropriate for the yard. Make sure trellises are placed far enough from windows so they don’t block natural light streaming into homes. Cut frames high enough to be inserted past the frost line in the ground, which is dependent on geographical locations and weather patterns. Owners of homes in Florida and other warm U.S. climates have little to no frost line to worry about. They should plant trellis frames deep enough to withstand high winds and inclement weather.

Big or small, most yards are capable of housing fresh fruits, vegetables, shrubs, herbs and flowers. Sunlight and a solid garden hose can help create a a more welcoming outdoor space. Use these seven projects for properties with limited ground space while creating soothing and vibrant outdoor sanctuaries.

Little House notes this is one of my favorite topics; patio design in a small footprint. There are so many creative ways, like the ones mentioned, to utilize balconies and patios. 

Do you have a small patio or outdoor area that you’ve designed?


  1. So many great ideas here. I personally love flower towers. I think they are both space effective and charming. I’ll be sure to try out some of the other ideas you’ve mentioned here!

  2. Paul @ The Frugal Toad Reply

    I don’t have a lot of space in my backyard for a garden so I used and old half whiskey barrel as a container garden for herbs and vegetables. The trick was finding the right spot for the correct amount of sunlight. Should be having veggies in my salad in a few weeks!

    • @Paul – That’s a great idea. I personally have a few small containers around my small patio that add some color and greenery to my west-facing balcony.

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