Small space gardening on a budget.
Gardening Methods,  Plant

Container Gardening for Your Small Backyard Garden

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Container gardening has been a great solution for all ages and gardening levels. But if you are like me and tend to start a garden with every expectation to follow through “this time” but struggle with execution, then stick around for ways to scale back and start a container garden.


Let’s face it…you bring home a new houseplant, tray of cute baby veggie transplants or a packet of seeds with the idea you are gonna grow the things this time around.

Whether you are planning a patio garden, only have a small space for a few plant pots or can go all out, container gardening is the practical and easy way to grow fresh produce for any space.

The outline for this article:

  • Scaling down so you can maintain your garden
  • 5 reasons to start a small space garden this season
  • Choosing the right container
  • Small space gardening hacks
  • Patio gardening tips to keep plants looking beautiful

Scale Down with A Patio Vegetable Garden

You can picture that moment of snipping off fresh herbs from the windowsill while making dinner and the amazing smell of those freshly harvested tomatoes stewing.

For a few weeks remembering to water or lovingly fluff the leaves to the little plants has us feeling pretty good. Even creating a few pat yourself on the back moments with a “you totally got this” congratulations as we round week 3 of keeping the plants alive.

We start with every good intention but are not always able to keep up the momentum. I get it. There are a million and two things that need to be done and scream for our attention and time. So let me share some tips to set yourself up for success from the beginning.

When you grow a porch vegetable garden it’s much easier to avoid over planting. Each plant pot can only hold so many seeds, making container gardening the perfect way to keep the excitement of spring planting, without crowding your garden space.

5 Reasons to Start a Small Backyard Vegetable Garden

If over planting isn’t enough to persuade you to start a porch garden, keep reading for some ideas that will hopefully show you just how functional a container garden can be.

Reason #1 – it’s easy to start a small container garden and grow in size

Starting a container garden is a simple way to add freshness whether you have a little porch, one window sill, an outside plot or a huge field. The catch is to be realistic. It’s all gonna seem easy in the beginning when spring is finally here and all you can do is imagine those little seeds sprouting as you tend to their every need. However, don’t bite off more than you can realistically handle.

My general rule of thumb is only plan for devoting 5-10 minutes of time to tending to your container garden at first. That time frame allows enough room for water, feed and care rotation, not everyday will need all 3 elements.

The reasoning behind that short time frame is that finding 5-10 minutes to involve the kids/husband to help water at the end of the work day or a neighbor to check on the garden in your absence is simple and less stressful. Therefore doable long term, setting you up for success from the start. 

Remember you can always add more later once you have confidence more time can be devoted.

Need seeds that fit container garden small spaces but produce BIG time? Visit SeedsNow and check out their category on container friendly seeds!

Reason #2: No experience needed

The fun of container gardening comes from little to know experience needed, it’s small enough to get you confident (aka hooked) while keeping the learning curve gradual. Trust me, container plants are easy growers so you can master the fundamentals and a routine before adding in the more needy varieties. 

Good beginner container plants are usually: 

  • Bush tomatoes
  • Bush green beans
  • Container herbs such as: thyme, mint, basil or cilantro
  • Root crops like:carrots, beets or turnips 
  • Leafy greens such as: lettuce, spinach, salad mixes or greens
  • Any seeds that are modified for containers

The list above are plants that start off easy, needing little care.Then gradually need more attention as they mature. By the time harvest comes (and it comes rather quickly) you have gotten into a routine and look forward to the daily check-in.

Needy container plants are:

  • Vining plants like cucumbers, squash or melons. They need help with a trellis or cage for vines, and later on need a sling as fruit begins to grow. Also, watering becomes a daily, or even twice a day thing because the developing fruit takes so much water to develop.
  • Herbs like: oregano, rosemary and lavender are MUCH easier to start from dividing a bigger plant than growing from seed. But are temperamental to water/sun conditions.
  • Runner beans
  • Vine tomatoes
  • Broccoli or cauliflower- tend to get top heavy if the wrong size container is used.
  • Zucchini or yellow squash- unless you get a variety bred for containers they can be somewhat overbearing for a small pot causing the fruit to spill over the sides.

These “needy” plants can certainly be grown in a container, but require more attention to learn the best methods to ensure a good harvest.

Experience level should not hold you back when it comes to planning a container garden. Instead, look at the time you have to spend on caring and learning so you can grow the best harvest for your goals. 

Reason #3: Budget friendly

I’d say most gardens are started for one of two reasons: hobby or necessity. Perhaps a little of both? Whether you have a tight budget or a little cushion to work with, container gardening is a budget friendly option. With a small upfront investment, any failures along the way easier to accept.

Of course success is what we want, so to make sure you are getting off on the right foot, check out my post to learn about your growing zone and why it matters.

Container gardens are made from 3 things: dirt, a container and seeds/transplants. Sometimes you will need to purchase all 3, other times you can exchange seeds with a friend or find some ways to recycle materials you have on hand into a container for your garden. There are a ton of ideas on Pinterest.

Some great plant pot ideas to look into include:

  • Re-purposing plastic bottles into window herb gardens
  • Using worn out jeans as a large planter
  • Milk jug greenhouses
  • Tin cans painted or covered with rope (see above)
  • Old tires stacked for a garden tower
  • Grow bags made from canvas or other biodegradable material
  • Terra cotta pots
  • Plastic plant pots
  • 5 Gallon buckets
  • Fish tanks – repurpose those cracked/leaky tanks and what plants grow!

If you have found a unique way to use an otherwise useless item, let me know! I love getting new ideas to use what we’ve got on hand for something new. 

Budget Gardening Tip: check out your local Dollar General or Dollar Tree for containers. They get supplies from overstock, making it easy to get quality planting pots for CHEAP!

Reason #4: Kids are easily involved

If you have kids, grandkids or friends with kids, you will all enjoy a container garden. Especially if you stick to the 5-10 minute of care, kids can get involved with water, moving the plants for better sunlight, harvesting and awareness of growing their own healthy food. Life lessons to teach how we can always have an impact on our diet, cleaner air, learning to care for something else can all be part of your container garden.

I love seeing my little girl covered in dirt and having the BEST time of her life using a small watering can. One of my favorite pictures is with my daughter, no more than a year old, planting herbs and seeds. She stayed by my side and couldn’t get over how mommy was actually getting dirty on purpose! The puzzled look on her face cracked me up. So if you have kids or not, there are some great reasons to keep in mind that container gardens are for everyone. 

Be sure to check out this post on easy vegetable seeds that grow amazingly in containers AND are great for gardening with kids!

Reason #5: Wildlife

Lastly, tiny gardens are a wonderful way to attract wildlife whether it’s a windowsill, porch or in the yard leading up to your house. From small animals to tiny insects, your garden will bring life up close and thank you by pollinating or eating the bad bugs. Not to mention who doesn’t love sipping coffee and seeing the bumbling bee pollinate the budding flowers on your bush beans, or the yellow buds on your tomatoes?! I know I love it! 

Choosing the Right Container for Your Small Backyard Garden

Previously I mentioned types of plant pots from reusing to store bought that you can use to start a porch garden. But before you go out and buy anything, just look around for what can be made into a growing medium. Changes are you have a lot of free planting pots laying around.

Try turning that laundry basket with the broken handles into the pot for growing potatoes. Just slip a canvas bag or old pillowcase inside the laundry basket and voila! Planting pot.

Give new life to the cracked plastic storage container by adding soil and growing a herb bed. Just add some pine cones, broken glass or crushed up water bottles in the bottom so the water can drain with out loosing soil.

Pro tip: use all the seashells your kids give brought home from the beach and add them to the bottom of your flower pot for drainage.

Small Space Gardening Hacks

Small garden hacks to help you grow the most out of your limited space includes harnessing the power of growing vertical, square foot and planting heavy producers.

Vertical gardening means utilizing trellises, tripods, fencing, old headboards from a toddler bed, or ANYTHING that vining plants can grow along.

Cucumbers love to climb, and are happy to produce an abundance of fruit so long as you provide a way for them to climb up. The root system of a plant pot is plenty big enough, just make sure to stabilize the weight of growing fruits when you add the tomato cage or trellis.

Square Foot Gardening is the best options for mini gardens that still produce like crazy! If you are new to this gardening method, I would encourage you to check out this book at your local library or buy your copy to reference throughout the season.

Seriously, you will NOT be disappointed by grabbing your own copy to flip through will sipping coffee or tea in your garden.

Here’s an easy link to the best gardening books for beginners or advanced gardeners.

Keeping Your Patio Garden Looking Beautiful and Fresh

Yes, it is possible to keep your gardening looking it’s best even in the peak of the season, when most flowers or vegetables are showing how the summer heat is taking their toll.

Here are 3 tips to extend plant blooms and keep your vegetables and flowers looking their best.

  1. Evaluate containers and plant pot condition. If they are looking sun-bleached or worn try adding a coat of paint or upcycling with twine.
  2. Start a fertilizing schedule to feed blooming plants so they have a steady supply of food.
  3. Keep a watering schedule and remember to water from the bottom/tray to keep roots open and soft, instead of on survival mode from drying out.

To make sure your small vegetable garden is well taken of, I have learned the power of keeping a garden journal. A garden planner is more than just deciding where to plant seeds, it’s the place to record watering and fertilizing schedules. You can keep a garden journal in a regular notebook, or try one of these printable garden planners on Etsy!

They are instant downloads so you can reprint the pages as many times as you like.

Printable Garden Journal and Planner

So wrapping it all together, container gardening is for anyone, at any stage, with any budget. Don’t forget to look around for tips on how to care for your growing seedlings, unusual ways to find containers around your house or pest solutions to keep your garden, however big or small, on track for your needs. 

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