Alternative Gardening Ideas For Homes Without Yards

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Just because your new home or apartment lacks a sprawling lawn doesn’t mean you can’t cultivate your favorite plants, foods and flowers. Check out these ideas for alternative gardening.

Container Gardens

One of the easiest ways to get growing after you move is with a container garden. Grab a pot, some soil and a few seeds, and you’re in business. These portable gardens can live just about anywhere—patios, porches, kitchen counters—as long as the area gets plenty of sunshine.

While you’ve probably already considered planting tomatoes in a pot, there are many more possibilities for container gardens that make use of small spaces. Window boxes attached to windows or apartment balconies are perfect for flowers, herbs or salad gardens. Transform a birdbath or outdoor umbrella stand into a miniature garden for fresh peppers. Think beyond porches and patios for planting surfaces; your table tops, porch railings, benches and stairs can hold containers of different shapes and sizes.

Vertical Gardens

Another popular alternative gardening idea is to expand vertically when your horizontal space is limited. Trellises, arbors or simple stakes can be used to coax vined plants skyward. Edible climbing plants include:

  • Climbing beans
  • Peas
  • Cucumbers
  • Squash
  • Grapes
  • Melons
  • Tomatoes

Gardens that go up instead of out aren’t limited to vines. Small containers can be stacked on ladders or shelves, or you can build your own multi-level planters for horizontal rows.

alternative garden ideas

Wall Gardening

If you’re moving into a new home without a lot of yard space, look to the building itself for inspiration—and additional growing opportunities. Attaching small planters to outside walls adds visual interest to your space and fresh foods to your plate! How do you hang a garden on the wall?

  • Woolly Pockets are wall planters that can be purchased at most lawn and garden stores and used to grow plants on inside and outdoor walls. They’re made from recycled wool and protect your walls while providing your plants with plenty of moisture.
  • A hanging cloth shoe rack can be used similarly to the Woolly Pocket for a fraction of the cost. Fill each pocket with soil and your favorite greens.
  • Use a moving pallet or wood frame to make your own wall garden. Staple landscaping fabric to the backside, and pack the openings with soil and plants. Leave the pallet or frame lying flat for several days to give the roots a chance to grow, then stand up right and attach to the wall.
  • Attach reclaimed gutters to outdoor walls for long, narrow planters that help keep your favorite vegetables safe from pests. Paint the gutters to match your new home’s trim, or choose a dark color so the plants get all the attention.

Unused Spaces

Remember that any spot with dirt and sun can potentially grow plants for food or flowers. Scour the area surrounding your new home for unused spaces, like the gaps between pavers or the strip of land between your sidewalk and the road. With careful plant selection, these unused spaces can be transformed into beautiful gardens.

How to Make Small Space Gardening Work

To get the most production from your garden, you’ll need to do things a little bit differently when you’re working in containers and small spaces that don’t have ample room to space your plants. These tips will make sure your efficient landscaping is also bountiful.

1. Look for the light. Make sure your containers will receive plenty of sunshine, ideally six to eight hours during the day. That means a large window may be a better option than a covered balcony in an apartment building.

2. Use rich soil. When plants can be spaced far apart, they have plenty of soil from which to draw nutrients. Tightly packed gardens need rich, high-quality soil to make up for the smaller portions. Adding organic material to potting soil will ensure your plants get all the fuel they need to thrive.

3. Forget about rows. Rows may be the most common formation for home gardens, but they aren’t the most efficient use of space. Instead, create a 1-by-1-foot grid in your containers and small beds and plant in the center of each square. Limit your containers to three or four squares in depth to make sure you can reach into each square come harvest time.

4. Pick the right plants. As with any garden, the success of your small-space growing starts with picking the right plants. Start by deciding which edible plants your family eats most often, and then look for compact or dwarf varieties of these favorites. Some small space alternatives to frequent stars of the home garden include:

  • Alibi Cucumber: These cucumbers grow on short vines and mature in 50 days.
  • Compatto Dill: This herb tops out at about 20 inches.
  • Mohawk Pepper: Perfect for a window box, these bell peppers only get about 5 inches long.
  • Ophelia Eggplant: This one is perfect for the patio. The eggplants are small—a little more than 2 ounces each—and grow in clusters like tomatoes do.
  • Tumbling Tom Tomato: Skip the slicing tomatoes and go with small cherry varieties that mature faster and take up less space. The Tumbling Toms will cascade over the pot’s edge.

If filling your home with fresh foods and flowers is important to you, don’t let the lack of a sprawling backyard deter you. Make use of the space you do have with a little creativity and expert tips.

This article was written by Nancy Britt Reints for, an online resource for moving information, products and coupons.

Last Updated: March 20, 2013
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