How To Design A Small Space Garden


Nothing makes my heart sing more than gardening. Being out on my patio. Listening to birdsong and watching squirrels. Enjoying the scent of herbs and flowers in my container gardens.

So let’s talk about small space garden design.

Depending on the size of your space, you need to ascertain what you want to accomplish in your small space garden.

1. Do you just want to garden?

2. Do you want to enjoy nature?

3. Do you want to sit and have coffee or tea?

4. All of the above.

All of the above are my focus. I want to garden and enjoy nature, but I want to do it in comfort. So that requires seating. Not everyone will have enough room for all of this, so you will of course make your decision based on your space.

First in any design should be hardscaping. Which means landscaping such as paths and things like furniture. In a small space you will probably not have a path, but you might have room for seating. So focus on that.

But before you set up your seating, there’s something I would do first. Figure out what areas have the most sun. There’s no point in buying plants that need full sun if you don’t have an area that has full sun.

If you don’t know how much sun an area gets, then watch your space at different times of the day. Every few hours, write down where the sun is still shining and where the area is shaded. The sun will vary with the seasons, but you can get a reasonable idea from doing this exercise.

This will help you to decide where you want seating and where you need to put your container plants. Again, base this on the amount of room you have.

After this exercise, draw out a basic garden design on paper.

water garden

You may also want a water feature. If you have an electric outlet on your patio or balcony or small garden space, then this will dictate where you put a water feature. If you don’t have access to electricity, then you might want to check out a solar run fountain.

It is nice to hear moving water in the background. And birds are attracted to the sound of water moving, but it is not a necessity.

So today draw out your garden design. Whether you have a small garden, a patio or a balcony, a basic garden design will help you decide what you’ll need. If you’re going to have to purchase some items, there’s no point in shopping until you know what you have room for and what your sun considerations are.

Tomorrow we’ll look at arranging our garden space with seating and containers we’ve decided on using.


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  1. I’m really excited that you’re doing this series. I’m following along closely so I can help my mom set up a container garden on her patio. She’s 87 and really misses her yard and garden.


  2. I, too, have too much yard (lawn) to keep looking good. I do have someone who mows it, though. Still, I have quite a few flower beds and really can’t keep up with the weeding either. Sometimes I think I will just do as my grandfather used to threaten: Cover it with cement and paint it green!
    He was not fond of lawn mowing! I’ll probably eliminate one or two beds this coming summer and see if it is a relief or not.

    Your list of Spring preparation is great, Brenda. I think it will help me stay more organized this coming Spring and Summer. Thanks!

  3. I can’t wait to start decorating my porch and patio with plants! I would love to have a water feature on our patio, but unfortunately we don’t have an outlet there. The nearest one is at the front of our house and the patio is on the side of the house near the back, so too far to even run an extension cord.

  4. For some odd reason I have not been getting your emails. Checked my junk folder and they aren’t there. Should I resubscribe?

  5. I’m itching for the season to begin here. We’re not close yet, looks like I may have to wait until the end of April to do serious clean-up (raking out flower beds, removing dead flower stems that over-wintered, etc.). I purchased a solar-powered 2 tier fountain last season, but did not get around to putting it together. I will be doing that soon, the only question is where to station it so I get the best views. My birdbaths are always like Grand Central Station in NYC here, LOL! I love watching 10 sparrows at a time all taking a bath, the yellow finches, the cardinals, jays, robins (lots of robins), and the squirrels. I’ve never seen a squirrel take a bath like a bird does, but they do hop on on the rim of the heavy concrete bird bath to get drinks, so I make sure there is always water, even in the winter. They are very smart. I have several nests around my yard and in the immediate area. Even in way below zero temperatures I will take water outside (I do not keep a heat source in a birdbath to keep it from freezing) in the mornings; they watch from their perches and I’m not even back inside the house when one is already there drinking away, with another chirping and pacing nearby, waiting impatiently to have his (or her) turn. My furry friends are a never-ending source of amusement.

    1. I used to have the prettiest cobalt blue bird bath until a squirrel knocked the top off and it broke.

  6. I love gardening, sewing, planting and watching things grow. What I hate is having to mow a lawn. I love the look but not the work it takes to keep it looking green and weed free. and then there is keeping it watered, I resent the amount of water I have to use. I had a lovely pond at my last house but it took a lot of work to keep the water clear and looking good. It was overshadowed somewhat by a large weeping tree so every autumn we had to cover the pond with netting to catch all the leaves from going into the pond.

  7. Let me just say, I’m jealous. My husband and I spent all weekend working in our yard, him trimming hedges and me pulling weeds (we get frost but not a hard freeze, so everything grows like … weeds during winter, especially the weeds). Monday morning we were so sore we could barely move. I would love nothing more than a small patio or balcony and not have to spend weekend after weekend just trying to keep the place from going wild. And we don’t have a big yard.
    For people who love gardening it’s great. But it is really not my thing. Give me a few containers and more time to hike or bike.

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