How To Get A Small Garden Space Ready For Planting

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I don’t like big expanses of yard to deal with. When I gaze out over a big yard, I can’t seem to break the area down properly in my mind so as to define a cohesive plan. I do much better with smaller spaces like my apartment patio.

So let’s look at what I do on mine. The below photo was last year’s patio arrangement. The photos in this post were from April and May 2020, as obviously this year’s garden isn’t much yet.

Clean & Get The Surface Ready:

First, clean it up. I have massive amounts of leaves on my patio. They have blown in from all over (due to Oklahoma’s winds).

And now I’m either going to have to clean them up or live with them blowing everywhere.

My back is not in good shape right now. Just thinking about going out there and beginning this intensive project makes me weary.

Create the illusion of a larger garden with an outdoor mirror 

Determine Your Color Theme:

I typically choose purple, white and yellow flowers for my color theme. This year I’m adding red because I fell in love with a red geranium at the nursery.

Last year I chose blue for a fountain and bird bath and some of my bigger pots. To me blue looks nice with purple and yellow and red.

When you look out across a garden space, dark blue/purple flowers seem to recede. In garden design, you can use this quality to make spaces seem more expansive.

Bring In Furniture For Seating:

Once the surface is somewhat clean or clean enough, it’s time for the placement of furniture.

Outdoor Wicker Furniture At Amazon

Keep in mind that you might end up moving things around once you lay out your container garden pots and other elements.

What we have planned in our mind and what actually works or fits sometime differs.

Stack garden pots in multiple heights to add dimensi

If you’re going to have a beautiful garden space, you’re going to want to sit outside and gaze at your efforts. And watch the birds and squirrels coming to visit.

Stack garden pots in multiple heights to add dimension

So I’d say have at least two chairs or one settee. I have both because my patio is fairly large.

Bring In The Pots/Containers:

Then bring in the pots. Or ones that aren’t already in place. Plan what’s going to be planted in each one and design your patio garden accordingly.

Garden Trellis At Amazon

Keep in mind that plans will change or have to be altered. As you add plants you’ll often find that you actually need more or less. We gardeners often misjudge the space we have.

Utilize Vertical Space

I like to arrange my pots in groups of 3-4, depending on how large they are for the space.

Galvanized Garden:

My galvanized garden is not getting moved because the galvanized tubs are filled with dirt and plants and are terribly heavy. They are situated in the middle of my garden space.

French Country Galvanized Containers At Amazon

Obviously I can’t move the blue raised garden that I added about five years ago. It’s over by the fence bordering the alley.

Bring In Annuals For Instant Color:

I buy a variety of annuals in small pots and I also plant seeds (because I’ve already added perennials over the years and they’ll be coming up). I like annuals for instant color.

But I’ll plant seeds because they’re cheaper, even if I have to wait for the plants to grow.

Seeds At Amazon

I always tend to get zinnia seeds because once they get going they’ll give you color into autumn. They’re also great for cutting flowers to bring indoors.

Add Herbs (Many Deter Flying Insects):

Also I’m very fond of herbs and add various favorites of mine.

I’m especially fond of lemon verbena because of its wonderful fragrance. I choose pineapple sage because Charlie likes to nibble on it when his tummy is upset.

I’m big on chives because I add it to my food for that extra bite of flavor. Also rosemary and oregano. Well, let’s just say I love many herbs!

Sometimes I plant vegetables as well. Last year I had tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers.

l already have mints and lemon balm coming up. As well as sedum and vines.

Add trees

Planting Trees In Containers:

I have two containers with trees in them. One is a Ginkgo Biloba butterfly tree. And the other is a Japanese Maple.

I have them both placed on plant caddies so they’re easier to move.

In fact I urge you to order plant caddies to hold any heavy plants. If possible place the pots on rolling caddies before you even add your soil and plants.

Plant Caddie

Use Plant Caddies For Heavy Plants:

I didn’t utilize plant caddies until last year and my body has paid the price for moving heavy pots around.

Once they arrived I called my grandson, who is now 17, to lift the heavy ones onto the plant caddies for me.

It’s always so nice to have a teenage grandson around!

Planting Roses In Containers:

In case you’re not familiar with my patio garden, I have a yellow rose in the corner by the gate. I like to have at least one rose planted in my garden space.

I advise getting your rose or roses at the plant nursery where someone will be knowledgeable about the best roses for containers.

Raised Planter Box

My rose doesn’t look so good after our cold winter, so I’ve got my fingers crossed on whether my much beloved rose will make it.

It’s planted in the biggest pot in my garden.

Attract Wildlife & Pollinators

Attracting Wildlife:

I like salvias and zinnias and petunias and any flowering plant that will bring in bees, hummingbirds and butterflies.

You want to encourage these frequent flyers to your space.

Yarrow and salvia are just but two great pollinators.

Add Garden Art:

Decorative Solar Lights

I also have garden art that I’ve collected over the years. You can see garden art placed here and there in my garden space.

Water Sound & Movement

I have three pairs of chimes. And a blue water fountain and bird bath. You’ll attract birds to your garden with running water.

Similar Water Fountain At Amazon

Once you get all that situated, your garden is virtually complete.

Similar Bird Bath At Amazon

Well, sort of. I don’t think a gardener’s urge to buy more plants is ever complete!

So how do you go about designing your garden space?


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  1. These pictures mean to me “Dreaming of Possibilities”. Looking forward to sharing in your journey in your garden. You make it so fun!

  2. Very creative way to decorate a not remarkable space and made it into something beautiful, Brenda!! I like the water fountain idea most!! And having a couple of moveable trees is a great idea too!! Hope all your plants do well this year!! I would recommend planting some rainbow swiss chard…that is the most incredible tasting veggie, simply by adding a capful of balsamic vinegar and some onion and garlic in a bit of olive oil or grapeseed oil!! I FINALLY tried it out last year and to me, it is THE tastiest green. And I have heard that chard will grow a long time too…

  3. Brenda your garden makes me so happy! I do not have a green thumb and frankly I do not even like to plant all of my containers. I enjoy them but I don’t like to do it. I am taking your advice and breaking down each area in segments otherwise I will be overwhelmed. Have a wonderful week.

  4. Buy yourself a shop vac to clean up those leaves and debris. They aren’t that expensive and come in several sizes. Look for one with as wide a hose mouth as possible to suck up those leaves. They are a bit noisy but the work is done in a fraction of the time and a lot less work.

  5. Maybe instead of taking, sweeping and bagging leaves, you could use a blower to move them out into the alley? My Mom has a small inexpensive one that is very handy and not very noisy. Just a thought. I love your layered tubs!

  6. I think back from time to time on the very helpful former maintenance man your apartment building had before it was sold to this new owner and how much he did for you. It’s too bad he isn’t available to help you with clean-up. I’m going to turn 70 in 5 months (EEK!) and I’ve slowed down, no denying it, from what I used to be able to do even a few years ago. I have to force myself to slow down even more so I don’t injure myself – my back has gotten more tetchy, for instance, although before I never had any issues with it. I am also leery of suffering a bad sciatica attack; fortunately, my last bad one was in 2016. Since then, I’ve educated myself on natural remedies to prevent muscle inflammation and they’ve helped tremendously. I remain as active as possible and do my chores as safely as possible (I have to pace myself because of heart/lung issues) because I believe that once you stop moving you deteriorate faster. Physically not being able to do what I once was able to do is frustrating and slows the entire garden and yard clean-up and planting process down, but on the other hand being older and wiser I’ve learned to take a strategic and purposeful approach to yard clean-up. As my garden is 99% perennials that come up helter skelter and spread where they will, once clean-up is done, I pretty much just stay out of Mother Nature’s way, and sit back and enjoy what happens in the garden beds. The bulk of my time is spent on the lawn, but I broke down this year and hired a lawn service to do weed control and fertilization. I’ll see how that works. I want to spend more time sitting in my screened Shezebo with my feet up and a glass of wine reading and writing, with my exercise being hiking to the supermarket and back loaded with groceries and cutting the grass every 5-6 days! I am going to look for a plug-in water fountain that will have to stay pretty much situated near my patio rather than in the middle of the back yard lawn area. The one you linked to at Amazon is such a beautiful color, but I prefer a somewhat more traditional style. The solar fountain I bought some years ago didn’t last, and neither did any of the replacement solar pumps I bought. Frustrating.

  7. Big plans you have there! I especially like to include plants that attract the pollinators. Zinnias are my favorite summer flower. I also love geraniums, and it has always surprised me that they don’t seem to be that popular down here in the South, at least in my area. My grandmother was able to grow nasturtiums in the sandy soil in Michigan’s UP.

  8. Brenda, I don’t remember you posting before about your roses, I must have missed that post, I am anxious to hear how it blooms this year. Roses are so beautiful, and smell so so good, but I have NEVER had any luck with them. I love the number of herbs in your garden. Last year I had Rosemary and Oregano in a small container. I’ve had lavender many times, but it never comes back again after winter. Don’t know what I’m doing wrong, but I’ll plant it again this year, and hopefully, it’ll make it more than one year.

    1. I’ve had the same problem with lavender in my Zone 5 area. The plants are graded for Zone 5, which is the area I live in, but I’ve planted 3 and none of them have survived over the past 2 years.

  9. Brenda~
    You’ve often mentioned your grandson, who in the past has helped move the heavy pots onto Plant Caddies. Why not enlist him to clear the leaves and debris from your patio?

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