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How to Plan a Small Vegetable Garden

Even if you don’t live on a large plot of land, you can still enjoy the benefits of a vegetable garden. In fact, there are plenty of ways to make a small space work for a wonderful and productive garden. Here are some tips for planning a small vegetable garden.

garden gate in front of path to a small garden with flowers and vegetable plants visible behind it

Can you plant a vegetable garden in a backyard space?

Absolutely! Even if you have a small or practically non-existent yard, you can still grow some of your own vegetables at home. Whether you’re working with a 4’x4′ plot of land or only have porch space for a few pots, it’s possible to grow a significant amount of your own vegetables with a little bit of planning.

green and red lettuce growing in a backyard garden

Why plant a small vegetable garden?

Growing your own vegetables provides you with nutrient-rich plants right outside your door. It also helps you learn the important skills of growing your own food. If you have kids, growing your own vegetables is a wonderful opportunity to show them where our food comes from — it doesn’t grow at the grocery store!

In addition to having a supply of healthier food, simply getting your hands in the dirt is wonderful for your immune system and for improving your health. Plus, it’s a natural stress-reliever.

small cantaloupe on the ground with vegetable plants and straw in a garden

Tips for planting a small vegetable garden 

Here are a few tips and considerations for planting and planning your small vegetable garden

Observe where it’s sunny in your yard.

First, remember that plants need sun! Some need more than others. Check your seed packages to see what type of conditions you need for the plants that you want to grow. Then, plant accordingly.

Note shady locations.

While nearly all plants need some sun, there are also many vegetables that can be grown in the shade and actually thrive with less sun. For example, leafy greens like spinach, lettuce, and radishes generally do well in shadier spots.

Use pots or raised beds.

Whether you have minimal soil space or no soil space at all, you can still grow vegetables in pots or raised beds. Pots are perfect for decks or porches. Raised beds can also be installed on hard surfaces. However, you will want to be sure to make them at least 18-24 inches deep if you plan to grow plants that need deep soil, such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant.

Turn your lawn into a garden.

Landscaping is the norm in many communities — but it doesn’t have to be for you! Instead of growing perfectly-tended grass, why not use your lawn space to grow food? Maybe you’ll even start a trend in your neighborhood.

green trellis on the side of a home garden with plants growing up it

Use trellises and encourage plants to grow upward.

Vertical gardening is an excellent way to make use of your space. Plants like pole beans, squash, and cucumbers love to climb upward. Give them a trellis, fence, or netting to encourage them to climb. In addition to saving space, vertical gardening is visually appealing, too.

Install a watering or drip-water system to easy maintenance.

A drip-irrigation system conserves water (much more precisely than a sprinkler system) and sends the water directly where it needs to go. Some systems can be installed in minutes. Set your irrigation system on a timer, and your plants will be watered all season long.

basket of freshly-cut flowers and vegetables from the garden

Include herbs as a natural bug repellent.

Planting bug-repelling herbs such as lemon balm, mint, basil, and citronella (just to name a few) is an excellent way to keep your garden free of pests. Plus, you’ll enjoy wonderful herbal scents as you work in your garden.

Include flowers and pollinator favorites.

Pollinators contribute to a healthy garden and healthy ecosystem. Some of the best plants for attracting pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, include calendula, salvia, cosmos, and lavender.

Include a water feature.

Adding a water feature to your garden, such as a birdbath, can improve the health of your space by attracting birds as well as pollinators. Interestingly, birds can be quite advantageous to your garden. While they may eat a few berries, they also hunt insects and worms, which helps to aerate the soil and remove plant pests.

Plant vegetables that you enjoy eating.

Lastly, think about what you want to plant. Gardening can become quickly discouraging if you don’t enjoy the fruit — I mean, vegetables — of it. Planting and maintaining a successful garden does take time and effort, so make sure you’re growing foods that you love! Just because you find plants at a low (or free) price doesn’t mean that you have to put them in your precious garden space. Use your space wisely by growing foods that you enjoy eating.

small basket with a few freshly-picked purple flowers perched on the edge of a small raised garden bed with flowers growing

How to select your plants when planning a small vegetable garden

As you plan your vegetable garden, there are a few questions you should ask yourself to help utilize your space in the best way possible.

Of course, start by thinking about what vegetables you like to eat. Next, take into consideration your space. Do you want to do lots of vertical gardening? Consider beans and cucumbers. Making raised beds? Tomatoes and greens are perfect (depending on the depth of your beds — tomatoes need deeper soil). Is your area quite shady? Lettuce and spinach may be your best bet. Limited ground space? Steer clear of squash and pumpkins, which need room to spread.

vegetables and flowers growing in the ground of a small backyard garden

Go-to plants for getting started with small vegetable gardening

Here are some of the best plants for a small vegetable garden.

  • Tomatoes
  • Beans
  • Cucumbers
  • Herbs
  • Carrots
  • Radishes (shade)
  • Lettuce (shade)
  • Spinach (shade)
  • Kale (shade)
  • Squash or pumpkin (needs a lot of space)
  • Collard Greens
  • Beets
  • Peas

Enjoy your vegetable garden!

There’s nothing like stepping outside your door to pick a fresh salad or a juicy tomato. What are you most excited about growing this year?

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