8 Tips For Designing A Tiny Garden and Creating A Happy Place To Enjoy
Recently I published an article called 9 Tips For Designing Your Garden On A Budget – Do’s and Don’ts . This made me reflect on the relevance of my article for many. I know that majority of the people in the world don’t have the option of gardening in larger spaces. I still remember very well, the two small yards we had for gardening while living in Sweden. Both of our homes (Radhus, as they are called) were no bigger than 430 square feet (40 square meter). Today our home sits on nearly three times the size. Although I have come to enjoy the opportunities that a larger yard offers, I still find myself thinking, my garden is not big enough. Because when it comes to gardening, honestly and truly, for me, it’s never big enough. Years of landscaping and gardening, I have learned that there are few tips and tricks to make a tiny (even as small as 400-500 square feet) area appear and feel larger than its real square footage. The trick is to design efficiently. Here are eight tips for designing a tiny garden and creating a happy place to enjoy.
1 – Create Cozy (Mysig)
For me it’s all about creating an area that is peaceful and relaxing. Sometimes feeling too close to our neighbors can make it less tranquil, this is why few tricks can help. I love how even having one small pot of plant can create a feeling of well-being and mindfulness. Regardless of the boundaries of your yard or space, adding green around the edges create a cozier feeling. Dense conifers and evergreens can block the view beyond, consequently creating a private getaway. If you have walls around the perimeter of your space, cover your walls with creeping green plants. This will provide the ultimate cozy feeling, rather than feeling like you’re in a cold tiny space. Having lush plants can also help with noise control. Next to greens and flowers, I have to say, lighting is really important if you’re trying to establish a “mysig”, cozy environment. Hang pretty strings of lights. Place candles on a small table. Lanterns can be beautiful and very useful during darker months, as well as Summer time while entertaining few guests.
2 – Bright Colors
For sure the right colors can create an illusion of abundance and greater size than its actual proportions. Bold and bright works wonders in a tiny garden area. Usually I feel that neutral colors such as white and earthy tones makes interior spaces feel much more spacious. But I have found that color is an important key in a garden. Being a little more adventures with your colors can fool the eye, making it believe your space is much bigger. Choose bright colors not only with your flowers, but also your furniture, art and your pots. Even if all you can have is one chair on your deck or patio, then why not go with pink or lime green. It’s a feast for your eyes and mind.
3 – Use Variety of Containers
Get creative with what you use to plant your flowers and vegetables in. I love seeing people’s unlimited artistry and cleaver ideas as planters. There are many good benefits in planting in pots rather than in the ground. Fist off, you can move your plants real easy if you need to (ever taken your pots to a neighbor to babysit them while you’ve been out of town 😉 ? ). Second, if the weather changes unexpectedly you can bring in your pots for protection (I’ve done that more often than I can count). Another great reason is, you can easier control the size of your plant. Containers filled with beautiful flowers and herbs can make an area much softer and provide with lots of texture, color and variety in a garden design. Try to still stick with the color palettes, which will produce better harmony in your space. Pots do require a little more maintenance than when planted in the ground, due to moisture control. A good way to maintain and offer a better effect, place your pots and containers in groups. Pots will also allow you to have variety of heights, adding a multilevel appearance.
4 – Go Vertical
This is the best way in overcoming the challenge of tiny space in gardening and landscaping. Grow up instead of out. Use hanging baskets, train vines to grow on small trellis and arbors. When we had our small garden space, I used to hang plants on the walls of my fencing as well as my house. Great idea are the baskets that hang outside under window sills. I remember driving to my grandmother’s house who lived in a 2 bedroom apartment, and there she had planters hanging off her balcony. She was the queen, in my book, of growing vertically. She would grow tomatoes and herbs against her balcony wall in small pots. I sure wish I had pictures from her tiny space. That was decades ago now. I don’t even think we as kids thought of how small her space was. All we noticed were her small rose bushes and pretty plants on some wooden shelves she had put together from scrap wood. By going vertical you will open up more sitting space. Just remember to use the right plants to be able to accomplish your design.
5 – Don’t Overpower
In a small area, it is better to use small furniture and decor. My yard may not be tiny, but sometimes I have purchased outdoor furniture, and I’ve been surprised at how giant they look in my yard. Keeping scale in mind can be real important when furnishing a limited area. I prefer small bistro sets and few key unique pieces. Another option may be to use folding chairs or stacking ones. This gives you the opportunity to put them away if they are not being used. Decorate with small throw pillows rather than large pillows that take up all your space. It’s easy to overcrowd a small space. Remember functionality as well as ambiance.
6 – Don’t Forget Your Side Yard
One of our homes which we lived in, was on a corner lot. Although tiny, we had a side yard that really was good for nothing. My husband got the brilliant idea to grow vegetables there. It may have not been a pretty site, but it should made it possible for us to grow small veggies. He build mini beds along the path and we grew radishes, green onions and some lettuce. For us growing our own veggies at the time was more important than flowers and bushes. This is why I always encourage people to design their garden based of their individual needs rather than going mainstream. If you have concrete on your side yard, you can replace some of it with flower beds. While for someone else leaving the side yard with concrete make more sense, and instead adding furniture and pots to bring usefulness to the area. Point being, lot of space is lost on the side of a home, instead of taking advantage of every square footage.
7 – Square Foot Gardening
Back in 1975 Mel Bartholomew invented square foot gardening. He brought to everyone’s attention that planting vegetables in the traditional way in rows was both wasteful and not practical. His technique with growing greens have been used and perfected all over the world these past four decades. I personally have never grown exactly by his recommendations, but I strongly feel the benefits of his system when you have limited space. The idea is to be able to grow veggies and herbs using 20% less space and more cost effective than the traditional way. It actually also saves water and work. In our garden we have grow boxes and these have definitely been very beneficial to us, in many aspects. You can grow a lot in a small space if you plant according to his Mel’s approach.
8 – Dwarf Plants
I used to think that all plants would stay small and cute if you pruned them enough. The fact is, I have learned the hard way that most plants, especially trees and bushes get huge. You can spend couple of years fighting them and pruning them down every week. But in the long run, this will only weaken the plant and kill it. Instead I discovered some years ago, that there are several plants, including bushes and trees that come in a dwarf variety. This is an awesome option when your space is limited. There are some conifers that will mature to 10 feet tall while similar evergreens will get up to 40 feet. I don’t need to say which one is more reasonable. Columnar trees are becoming more and more popular these days. They provide light shade without compromising space. They also allow more light around them, creating a better setting and climate for other plants close to them. I love the blue spruce trees. But they all get giant for most yards. Couple of years ago I decided to invest in a globe-shaped blue spruce (Picea Pungens Globosa). They grow really slow and get about 3 – 4 feet tall and not much wider. The varieties I’m finding these days at local nurseries are endless and great for limited spaces.
Urban living with town homes, condos and apartments are becoming more and more the norm in today’s living. This is not all bad, actually it does have some great benefits. Closer to town means less driving, more walking and close to city parks. This is how I grew up. But this is not a reason to feel that it’s not possible to enjoy the many health benefits that gardening can provide. Regardless of your space size, you can plant and grow fresh herbs, pretty flowers and still have space to “mysa“. At the end of the day, what you want is to have a place where you can relax for a little while and enjoy the fruits of your creativity. Start small and slow and remember there really is no right or wrong, these are just ideas and tips. Go ahead, stop dreaming and establish your personal tranquil surrounding, even if all you have is some seeds and one pot. And don’t forget to have FUN!!!