20 Small Garden Ideas to Steal for Your Own Space

Be it a teeny balcony, a side yard, or little patio—there's room for a garden.

February 25, 2022
Photo by Rocky Luten

Sprawling gardens are beautiful to behold, but they certainly are a lot of work. In some ways, a smaller footprint for a garden is a helpful thing, because it forces you to be creative with the space you have, and the payoff is even bigger when you’re able to transform it into your dream outdoor space.

Look to the walls, the fence, and any little scrap of yard to maximize your small garden space—be it a tiny city balcony, a quaint suburban backyard, or just a small side yard in need of some greenery.

Below, we’ve rounded up 20 of our favorite small garden ideas to make the most of your outdoor space—no matter how tiny.

1. Create a Lattice Wall

Don't let a lack of plantable ground stop you from growing things—they’re spaces just waiting to be filled with plants. While a full-on living wall can be a stunning addition to a small garden, you can tackle it in a smaller scale as well with a trailing vine lattice feature.

2. A Teeny-Tiny Garden Shed

You might not have room for a full-size shed in your garden, but who needs one when you can have a shed that’s this cute, and takes up such little square footage?

3. Roll it On Home

We’ve sung the praises of the rolling cart many times over (Bathroom storage! Cleaning cart! Bar cart!), but a whole new application is to use it as a mobile herb garden. This is especially genius for patios and balconies with limited sunlight—the cart can just move with the sun.

4. Make an Herb Spiral

If your garden is low on square footage, build up! You can use salvaged bricks for this project as well, which takes advantage of an ascending spiral design to squeeze as many herbs into the small space as possible.

5. Get a Mini Greenhouse Going

The balcony pictured above truly couldn't be tinier, but there's still room for plants if you want them. A zippered greenhouse, some potted plants on the floor, and containers hung from the railing take every advantage of the space available.

6. Ground the Space With a Table & Chairs

While you might be tempted to fill the entire small space of your garden with plants and flowers, grounding the space with a table and chairs actually helps to improve the flow, giving the yard a focal point and something to be anchored to—kind of like a fireplace in a living room.

7. Hang Pots from the Balcony

If you’re lucky enough to have a clear view out of your balcony, it’s the perfect place for a few hanging pots to display herbs, trailing flowers, or vines.

8. Consider Square Foot Gardening

Square foot gardening is a (somewhat self-explanatory) method of growing your own produce that's known for being approachable to first-time gardeners. It's great for small spaces, too, as you can squeeze in a number of herbs and edibles in a small garden bed.

9. Look Up

Okay, this one’s a bit specific, but how adorable is this bird cage that’s living a new life as a planter? You certainly don't need a birdcage to achieve a similar feel, hanging planters from a pergola adds height to a garden which otherwise might all feel close to the ground.

10. Go for Clusters of Pots

If you have lots of ground that's not viable for planting—say, a deck or a concrete patio—you can still fill it out with tons of greenery. Pots (in various shapes and sizes) are your friend here, for decorative plants and vegetables alike.

11. Mount a Wood Pallet for Storage

I've seen a fair share of pallet crafts over the years, with many of them being fairly unattractive, if I'm being honest. This one, though? Genius. A couple coats of paint make it look totally custom, too.

12. Or Hang All Your Tools from hooks

A piece of scrap wood, a bunch of cup hooks, and you've got yourself a tool storage system that takes up minimal space and looks pretty cute, too.

13. Stack Up Open Shelves

Open shelves aren't just for books and decor inside the house. They're a great way to pack as many plants into a small patio or balcony as possible.

14. Hang Herbs from the Fence

This herb container, reminiscent of an over-the-door shoe organizer, is actually made from burlap, which allows plenty of drainage for delicate plants.

15. Pile on the Pots

A stacked herb garden is perfect for a lonely corner on your balcony.

16. Go for an old school greenhouse

Speaking of balconies, how charming is this traditional-style greenhouse? This is a great option to protect new plants from windy days, with the added benefit of clearly watching their progress.

17. Craft Custom plant Hangers

An awkward space is no reason to avoid adding plants—create a custom solution (like these vertical plant hangers) instead.

18. Make the garden modular

If your style leans more modern and less rustic, a modular garden like this capitalizes on small space while also keeping things super neat and tidy.

19. hang a pegboard for storage

A pegboard is kind of the ultimate storage solution for tools of all kinds, because you can change it up as much as you please. Though, this version with outlines for each tool does appeal to our love for order.

20 repurpose cinder blocks for shelves

Displays for your plants need not be expensive or super involved. These shelves are simply pieces of plywood and painted cinder blocks, and they get the job done perfectly.

Do you have any unconventional ideas for small gardens? How have you made it work? Tell us in the comments below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Marta Gayoso
    Marta Gayoso
  • Smaug
  • Winifred Ryan
    Winifred Ryan
When I'm not writing & editing for Home52, I'm likely to be found DIY-ing a new piece of furniture (or restoring an old one), hanging things on the wall in my apartment, or watching hours of vintage RHONY.


Marta G. March 13, 2022
Where is the mini tool shed sold?
Smaug February 25, 2022
The sort of mini greenhouse pictured in a couple of these is not really very functional; A greenhouse depends on the air within as well as thermal mass from the ground underneath and any benches etc. (as well as the plants themselves) to hold heat; those pictured have very small airspace and little thermal mass coupled with a large surface area, so will lose heat very quickly; also can overheat easily in hot sun. Placing them against a wall under an overhang will help; it'll help without the greenhouse, too.
Winifred R. February 25, 2022
Your critique is valuable for using these greenhouses yearound, but I have found the first type valuable for a low cost way to stretch the spring season and even start seedlings. Until someone is ready to invest in a more substantial hobby greenhouse, these are useful at a certain level.
Smaug February 26, 2022
I agree that they're not totally useless, but a low to the ground model is far more efficient. Cold frames, which have been used forever for the sort of uses you mention, are typically just a couple of feet high or less and in colder areas are often partially buried to make use of the earth's thermal mass.