City life doesn’t mean
an end to digging in the
dirt. The trick with a
small garden is balance.
I BEGAN STUDYING urban gardening—
how to grow in small environments such as
balconies and tiny backyards—in college,
and have worked ever since to overcome the
“brown thumb” that I inherited. Here are
some basic tips I picked up along the way.
Be realistic about your space. It’s not
likely that you can fit benches, a vegetable
garden, an herb garden, a rose garden, five
peony plants, a water fountain and a couple
of shade trees in a 18.5-square-metre (200-
square-foot) patio. Prioritize what you would
like in your outdoor space, then work out a
plan for getting them in there. That’s a lot
better than putting too many things in place,
only to have them fight each other for the
available sunlight and soil.
The Costco Connection
For more gardening tips and ideas, see the
book selection at your local Costco.
Measure your sunlight
Before planting anything, make sure
you have a good idea of how much sunlight
every area of your garden will get during the
day. If you know how many hours of sunlight each patch of ground receives, you can
make a nice advance sketch to help you lay
out your plants.
Remember to consider the impact of tall
plants on sunlight. Trees and large shrubs
and flowers that cast a shadow should be
placed so they won’t block light to other
plants that need it.
Use vertical space
If you’ve got walls around your garden,
by all means use them. A wide variety of
flowers, fruits and vegetables—seedless
grapes, sugar snap peas, climbing roses, honeysuckle—can grow up a wall and need minimal ground space to thrive.
Consider the long term
Remember that trees and shrubs will
grow over time. Be sure to pay attention to the
long-term size of whatever you are planting to
avoid outgrowing your small site. Instead,
choose naturally smaller plants or dwarf vari-
eties when possible. At most, one larger tree
or shrub should be more than enough for
most small gardens.—T. Foster Jones