The minimalist vegetable garden: growing things when you have no space

I grew up vegetable gardening. We had a 25 acre property that had been in my family for decades and my mother always planted a huge garden, full of enough squash, beans, potatoes, carrots, and Swiss chard to get us through the entire winter.

As a university student and an apartment dweller, I didn’t vegetable garden at all. When I got my house in Toronto, I tried it given that I had a large backyard and prefer garden to grass, but all I ended up doing was feeding the neighbourhood raccoons.

I’ve been in Spain a decade now and other than helping out a friend in his garden plot a few towns over, I haven’t done any vegetable gardening at all. My husband loves cacti and our balconies are half full of the easy-to-care-for plants, but he’s not into anything at all edible.

Maybe it’s age, or maybe it’s looking out the bedroom window and seeing a large garden plot down below, but I’m getting the itch to do some gardening of my own. However, decorative plants are so not my thing. If I’m going to garden, I want it to be useful and productive. I want to be able to eat what I grow.

Our balconies, though, are not that conducive to vegetables. We’re on the ninth floor and face an ocean-side mountain, meaning that no matter what the weather’s like, there’s a strong breeze whipping by all day long. Plus the protected balcony is too small and already occupied by the beloved cacti, so growing any edible plants there is not really an option.

What’s a wannabe apartment gardener to do then?

I thought I’d give vertical gardening a try. While we don’t have a lot of wall space, we do have quite a lot of ceiling and railing space to hang planters. Amazon has several varieties, such as Topsy-Turvy Tomato Planters that hang from the ceiling, or any number of hanging or self-supporting vertical planters.

I’m never going to get a full vegetable garden in, not even if I opt for square-foot gardening, but I think I might just be able to scratch that itchy green thumb of mine with a few dangling tomato plants, some wall-hugging herbs and maybe a zucchini plant or two elegantly hanging off the inside of the balcony railing.

Any suggestions? Do you have postage-stamp balcony gardens? How do you satisfy your urge to cultivate?

3 Comments for “The minimalist vegetable garden: growing things when you have no space”

  1. posted by Ariel Hume on

    You might check and see if there is a community garden somewhere nereby.

  2. posted by Beth on

    Hydrogarden! It only takes up about a 3×3 foot area for 16 plants. I have had one for 2 years and it will grow anything (lettuce, tomato, sqaush, cukes, chard, kale, peppers, spinach, strawberries). It also requires very little water as it recirculates what you give it.

  3. posted by G. on

    Picking the right varieties will help with your container gardening. A big beefsteak type tomato may not be happy in a hanging bag (at least the one we tried wasn’t), but a variety developed for containers might do better. I’ve had the best luck with herbs in containers, especially since only a snip or 2 makes a world of difference in the food. And since the cacti are doing well, I wouldn’t be surprised if even herbs need watering more than once a day.

    Community gardens are good, but unless you are disciplined enough to get there several times a week, they turn in to a weedy mess fast. Of course, so does the garden in my back yard 🙁 Also, many don’t have a handy water supply or secure storage for tools, so you’d need a way of transporting those.

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