Small spaces can easily be made into heavenly gardens

Published 6:42 am Sunday, April 7, 2013

Column: Serendipity Gardens, by Carol Hegel Lang

In the past few years many innovations have come about for people who have a small space like a balcony, patio or rooftop where they garden. Every time I pick up a gardening magazine or watch a gardening program on television I get so excited when it deals with gardening in a small space. Even if you only have a tiny space you can garden big time.

Carol Hegel Lang

Carol Hegel Lang

Let’s talk about the small balcony and what you can do to utilize your space to the fullest. Think vertical by growing on a trellis with a morning glory or scarlet runner bean to add color and maybe also bring in hummingbirds. Hang your sugar water feeder close to the trellis and just wait for some activity from birds or bees. You can plant a tomato plant in one of the topsy turvy hanging bags where you grow them upside down. Hang it from a shepherd’s hook that you mounted in a large container where you can also grow your herbs for cooking with. Of course you will need a sunny location for your balcony.

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Why not plant strawberries in a strawberry pot and perhaps utilize a longer container to plant peppers or salad greens in, the possibilities are endless. The next thing would be to add some pots of flowers by stacking them on bricks to vary the height. Even small water features could be placed on a balcony if you have an electrical outlet. Use bright colors in your pots and the cushions on your chairs to really spice it up. And don’t forget to accessorize the containers with small pieces to customize the pots. No balcony is too small for a garden especially if you want to try making a fairy garden.

Now let’s look at what you can do with your patio to add height, splashes of color and creativity to make it a cozy retreat. You will need to decide if you want to add flowers, vegetables or herbs or a combination of all three. Try to enclose the patio either with a structure like a gazebo if the budget allows or by placing large containers around a small portion to make it more intimate. If you have the option of adding some smaller shrubs around it you can add color, height and fragrance with hydrangeas or grasses to close off the area for privacy.

Another way to get height would be using a trellis along either the wall of the structure or again placing them in large pots. Many of the small fruit trees can be espaliered to grow on a trellis, fence or wall to give privacy and to fill a large space. I love to see some of the dwarf conifers planted along a patio to give color and privacy.

If you have not heard about Pamela Crawford’s living wall planters I would recommend you Google her as these are really a wonderful way to use a small space. They can beautify a bare wall with a simple addition of color from plants for either sunny or shady locations. I have to say that I wonder why this idea hadn’t been thought of before. The planters are very simple to use and you can really make them personal by your choice of plants.

Several small spaces in Carol Hegel Lang’s garden utilize climbing vines on the wall and hanging baskets to add height. --Submitted

Several small spaces in Carol Hegel Lang’s garden utilize climbing vines on the wall and hanging baskets to add height. –Submitted

Another concept is to use mirrors to make your space look visually larger. In my gazebo I hung a round metal piece that we had a mirror attached to the back side of it, and I really am pleased with the effect it gives. This spring I plan to find another mirror to hang on the fence in the shade garden to bring some depth to the area. Go to flea markets, garage sales or estate sales to find some unique pieces you can add to your small space.

Pamela also devised containers where you plant the flowers in the sides as well as the top making the container visually larger and rounder giving the small space a big feel. These can be used in hanging baskets, long window box planters or elevated on columns giving stunning color and height in a small space.

In the last few years rooftop gardening has really taken off in places like New York and Chicago where gardening space is at a premium. On many of the buildings in downtown cities personal gardens as well as cooperative gardens are utilizing this otherwise wasted space. In New York vegetable gardening in the inner city areas is producing crops for people to sell at neighborhood farmers markets and restaurants. What a fantastic way to use this space and teach people about gardening and eating healthy locally grown produce. It is a proven fact that when children grow the vegetables themselves they are more likely to eat a healthier diet. Locally, Halverson Elementary School has kept a garden in the school yard, and what a great teaching tool this must be. I wish the rest of the schools would pick up on this idea to help prevent childhood obesity and promote eating healthier. It is a small space garden with a huge impact potential.


Carol Hegel Lang is an Albert Lea resident and local green thumb. Her email is