We all garden for different reasons. Some of us just love digging in the dirt. Some want the freshest food possible. And others have goals of being as sustainable as possible. But often, we only have small spaces in which to grow our vegetables. To help you decide what style of garden you need or want, take a look at these 5 styles of gardens for your home.
Garden Styles #1 – Container
Each of the garden styles often depends on the amount of space and light that is available. A patio or balcony garden usually works best for those who live in an apartment or condominium. These are often Container Gardens, and the number of containers again depend on the allotted space and natural light.
But Container Gardens aren’t limited to patios and balconies. These can be planted in most any place that you choose. You can incorporate containers into raised beds or inground gardens. If you have an established flower bed, but want to add some fun texture, consider placing a container or two among your flowers.
You can use almost anything you choose for your container. The only considerations you need to make are they need to be water-proof, or lined with plastic or other water-proof material; it needs to have sufficient drainage, and it needs to hold enough soil for root growth.
Some ideas for containers can include:
- Terra Cotta Pots (most all sizes)
- Plastic Flowerpots (including the hanging variety)
- Kitchen pots, pans, bowls, and strainers (you will have to drill holes in these for drainage)
- Clawfoot bathtub
- Old sinks
- Tires (you can paint these and make them adorable!)
- Watering Cans (a good way to repurpose one that has a hole in the bottom)
- Old Boots
- Vintage Suitcases
- Anything else your imagination can think of!
Small to medium containers are great for herbs and small flowering plants. Medium to large containers work well for small vegetables, such as carrots, garlic, onions, or small tomatoes. Large containers are suitable for larger vegetables, such as tomatoes and peppers, other flowers, herbs, and small fruit. If you add a trellis, you can grow beans, and vining fruits such as raspberries and grapes.
Garden Styles #2 – Raised Bed
A raised bed garden is one of the garden styles which in enclosed in some type of framework and elevated off the ground. This is good way to make use of a small space. Raised beds are also perfect when your ground is not conducive to gardening due to hard clay, rocks, or a lack of nutrition.
These beds can come in all shapes and sizes. The most common type is built in a square or rectangular shape. These can be as small as 2’x2’, or as large as you have space. They can also be built in a grid, ‘L’ shape, or U’ shape design.
A ‘key-hole’ garden is a raised bed that is circular, with a wedge shape cut out – similar to a pie with a piece missing. This allows full access to the plants.
If you build a square or rectangle it is recommended that your raised bed be no wider than 4’. This allows you to reach into the garden to work, without stepping in it and compacting the soil.
Your raised bed can be made with different types of borders. Some of the materials you can use are:
- Landscape timbers (you can use one, or stack them 2 or 3 timbers high)
- Old Tin
- Old Tires
Raised beds will need to be filled with healthy soil. A 4’x8’ bed with a 2-foot depth will need 64 square feet of soil. As you plant and water, your soil will settle, and you may need to add even more.
The best soil for raised beds is topsoil mixed with peat moss, compost, and vermiculite. It helps to pre-mix the ingredients before you put them in your raised bed.
Be judicious about purchasing ‘ready mix’ raised bed soil from some companies. Often, what they have is a type of landscape mix that will compact, and become too hard for your plants to grow properly.
It can be expensive to purchase your ingredients in bags. A good way around this is to start your raised bed in the fall and use the Hügelkultur method.
To do this, build a mound using old logs and sticks (preferably those that have already begun to rot) and leaves. Add compost and top it with a layer of topsoil. Pack your mound tightly and then water. By the following spring, you should be able to begin planting.
This is a simplified explanation of how to build a Hügelkultur raised bed. To learn the details, visit The Farmers’ Almanac.
Garden Styles #3 – Theme Gardens
A Theme Garden is simply one of the garden styles which has a narrower focus. This focus allows a gardener who only has a very small space to garden to zero in on specific plants that fit the theme. For instance, if the focus is pasta sauce, the plants that would be chosen are paste tomatoes, garlic, onions, basil, and oregano.
The best part about theme gardens is that one theme could actually work for several different meals. That same Spaghetti Sauce Garden could also provide most of the ingredients for Tomato Soup. Add some pine nuts and Parmesan cheese to your grocery list, and you can make pesto from the excess basil. If you also incorporate a pot of Cilantro, this theme will expand to making Salsa.
A Theme Garden can be planted in any style of garden. If using containers, you need one large enough to incorporate different types of plants. A large half-barrel, a plastic swimming pool, or even an animal feed or water trough will work, if you have the room.
Using a Spaghetti Garden as an example, place a Roma or other paste-type tomato plant in the center. Around the edges of your container, plant Basil and Oregano. If you have a large container, such as a 5’ galvanized watering trough, you can also plant garlic and onions.
However, if your container isn’t that large, you can still ‘extend’ your growing space. Place smaller pots around the perimeter of your large container. In these you can plant a single (or two, depending on the size) garlic or onion. If you want to create something other than just spaghetti sauce, you can fill these smaller containers with cilantro (to make Salsa), or a variety of lettuce to create a salad to go along with your spaghetti dinner.
Another fun Theme Garden is a Soup Garden. Place a trellis at the back of your largest container, and plant snap beans. In the front, you can plant carrots and thyme.
Theme Gardens also work well in other garden styles. Consider adding a theme to your already established flower bed. Use a system of raised beds to grow different themes. Or, if you want to create one in an inground garden, just design it with the plants you need for your theme.
Garden Styles #4 – In-ground
This is one of the garden styles that is literally grown in the ground and is the most traditional. The size and shape are limited only to boundaries of your property.
Inground gardens can be a simple plot of ground, or used as flowerbeds around your home or patio. This type of garden can be ‘free’, or ‘contained’ with simple strips of edging or flowerbed fencing.
Most inground gardens are planted in rows. When using this style of garden, be sure to space both your rows and plants according to the recommended distance of each plant.
If you have a larger inground garden, you may want to consider using an irrigation system to help with watering. To keep the weeds at bay, it also helps to line the rows with cardboard, newspaper, or other material that will easily break down. Top that will a mulch, such as leaves or wheat straw.
One of my favorite examples of an inground garden is the Shaker Garden. Straight lines, neat rows, healthy soil, and a heavy dose of faith for fertilizer were the basic requirements. From there, the Shakers tended their gardens daily with loving care. The results were healthy plants, an abundant harvest and plenty of fresh and preserved food to feed the large ‘families’.
Garden Styles #5 – Pocket
Although a Pocket Garden can be one of the garden styles that uses any of the above methods, it is one that is tucked into a small sunny spot – just like you would tuck something in a pocket.
The beauty of the Pocket Garden is you can have more than one. If you have a sunny spot by the back door, but the space isn’t more than about 3’ x 3’, this would be a perfect spot for containers filled with herbs.
Some houses are built with one section extending further out than another. This creates an ‘L’ shape on the outside. This space can be 2 feet or 8 feet – either way, it is a great location for a Pocket Garden.
If you have more than one ‘pocket’ in your yard that is suitable for a garden, you can use the Theme Garden method. Choose a larger pocket to grow vegetables. The rest can be designed around herbs, small fruits (such as a trellis garden for grapes, blackberries, or even Kiwi, if your climate will allow), or even flowers.
Since your Pocket Gardens may be stretched out in different areas, be sure you have easy access to water for each of them. If you only have one water spigot, have a hose long enough to reach each one, or use a watering can.
You may also want to save room for a Rain Barrel, which may give you easier access, but also save on your water bill.
Choose Your Garden Styles
If you love to garden, but don’t believe you have the room, think again! All it takes is a bit of creativity, some soil, and a seed or two.
Are you ready to ‘grow’ up? Then get started. The garden styles you can use is limited only by the space you have. You can even use more than one. Just add a bit of soil and plant the seeds. Then just think of all the fun you will have. Before you know it, you may not have any grass in your yard any longer. Instead, you will only have pathways leading to different garden styles all the way around your home!