Vegetables in small spaces

Not everyone has a big backyard. 

However, even a small area can produce a useful amount of fresh food.

Small no-dig gardens can sit on concrete or paving, and many food plants will grow

happily in containers.It can however be difficult keeping containers adequately watered

- especially in the heat of summer. 

'Self-watering' or 'wicking' pots will help solve this problem:  the base of a watertight container

has a layer of gravel which is covered with shade cloth or weedmat. This acts as a reservoir. 

A drain hole level with the top of the gravel prevents water logging. 

A length of plumbing pipe stands upright in the gravel to allow the reservoir to be topped up.

The container is then filled with potting mix and topped with mulch to reduce evaporation.

Plants growing in this type of container are watered from below as water 'wicks' up from the

reservoir into the soil.  This is a very water-efficient growing method.

Below are some options for growing food plants in small spaces.


Healthy basil plants in a single wicking

container - another broccoli box.


A simple raised container garden: three

broccoli boxes on a cast-off steel table

frame.  A timber surround improves their


Here is the raised garden planted out and growing happily.

In its first incarnation this box garden had drain holes.  However, during summer it was

difficult to keep the soil moist and the vegetables did not thrive.

Version two is a wicking garden.  The reservoir in each box is topped up every couple of

weeks and even thirsty leafy greens do well despite being under the eaves of the house.

Blackbirds like to scratch at the potting mix so the entire garden is covered with bird netting

supported on 19mm polypipe arches.


Some more options for small spaces:

A large plastic drum has been cut in half and set up as a wicking

pot.  It will soon be growing zucchinis.

Strawberries do well in an old wheelbarrow.  Each winter some

of the old soil is replaced with new, rich potting soil.

A metal tub has been sealed inside to prevent corrosion then

set up as a wicking pot.



   Laura's garden

An unused section of Laura's small backyard is the spot for her vegetables.


Two no-dig gardens, completed and planted out with summer vegetables.

And on the site of an old shed, a series of raised wicking beds for herbs and greens.


The 'new look' backyard. 

A bean frame has been

mounted on the fence and

supports for bird netting

constructed from steel garden

stakes and polypipe - light

weight but adequate.

Polypipe hoops on the wicking

boxes will support either bird

netting, if needed, or shading

cloth to protect the annual

herbs from the worst of the

summer heat.