Starting a Small Patio Garden in 6 Steps

Starting a Small Patio Garden in 6 Steps
A small patio garden with plants in containers and an outdoor sofa and table. A small patio garden with plants in containers and an outdoor sofa and table.

If you have big gardening dreams — but only a small patio — we have good news. You can turn even a tiny outdoor area into a lush retreat that provides fresh produce, beautiful blooms or whatever else you want to grow. Here's how to plan and plant a small patio garden so you can maximize every square inch of growing space.

1. Check Your Lease or HOA Agreement

As much as you want to start transforming your patio into an urban jungle immediately, be sure it's OK with your homeowners association (HOA) or landlord if you have one. If you're simply looking to add a pot of flowers or herbs, you can probably skip this step. If you have grander dreams, you'll still likely get the green light to start growing, but perhaps with a caveat such as a weight restriction. Trust us; it's better to find out the policies or any limitations on your space before you haul home that heavy concrete planter.

2. Study Your Patio's Unique Growing Conditions

The light, wind and temperature on your patio might be different than your region's — or even your neighbor's. Some patios can feel like their own microclimate depending on a variety of factors, such as:

  • The direction they face: Southern and western exposures tend to be the warmest and brightest, while eastern and northern-facing patios may be cooler and shadier.

  • The distance off the ground: For example, a high-rise balcony may experience more extreme winds than a second-story one.

  • Proximity to trees and other buildings: If you're planning your patio garden in early spring, be sure to account for any trees that may not have leaves yet.

What's more, different areas of your patio might be better suited to certain types of plants. For example, you might grow shade-loving plants like hostas in the back corner and place produce that needs full sun toward the front.

3. Determine Your Small Patio Garden Goals

It's essential to prioritize what types of plants, containers and even furniture you want for your patio so you can make the smartest use of your space. As you brainstorm small patio or apartment patio garden ideas, some questions to ask yourself include:

  • How much produce do I want to grow, if any? Am I looking for a few fun, fresh herbs and greens, or a more substantial veggie plot?

  • Do I want fresh flowers, lots of foliage or a combo of both?

  • How do I want to spend my time here? Do I want a place to sip coffee in the morning, relax in the evenings, entertain friends and family, or just dig in the dirt?

4. Plan Your Patio

Resist the urge to run to the garden center and start throwing things in your cart. Although we completely understand the excitement of starting a new garden, you'll save time, money and stress in the long run by creating a detailed plan.

First, draw or use graph paper so that each grid is a square foot of your patio. Determine where you'd place any containers, raised beds and furniture, and draw them to scale (don't worry, it doesn't have to be fridge-worthy). Be sure you don't block any doorways, and plan how you'll bring water outside. Once you've filled in your horizontal surfaces, don't be afraid to go vertical for even more growing space.

Next, decide what you want to plant. Are you going for flowers that will last for one growing season, like container-friendly annuals, or flowers that will come back for multiple seasons, like perennials? Maybe you're sticking to herbs, fruits and veggies fit for small spaces and your patio's unique growing conditions.

Finally, determine how you'll grow your plants. Will you try starting from seed indoors with some hot-weather peppers and tomatoes? Will you plant easy-to-start lettuce and pea seeds directly in containers? Or will you purchase some starter plants, such as annual flowers that add instant color?

Now, you're ready to shop.

5. Plant Your Small Patio Garden

Once you've gathered everything you need, it's time to bring your vision to life. Plant any seeds you're starting indoors. Arrange your containers, planters and furniture outdoors. Fill your containers or raised beds with a potting mix designed specifically for containers. Sow seeds according to the packet directions and pot up your starter plants. Now you're ready to give your plants the care and attention they need. Whatever you decide to plant, you can find a growing guide to help you and your new green space along the way.

6. Stay Flexible and Enjoy the Process

Despite your best efforts, chances are you'll have to adjust some things throughout the growing season, such as where a container sits or even what's growing in it. Make changing things up easier by placing heavy pots on planter caddies with caster wheels so you can move them around easily. But above all, enjoy the process and continue refining until you achieve patio perfection.

With careful planning and the right plants, small patio gardens can live big. By determining what will grow well in your space, what you want to grow, and how you want to use your patio, you can create a one-of-a-kind garden that suits your needs.

As you bring your patio garden to life, don't miss these container gardening tips.

Written by Kelly Reilly,

Kelly's passion is empowering new gardeners to achieve their goals through accessible, easy-to-understand digital content.

July 13, 2021
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