There are many reasons that people shop farmer’s markets or grow their own vegetables in backyard gardens. While the various products offered may, and usually do, look less attractive than the ones found in the grocer’s, they more than make up for it in taste and freshness. Farmer’s market fare and back yard vegetables aren’t waxed, are usually picked at the perfect time, and are frequently organic (especially the ones you grow yourself).

While many people enjoy the taste of fresh home grown vegetables, not everyone has an area large enough for a garden plot. At least that is the common misconception. In truth, growing your own vegetables is easy to do even in very small spaces, like decking, patios and balconies.

The advantages of small gardens

Of course the most obvious reason is that you have a steady source of fresh vegetables and herbs at your disposal during the entire growing season. Plus with only a few exceptions you can grow almost any vegetable you desire.

Patio gardens are visually interesting. As the plants grow and ripen they add a colourful dimension to the patio or balcony.

Patio garden plants are relatively immune from many of the diseases and pests common in regular outdoor gardens.

Your growing season is longer. Some plants require the soil to be fairly warm before planting. The containers and planters warm up far faster than the ground and allow you to start planting far earlier.

You save money and cut down on food waste. Your home grown herbs and vegetables are less expensive than buying at the grocers. You will also cut down on food waste since you can simple harvest the amount you need for a meal.

Different types of gardens

For small garden areas there are four main types.

  1. Container gardens which use regular pots
  2. Table gardens which use small tables with a sunken planting area. Table planters are especially handy as they don’t require you to bend over to tend your garden.
  3. Planters which are usually long and fairly narrow
  4. Reusable Bags

Reusable bags

The first three are relatively common but many people have not tried patio gardening with reusable bags. The bags offer a lot of advantages; they are inexpensive, easy to move, and deep enough for plants that require a lot of depth to grow, like tomatoes, horseradish, and potatoes. One thing to remember when using reusable bag is the colour. Dark colours absorb heat while light colours reflect it. Use dark bags for plants that love the heat, but be aware that the soil will dry out quicker.

Choosing which method to use for your patio garden is basically one of personal preference. You want your patio garden to fit in with the surroundings, be attractive, and fit your personal style. You also want to still be able to use your patio other activities as well.

Planning your garden

Once you have decided on the type of container you are going to use, it’s time to plan your garden.

Maximise the sun

Vegetables need at least six hours of sun per day. If you aren’t sure of which areas get the most sun, just make notes throughout the day and select the sunniest area for your garden.

Protecting your plants

High winds can damage your plants. Select an area that is somewhat protected if you are unable to move your plants during high winds.

Weight considerations

This is rarely an issue, but if your garden is on a balcony, be aware of how much weight you are adding. A large planter full of potatoes can be very heavy.

Which plants to choose

Almost any plant you can plant in a regular outdoor garden will thrive in your patio garden, with the exception of pumpkin, asparagus, and surprisingly, rhubarb.

Herbs are one of the easiest plants to have in your patio garden and you will frequently find that you have more than enough for your needs with only a few plants. Additionally herbs such as basil and lemongrass help repel insects. Select any herb your regularly use like basil, dill, coriander, parsley and oregano.

Plants that thrive in patio gardens include tomatoes, beets, scallions, peppers, chillies, beans, cucumbers, squash, spinach, lettuces, and radishes. The smaller varieties of corn also grow exceptionally well.

Some plants actually do better when planted in the same container as other plants. This makes it possible to be more creative with your garden and to create "theme" pots. Some good examples of combination gardening include.

  • Beans, squash, carrots
  • Basil, onions, tomatoes
  • Lettuce, herbs
  • Beans, aubergine
  • Spinach, onions

After planting

Other than the benefit of fresh herbs and vegetables throughout the season, patio gardens offer another major benefit; they are amazingly easy to care for. Simply make sure that they stay properly watered and get enough nutrients which are easily accomplished with compost or natural organic plant food.