GARDENING GODDESS: Growing edibles in small spaces


You love the taste of homegrown tomatoes and sun-ripened strawberries, but don’t grow your own because you live on a small urban lot, in a home surrounded by large trees, or in an apartment with no outdoor access. Think you have no space to grow? Think again!

The DC-area is full of inspiration and ideas for those of us who are short on space, yet long on desire to grow our own edibles. Many urban gardeners do not own their own homes, so they need to think outside the raised-bed box. They invent their own.

Keep It Mobile

Often, the little good growing space we have is in the shade or not easily accessible. Consider building your own wood boxes on wheels to pull into their driveway and back alley area where the only sunlight access you may have is located. At night, simply pull the planters back in and then you can park your cars in that space.

Other ways to be mobile include containers that are made of lighter-weight plastics so they can be placed on balconies and deck rails, as well as planters that can be raised and lowered by a pulley system similar to that used for laundry lines.


Photos by Kathy Jentz.

Go Vertical

If you only have a small footprint of soil, maximize your growing space by growing up. Use trellises, hanging planters, and raised containers for access to more sunlight and to give your plants more space.

Going vertical can mean going down as well as up. Look at any walls, gates, fences, or steps that you can grow over and hang plants from. As long as you are not blocking pedestrian or vehicle traffic, the air space around your home is fair game.

Borrow Space

If you have no outdoor access of your own, look around for public space that you can borrow or share. Apply for a plot at a local community garden or partner with a local friend or family member who has more land than time to garden and barter your extra produce for their growing space.

Also look at commercial and business spaces. Does your place of work have a rooftop deck that they would allow you to put a few planting pots out on? How about your favorite restaurant? Maybe they would trade you for taking care of their planting boxes for fresh herbs for their kitchen in exchange. For example, the folks at Love & Carrots, a garden design team, maintain the plantings for Big Bear Café in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Washington, DC.

With just a bit of planning, you can think outside the backyard raised bed for your growing space and plant the seeds of urban edibles for harvesting and enjoying at your table this fall.


Kathy is editor of Washington Gardener Magazine and a long-time DC area gardening enthusiast. Portions of this article originally appeared in the DC Examiner and the DC Ladies blog as well as in Washington Gardener Magazine.

About the Author

Kathy Jentz
Kathy Jentz is editor of Washington Gardener magazine and is a long-time DC area gardening enthusiast. Washington Gardener is all about gardening where you live. She can be reached at @WDCgardener on Twitter and welcomes your local DMV gardening questions.