How To Start A Garden Without A Yard (8 Ways To Save Space)


Having a big yard is great for gardening, but sometimes space is hard to come by.  Luckily, there are plenty of ways to garden in a limited space, both indoors and outdoors.

So, how do you start a garden without a yard?  Renting garden space from a landlord or community garden is one way to garden without your own yard.  You can also use vertical gardening or soilless growing, which can save space and avoid messes.  Using containers such as grow bags, raised beds, window boxes, terrariums, and pots gives you lots of options for growing in small spaces indoors or outdoors.

Of course, the method you choose will depend on your circumstances.  Some of these ideas work better indoors, and some won’t require much water.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at 8 ways to garden without a yard.  We’ll also describe when each of these methods would work best.

Let’s get started.

How To Start A Garden Without A Yard

There are lots of ways to start a garden without a yard.  One possibility is to rent garden space – and you might be able to find as much space as you need nearby.

Rent Garden Space

If you live in a small apartment and don’t have much space to grow, then consider renting garden space from one of the following:

  • Landlords – asking your own landlord is a good place to start.  However, you can also ask your neighbors to see if their landlords will rent you some space for a garden.  It is really a win-win for landlords: they get a little extra income (or some garden produce), and they don’t have to mow so much grass!
  • Mutual Contacts – see if you know anyone in your network that has space, but doesn’t have time for a garden.  They might be willing to share land with you if you share some of your vegetables with them!
  • Websites – there are websites that connect landowners who have extra space with gardeners who need a place to grow.  Two such sites are YardYum.com and SharedEarth.com.  Some plots will include water or raised beds.  You can pay with cash or work out a deal where you pay with some of your vegetables.
  • Agricultural Extension Offices – in addition to offering education, these offices will sometimes rent garden space during the year.  You can find a list of university extension offices on the USDA website.
  • Community Gardens – these organizations bring the local gardening community together.  They often rent garden space by plots, and you might be able to request multiple adjacent plots.  Some community gardens provide tools, compost bins, and discounts on local workshops.
High Point Community Garden
Renting garden space is a great way to get out of the house, meet people in the community, and grow fresh vegetables.

You can learn more about renting garden space in my article here.

Use Vertical Gardening

Vertical gardening is a great way to make the most of a limited space.  You can use vertical gardening to grow indoors or outdoors.

Vertical gardening is really just a way to optimize the plants you grow for the space you have.  The key is to be creative and use things that complement the space you are in.

For example, you might grow pole beans (which grow tall) rather than bush beans (which spread out over a large area).

pole beans (green beans)
When growing green beans, plant pole beans instead of bush beans to save space.

You might also use an A-frame trellis on a patio or other outdoor space.  You can then let vining plants (such as tomatoes, cucumbers, etc.) grow up along the trellis, while planting shade-tolerant plants (lettuce, spinach, etc.) under the trellis.

The trellis and the vining plants would provide shade for the plants below the trellis.  By growing in multiple “levels”, you can maximize the space you have.

tomato plant
Use stakes to help tomato plants climb, rather than letting them spread out.

Another idea is to install a garden tower so that you can grow on multiple levels.  You can put vining plants on top and let their vines trail down, while putting lettuce and herbs on lower levels.

You can learn more about vertical farming in my article here.

You might also be interested in getting some ideas for vertical herb gardening.

Use Soilless Growing

If you live in a small apartment, you might not have any access to soil.  It can be expensive to buy soil before you even plant a seed.

hydroponics
With hydroponics, you can grow plants without any soil!

Even worse, soil is messy, and the last thing you want to do is get your apartment dirty.  Luckily, there are a few ways to grow plants without any soil at all:

  • Hydroponics – in these systems, the plant’s roots are submerged in water with nutrients in it.  A soilless growing medium (such as perlite or rock wool) is used to keep the roots stable.  The water is also oxygenated with a pump, since the roots still need to get air.
  • Aquaponics – this system is similar to hydroponics, but with an added twist: fish live in the water!  The fish waste in the water provides nutrients for the plants.  The plants use the nutrients in the fish waste for growth, thus cleaning the water for the fish.  It is necessary to add fish food, and you will also need a water pump for this system.
  • Aeroponics – this system uses a nutrient mist system to give plants the water and nutrients they need.  One drawback is that the nutrient spray nozzles need to be cleaned regularly.

Since these systems are often used indoors, you will probably need grow lights as well.  LEDs give off lots of light without heat, so they are a good choice to save on lighting costs.

aeroponics towers
Aeroponics uses very little water compared to traditional gardening.

One of the major drawbacks of these systems is the amount of electricity needed to run the pumps and lights. Of course, a sunny location would be perfect for a solar powered water pump.

You can learn more about soilless growing systems in my article here.

Plant In Grow Bags

Grow bags are containers made of fabric, such as canvas or burlap.  They come in many sizes and are easier to move and store than pots.

jute bag
Grow bags are made of fabric, such as canvas or burlap.

Grow bags are lighter than clay pots, and they are more flexible than plastic pots.  They also allow water to drain out more easily than clay or plastic pots.

As an added benefit, plants in grow bags have healthier roots, due to air pruning.  This means that the roots stop growing when they reach the edge of the grow bag and come in contact with air.

In other types of containers, the roots will hit the edge of the pot and circle around the container.  Eventually, these plants will become root bound in the pot.

You can learn more about the benefits and drawbacks of grow bags in my article here.

Grow bags are useful for growing on a balcony, patio, or porch.  They can also be used indoors, as long as you have a tray underneath them to catch excess water.

Grow bags are fairly durable, and can last up to 10 years with proper care.  Of course, this will involve washing them out and cleaning them every year to avoid rotting due to water, soil, bacteria, and mold.

Plant In Raised Beds

Raised beds are a great option for outdoor planting if you have a patio available.  Raised beds are often made of wood, but you can also make raised beds from metal, plastic, or even stone.

brick raised beds
You can make raised beds out of wood, metal, plastic, or stone.

The soil in a raised bed is elevated above the surrounding ground, so it will drain faster.  This is good for avoiding over watering, but it makes it challenging to keep plants watered in hot, dry climates.

You can use a raised garden bed for growing flowers, vegetables, or herbs.  Some plants only need 6 inches or less of soil to grow, but others require a foot or more to grow to full size.

raised bed
You can build a raised bed anywhere, such as on a patio, to create a garden without a yard.

If you install the right liner for your raised bed, it will help to retain moisture in these climates.  A liner will also keep moles and gophers out of your raised bed.

You can learn more about the types of raised bed liners (and when to use them) in my article here.

Plant In Window Boxes

A window box gives you a little more space for growing than a windowsill by itself.  Plants will also get more sunlight outside than indoors, especially since the light won’t need to go through the window.

A window box with flowers will improve the appearance of any space.  However, you can use a window box to grow herbs or shallow-rooted crops, such as lettuce and spinach.

garden box on balcony
A window box on a balcony gives you a place to garden without a yard.

A window box can be made from plastic, wood, or metal.  You can also use a liner, just like you would for raised garden beds.

You can learn more about window boxes (or buy some) at windowbox.com.

Plant In A Terrarium

A terrarium is another good option for growing plants indoors.  Normally, a terrarium is used snakes, turtles, and other pets.

However, you can also use a terrarium strictly for plants.  If you have old aquariums, you can use them without water to grow plants.

terrarium
You can use a terrarium to grow plants indoors in a somewhat controlled environment.

All you need to do is put in soil, plant the seeds or seedlings, and add water and nutrients to keep the plants healthy.  Of course, if you cannot find a bright spot for the terrarium, you will need grow lights.

You might also need a heat source to keep the plants warm if you keep your living quarters on the cool side (for example, low 60’s Fahrenheit).

Plant In Containers

Planting in containers is a great method for growing a garden outdoors in a small space on a balcony, patio, or porch.  Containers also work perfectly well indoors, as long as you have a tray underneath to hold excess water.

When growing with containers, you have a few choices:

  • Plastic pots – these pots are lighter than clay, and are more flexible.  Plastic pots also help soil to retain more moisture than clay pots.  This means you will need to water less often.
  • Clay pots – clay pots allow water and air to move through soil more easily, improving drainage and aeration.  Clay pots also insulate soil better than plastic pots, which helps to avoid drastic temperature changes.
  • Eco-friendly pots – these pots are either biodegradable or made from sustainable materials (or both).  Some eco-friendly pots are made of newspaper, cardboard, fabric, or coconut husks.
clay pots
Clay pots breathe a bit better than plastic pots, but they shatter easily.

You can learn more about eco-friendly pots in my article here, and you can learn about the pros and cons of plastic and clay pots in my article here.

Of course, you can also use hanging containers to make the most of a small apartment, balcony, or patio.

Here are some great options for plants to grow in containers if you have limited space:

  • Dwarf Citrus Trees – there are dwarf varieties of lemon, lime, and orange trees available.  These won’t survive the winters in colder regions, but they are small enough to grow indoors.  Some dwarf citrus trees include the Meyer lemon tree from Stark Brothers, the Key lime tree from Stark Brothers, and the Calamondin orange tree from Stark Brothers.
  • Herbs – herbs are a great choice to grow in a small container in the kitchen.  They can be used to flavor food without salt or sugar, and there is a huge variety of herbs available.  Some common kitchen herbs you can grow in a container include basil, mint, oregano (or Mexican Oregano!), parsley, rosemary, sage, and thyme.
  • Leafy Greens – most leafy greens grow in a fairly compact space, in terms of both width and height.  For example, lettuce and spinach don’t get very tall unless they go to seed (keep them picked to avoid this!).  With their shallow roots, leafy greens don’t need much soil depth to grow.
  • Microgreens – microgreens are really just plants that are harvested at the sprout or seedling stage, before the plant really has a chance to get going.  Microgreens are packed with nutrients, and they grow very quickly (most are ready for harvest 2 weeks after planting seeds).  You will need a seed tray to grow microgreens.
  • Small Varieties Of Vegetables – there are also small varieties of various vegetables available.  For example, Tiny Tim tomato plants only grow to 1 foot high (you can learn more about Tiny Tim tomatoes on the Victory Seeds website).
spinach
You can grow lots of spinach in a small space, and it will keep growing back after you pick the leaves.

To find more tiny tomato varieties, check out my article on tomato varieties that stay small (less than 12 inches tall!) in my article here.

Conclusion

Now you know all about the ways to start a garden without a yard.  You also know how to decide which of these methods would be best for you.

If you are interested in growing in small spaces, you might also want to check out my article on 20 edible plants you can grow in your kitchen.

If you or someone you know is a student, you might also want to check out this article on how to grow vegetables in a college dorm room.

I hope you found this article helpful.  If so, please share it with someone who can use the information.

If you want to read some of my most popular posts, check out the “Best of GreenUpSide” page here.  Enjoy!

~Jonathon

jonathon.david.madore

Hi, I'm Jon. Let's solve your gardening problems, spend more time growing, and get the best harvest every year!

Recent Posts