Small Garden Vegetables: Ideas for What to Plant In a Small Space

Looking for the best small garden vegetables to grow in a limited amount of space? Try these ideas for planting in 1-32 feet of garden space…

When you’re restricted to a small garden area such as a tiny backyard, patio garden, or even just a balcony, it is important to choose fruits and veggies that will produce a large amount of food in a limited amount of space. There are lots of ideas out there for maximizing your garden space, but one of the best ways to get more out of your available garden area is to plant small garden vegetables that are well-suited to small spaces.

This can mean planting smaller types of plants that take up less room, growing crops that can be grown vertically or in containers, or quick-growing crops that mature in a short period of time, so that you can quickly replace them with new plants. Utilizing a combination of these methods will help you grow more food than you may expect from just a tiny amount of garden space.

Whether you have one square foot of space on your apartment windowsill, 10 feet of real estate on a sunny balcony, or a four-by-eight foot plot in your backyard or in a local community garden, below are a few ideas for small garden vegetables that will yield a great harvest in minimum space.

Here are some ideas for what to grow if you have…

A Window-Box (1-2 Square Feet)

With only a square foot or two of space available to you, your options are limited, but the best use of this small amount of growing space is by far going to be herbs. Even one small planter can hold several different types of herbs at once. Many herbs will happily grow in a container for several months or more, and since you’ll only be harvesting a bit at a time, they will continue to put on new leaves for many meals to come.

Herbs are also quite expensive at the grocery store, so growing your own can save a fair amount of money over time, while providing an abundance of fresh flavors for your culinary endeavors.

Annual herbs to include in your window box planter or growing container include basil, cilantro, parsley, and chives. Perennial herbs such as sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and mint will keep going even longer – indefinitely if you take good care of them.

A Balcony (10-15 Square Feet)

You’ll have quite a few more options with this amount of space. If you are on a concrete pad or balcony, you’ll need to grow in containers, but there are a surprising number of crops that will grow quite well in an appropriately sized pot. Think about what you like to eat most, and tailor your small balcony garden to those vegetables.

A couple of containers of salad greens will provide a quick and delicious harvest, and since they grow quickly, lettuce and radishes are well-suited to successive plantings. Once one planting is finished, simply replant for another harvest.

Longer-season crops such as tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, and cucumbers also provide a bountiful harvest – even with just one or two plants. In fact, one healthy plant of each of these veggies will likely provide MORE than enough for one or two people!

If you want to try your hand at growing fruit, blueberry bushes do quite well in containers (although they may take a couple of years to bear fruit), and strawberries are easy to grow in pots as well.

One Garden Bed (32 Square Feet)

A standard garden bed of four-by-eight feet offers you far more options than you may expect. You could, for example, divide the bed into sections and devote each section to a few plants of each of the veggies mentioned above.

You could also plant a themed garden, such as a salad garden filled with lettuce, mesclun mix or arugula, radishes, carrots, and herbs, a “pizza garden” of tomatoes and peppers, with onions on the ends of the bed and basil and oregano growing between, nutritious greens like kale, collards, bok choi, or swiss chard, or root crops such as beets, turnips, rutabagas, carrots, and various radish varieties – most of which have the added benefit of storing well in the fridge for quite a while after harvesting.

You can also maximize your space by erecting a couple of trellises in your bed, and growing vining crops such as peas, pole beans, cucumbers, and winter squash. Even melons may be grown vertically, although you may need to fashion slings out of string or mesh to support the fruit as it ripens.

As you can see, there are many different small garden vegetables that will produce a bountiful harvest in a limited amount of space.

However, there are also some crops you will want to avoid if you’re working with limited amounts of space. Space hogs such as corn require plenty of room to grow and can shade out other crops, while producing only an ear or two of corn per stalk, so they aren’t a very efficient food source if you’re working with a small garden area. Potatoes also require a fair amount of space and may not yield a significant amount of food unless the water and climate conditions are exactly right.

Perennials such as asparagus or rhubarb are also not practical if you only have one garden bed available, as they will spread over the years to consume more and more space, and you can only eat them for a short period of time during the year. And large plants such as zucchini are VERY productive, but they may sprawl over a substantial portion of your bed, so these are best grown in containers if space is limited.

However, by choosing the right vegetables for your small garden, you can provide a surprisingly large variety of fresh food for yourself and your family with minimal amounts of work.

For more tips for gardening in small spaces, be sure to download our small-space gardening guide in the sidebar!


Rose S.

An avid gardener since childhood, I love sharing my passion for gardening with others! I have gardened in a number of different climates and settings, from large fenced garden plots, to tiny patio and container gardens, and I firmly believe that everyone can learn to grow at least some of their own food - no matter where you live. Growing your own food can help you take control of your own health and food supply, and there has never been a better time to get started!

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