Small Space Urban Gardens

So I live in a condo building, and no one else wants to deal with the landscaping, so I have taken it over.  I have only been gardening for two seasons, but this is what I have learned about urban small space gardening (we don’t have much dirt on our lot).


  • black clay soil
  • very little dirt space
  • very little full sun areas
  • full sun areas are concrete parking lot or in the dog run

So here are my secrets of success:

  • Research!  Know what plants like clay (or will tolerate it), like shade, are hardy, etc. So know your soil type and google plants that like that type.
  • Water- a lot- with container gardening I need to water every day unless it rains.  Twice a day if it is over 90 degrees, and set up drip water bottles if it is over 100 degrees.
  • Fertilize – with poor soil either use granular fertilizer or use potting soil with fertilizer in it.
  • Amend the soil with compost and peat.  Both of these are cheaper than other soils you can buy.  This goes for any poor soil type.
  • Mulch is your friend.
  • Almost anything will tolerate being in a pot- but they might dwarf in size if the pot isn’t big enough (that is my experience anyway).
  • Go vertical, I have two vertical gardens.  A vertical herb garden and a vertical pallet garden made out of 2 liter bottles (see instructions below).
  • Plan a year in advance- start expensive plants from seed, get the soil ready for more complex plantings, gather seeds from successful plants.

Vertical Herb garden:

Pots on a bookshelf

A thrift store bookshelf makes a great vertical garden with the back removed.

I wanted an herb garden, but the only space available was in the dog run.  Having pots on the ground just didn’t make sense.  So I found a bookshelf at a thrift store for $10.  I removed the back and propped it at an angle along the building’s wall.  Then I stocked it with pots of herbs.  Since this was for the building I painted the herb names on the pots.  A pink flamingo statue found in the alley adds a touch of whimsy.

2 Liter Bottle Pallet Vertical Garden

Doing research on the web I found a number ideas for using 2 liter bottles to create vertical gardens.  Most of them required screwing into a wall, which I wasn’t interested in.  They also had pallet gardens that require you to fill a pallet with plants and dirt, but those are hard to water, the pallets decompose and the plants need to be full grown to create the dirt stability needed.  So here is my take:

I found two heavy duty pallets from a construction site.  My husband trimmed one to fit the space better and I painted both sides for weather proofing.

Then I needed to collect 60 or so 2- liter bottles and cut them in half, so I have top (spout- keep the cap!) and the bottom.  These needed to be painted with spray paint so that the roots have light protection.   I painted them a medium green so that it wasn’t so light in color to let in light, and not so dark in color as to get solar gain and fry the tender plants.

Then I had my husband wedge the pallets in place for safety and screw the new 4.5 inch pots in place.

Heavy duty pallet side view

I painted the heavy duty pallet to make it weather proof and provide a solid surface to attach 2 litter bottle halves

attaching the 2 litter bottles

Close up of bottles


Filled in

Filled in

Close up

Close up

Parking lot container garden:

Pea plants climb up strings woven through the deck slats:

Climbing peas

Climbing peas

3 thoughts on “Small Space Urban Gardens

  1. Thora,
    This blog is pretty cool. All very creative and definitely something I would not think of doing but would love to have. I’m intrigue. Lots of hugs to you and family.

  2. Pingback: Small Space Gardening In The City

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *