Having your own outdoor space can be a luxury. For those of us who live in cities, we don't always have the space to create an outdoor oasis or have the patio of our dreams—but, that won't stop us from trying.
Either way, we're here to encourage you to go out and live your best nature-filled fantasies, even if that's just with a teeny garden on a fire escape or small porch. Here are several garden ideas—with vegetables and without—that are sure to provide major inspiration.
Grow Certain Plants Together
Being short on space can be a pain, but luckily certain plants grow well together—it's called companion planting, and it's sort of like a buddy system for growing your own veggies and fruits.
The Old Farmer's Almanac has a huge list of vegetables that grow well together, like garlic and tomatoes, along with a guide on how to best companion plant. It's a space-saving technique, but it also helps reduce pests and weeds. Talk about a win-win.
Turn Your Garden Into an Office
As the weather warms up, there's nothing quite like getting some fresh air and sunshine during the workday—so why not spend your 9-5 outdoors? A small bistro table and folding chairs work well if you're tight on space, and you can even fold them up and store them away when you're not using them.
After hours, you can sip on a cocktail or two while enjoying the view away from your screen. Surround your space with plants, either in-ground or in planters, and you've basically got your own backyard café.
Grow in a Greenhouse
When the growing season comes to an end, you can move some of your herbs and plants into a greenhouse to keep them from dying in the frost. The warm, humid environment is ideal for tropical plants and herbs—both in the summer and winter.
During the warmer months, you can even use the greenhouse as a space to keep unwanted visitors like rabbits and deer from munching on your garden goods.
Build a Trellis
For climbing plants like beans and peas, a trellis is a necessity. They allow stalks to grow upward and get the light they need, and they also add some vertical interest to your garden.
Make your own with some tall sticks and twine, placing the sticks in the ground and securing them at the top in a cone shape with twine—within minutes, you'll have your own trellis.
Grow Your Own Herbs and Spices
You don't need a ton of space to grow a variety of herbs and spices for cooking, baking, or even making cocktails. Start with small terra cotta pots if you're not quite sure how many herbs you'll be cultivating, and when you run out of space, use a step stool or ladder to hold even more plant friends. Before you know it, you'll be snipping off basil leaves for pesto or muddling mint for mojitos.
If you've got outdoor wall space, consider creating a vertical flower or herb garden. Not only does it save space, but it can help plants get the light they need to thrive.
Going for a DIY option like a trellis and some wall planters is great, but you can also always screw directly into a wood fence or privacy wall. Wall planter hooks are an affordable way to elevate plants and pots you already have, making this project even easier.
Use the Space You Have
No yard? No problem. If you're a city dweller with a fire escape, you can spruce up the steel structure with some planters and pots for your own urban garden. Hanging baskets with trailing plants like pothos or ivy add some life to the otherwise dull space, while flowers like daisies and pansies bring in some bright colors.
Be sure to not obstruct any stairs or ladders, though. Opt for things that don't take up ground space so you can still safely use the fire escape for its main purpose—and if your landlord asks you to remove your plants, take them inside.
Create an Outdoor Living Room
If you've got the space, why not go big? Setting up a full living room-like makes space for you and the family to enjoy the outdoors together.
A modular outdoor sofa allows you to build seating that fits your space, plus you get to customize cushions and pillows to match your style. An ottoman can do double-duty as extra seating or a makeshift coffee table, too.
Add some color with planters with annual flowers, like petunias, which will stay gorgeous during the warm seasons.
Put Up Some String Lights
To take your garden space from day to night, add some overhead string lights. Go for lights with larger bulbs to really brighten up your space, or if you just want a glimmer of light, smaller fairy lights or even holiday lights will do.
Don't fret if you don't have an outlet to plug into outdoors; there are solar lights that do the job just as well. Use them to highlight furniture or décor or to shine a light on plants surrounding a picnic table.
Try a Raised Garden
Not all yards are blessed with fertile soil, so sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands. A raised garden allows you to avoid digging and to add your own dirt, ensuring seeds and plants get the nutrients they need. Plus, come harvest time, you won't spend the day bent over gathering the literal fruits of your labor.
Creating a raised bed can be as easy as making a box and filling it with soil, but there are also kits that streamline the process.
Use Plants to Create a Privacy Wall
Sometimes, you just want to enjoy your outdoor space without being able to see your neighbors. Privacy walls can be ostentatious, so why not use plants instead of a fence or wall? Not only do plants still allow some light in, but they're also less in your face than a typical barrier.
Trees and bushes of varying heights are a great place to start if you're working from the ground up, but you can also stack planters of varying shapes and sizes on any walls that surround your property.
To go the extra mile, add a trellis and some climbing or hanging plants for full coverage.
Make Space for Plants
If all you've got is a concrete pad, planting may not be the easiest task. Instead, opt for planters and pots to spruce up your space.
They allow you to work out your green thumb, but they don't require any demoing or redoing of your space. Not only are they relatively low-maintenance, but you can also move them around as you please to create a different aesthetic.
Add a Rug
For those garden spaces that are more concrete than grass, try adding an outdoor rug to soften up the space. It can cover up any harsh concrete you're not a fan of and add some color to your patio. Surround the perimeter with planters and baskets, and you're good to go.
Do Some DIY Projects
Chances are if you have a garden at home, you're already willing to get your hands dirty. Once you're done planting or harvesting for the season, why not try another project?
If you can't find the perfect patio furniture, you can make your own from discarded pallets. Often, grocery or hardware stores toss them out, so be sure to ask around and see if you can get some for free.
To make a coffee table, secure two on top of one another and add castors to easily wheel it wherever you'd like it to be. Similarly, to make a couch, stack a couple of pallets on top of each other, secure one to the back vertically, add some wheels, and you're good to go.
For a low-effort, high-reward garden, try scattering some native wildflower seeds in your yard. Not only will you get a plethora of bright, colorful flowers, but you'll also find pollinators like bees and butterflies flocking to your garden. It's good for the environment—and means less planning for you.
Add a Hammock
If your space is full of trees, try hanging a hammock so you can admire your own garden work. Thankfully, hammocks come in just about any shape and size you can imagine, so there's no need to opt for an eyesore.
Crochet versions offer a bit of elegance, and they're often washable, meaning they can be hosed down if they collect any grime from hanging beneath the trees.
Turn Up the Heat
No all climates allow us to enjoy our gardens year-round, so here's a hack: add a heater or heat lamp to your space. It keeps you warm so you can sit outside in cooler temps—as for your plants, faux greenery may be your best bet when things get chilly.
Make Room for Birds
Birds are excellent neighbors—they're fun to watch and can help pollinate your plants. Adding a birdhouse to your garden gives them a place to stay where they're protected from the elements and predators. Who doesn't love watching a baby bird learn how to fly?
Throw Some Shade
If you live somewhere that's sunny year-round, you and your plants may be desperate for a break from the rays. Protect veggies from the hot sun with some sort of cover like a gazebo or canopy. While you're at it, add a chair or two so you can enjoy the shade, too.
For a budget-friendly swap, an umbrella offers the same protection from UV rays that a canopy does, just on a smaller scale.
Make a Potting Station
To avoid wear and tear on your back and knees during the growing season, try investing in a potting station. Basically, any table you can have outdoors will do, like a wooden picnic table or a bench, but make sure it's somewhere you're comfortable.
This is a place where you can move plants from their plastic nursery pots into bigger ceramic ones or where you can clean off veggies fresh from the garden. You won't have to worry about cleanup, as you can just dust the dirt on the table onto the ground below. Sounds like a dream, doesn't it?
Build Your Own Insect Hotel
We're all trying to save the bees, so why not help by allowing them to stay in an insect hotel? These "hotels" are made of wood and other materials that insects would burrow into in the wild. They give bees and other insects shelter from predators and a place to lay their eggs.
You can get a variety of different structures online, or, if you're up for it, you can create your own out of some scrap wood.
Create a Pallet Garden
Here's another idea for the DIYers out there: use pallets to create a garden. You can lay them flat on the ground to create even rows of plants, or hang them on the wall for easy tool storage, herb drying, or hanging planters. Time to turn someone's trash into your garden treasure.