In hilltop towns in Tuscany (where I still am, for my husband’s job), bare ground is a rare thing. People here have had centuries to figure out where and how to grow herbs, flowers, and small vegetable plants in these mostly-stone towns. This makes Tuscany a good source of small garden ideas.
Small Garden Ideas for In-ground Gardens
For in-ground gardening, a small area can be blocked out with stones, one way or another, and one or more plants wedged into the dirt. The surface of the planting space might be just one square foot. Plants grown this way are usually tall, like rosebushes and grape vines.
Before seeing these tiny plantings, I would not have thought that one or two square feet of space was enough. Now, I can easily imagine planting a tiny garden that nourishes one or two beloved plants.
I am not sure how the small-space plants grow so well with the limited surface area, for water to soak through to the roots. If I hadn’t seen so many plants grown this way, I would not believe that it could work!
Slightly larger “yards”, that have more bare ground, make use of vertical space, too. Trellises or poles set teepee-style support lanky plants. Pole beans, cucumbers, and tomatoes are in this group.
Small Garden Ideas for Containers
Not too surprisingly, the most abundant form of small gardens I’ve seen in Tuscany are container gardens. In densely populated parts of towns, I see more herbs and flowers in pots than vegetables.
One herb plant can produce a lot of flavorful leaves for use in the kitchen. This makes herbs a good crop-choice for a gardener whose space is limited.
Outside the historic centers, outside the city walls, people have slightly more space for gardening. This is where I have seen more vegetables and fruits (strawberries, lemons, pomegranates) growing in containers.
These container gardens usually hold just one kind of crop in each container. However, there may be several pots with flowers in them set nearby. The grouped-containers give the planting a sense of abundance.
In the U.S., I have seen more diverse single-pot plantings that provide a different visual effect, if that is important for your yard.
My time in Tuscany has helped me see container plants and their potential in a whole new way. Hopefully, the pictures here will provide other small-space gardeners with some useful ideas, too!