I am an apartment dweller with a small area for a container garden. I was wondering what plants could be put together to get the most out of a small space?
A small space can still be highly productive, provided a few things are taken into consideration. The main issue is light, as the most common problem with small spaces is cramming in too many plants for the amount of light provided, or underestimating how large/tall many can grow to at maturity. Low light results in poor growth, tall, thin plants and a predisposition to disease. Small spaces with good lighting often suit a vertical system, where stackable pots or vertical grow tubes/towers are used to grow many more plants than could be housed in a single level. Vertical systems are suitable for small plants such as lettuce (try dwarf varieties such as Little Gem romaine or Tom Thumb butterhead), herbs, many baby salad greens, dwarf or tumbler tomatoes, dwarf chillies and pepper plants, strawberries and microgreens. Plants requiring the most light (tomatoes, peppers, basil and strawberries) should be positioned on the top and those requiring less light (lettuce, microgreens and many herbs) should be grown on the lower levels.
Another way to maximize the use of a small space is to place larger and taller plants on a trellis or wire/string training system at the back, perhaps against a wall for extra support, and grow smaller, plants requiring less light underneath these. Many different types of taller plants can be grown this way, including tomatoes, peppers, beans, peas, aubergine and cantaloupe, while smaller plants such as lettuce, Asian greens, herbs, salad crops, arugula, spinach, cress and even root crops such as radishes and baby carrots can be grown beneath. For a more exotic look, saffron, small flowering annuals or spring bulbs could also be grown at the feet of taller plants to add some color and fragrance while taking up minimal space. As an alternative, tall-growing, fragrant and colorful ornamentals such as sweet peas can be trellised up behind a shorter, compact crop of baby salad leaves and herbs, with small, trailing plants such as thyme or flowering lobelia cascading over the front of the container garden. Choosing dwarf, mini or compact varieties of plants and regular trimming will all help prevent a mini jungle from developing. So long as all plants receive sufficient light, air flow and nutrients and there is careful attention to plant spacing and density, a compact garden is highly rewarding and will brighten up any small space.