Small Space Gardening: containers, raised beds or courtyard setting

Summer is coming to an end and here in Auckland we are limited with our water — please attach a trigger nozzle to your garden hose so that you don’t waste a single drop.

I’m getting asked this question: “What’s the priority in the garden right now?”

My tips are primarily to protect the soil — it sounds counterintuitive, but I’m advising to leave the weeds in place until you have good strong plants to replace them.

What can you use as mulch? Have you got nicely aged leaves you can use to protect your soil? I’ve been putting some beautiful aged horse manure around the garden, along with some freshly finished biodynamic compost.

The newest project here in the Blue Borage home garden has been the three bed trial:

  1. The first bed has an in-ground worm farm, so it’s getting a constant supply of gentle food.
  2. The second bed gets a good dose of biodynamic CPP once or twice a month. Once at the start of the descending moon phase, and then again any time I put new plants in, just to help with any transplant shock.
  3. The third bed is getting nothing but water. Any time I top up the soil, all three beds get an identical mix of material from around the garden, so I’m not expecting this third bed to look neglected for quite some time. It’s good soil here!

What’s your small garden like?

If you have limited planting area, then it can be a good idea to grow upwards using a frame or trellis. Fast growing beans or peas would work right now.

Here are a few ideas for a small garden right now:

  • Herbs: Coriander, Basil, Dill, Thyme, Sage, Parsley
  • Lettuces, Asian greens, celery & kohlrabi.
  • Spring Onions, radishes, leeks, beetroot, onions.
  • Flowers: Cornflower, Sunflowers, Alyssum, Geraniums, Chamomile, Sweet Peas, Calendula, Borage (there are so many flowers to choose from, too many to list here)

Choosing plants for a garden is an ongoing conversation, and I encourage my clients to start a garden journal, to keep lists of what they want to grow, along with records of what grows well each year. As you gain confidence, it’ll become a reference to remind you which tasks need doing each month.

Here are a few photos of the small gardens I tend to give you some ideas:

1. The Auckland Women’s Centre: Three raised beds with a mixture of herbs, flowers, and some edibles.

2. The ‘Townhouse Edible Garden’ in my backyard (3.6m x 1.1m)

Another mix of edibles, flowers and herbs — this combination is a great way to attract bees and feed the soil.

3. Raised beds at a client’s house.

These are mostly edibles, with just the calendula there as an edible flower. I’m getting ready to remove some of the parsley from this bed — to make space for a wider variety of edibles. Something that’s a bit of a trap with this sized garden is the way plants are sold in punnets with six all the same together. A garden this size only really needs on or two of each plant.

Foodscaping Online Course

There are so many ways to plan your garden — I explore some of my favourites in this online course, called Foodscaping. More information here. If you’d like a taster of the course, go have a look at Lesson One, which is set up for you to access as a free preview.

If raised beds aren’t an option, then how about some lovely containers? I love how the Icebreaker garden looks so tidy, with four planters laid out side by side.

Small gardens can be SO satisfying, and there is a huge advantage in small spaces: you don’t need to devote much time to their upkeep! Get in touch if you’d like advice on how to transition your space into the next season, or take a look at the full range of online courses.

For ideas on gardening in your workplace, here’s another story on that topic.


Ideas for innovative edible gardening solutions using biodynamic methods to make ‘soil with soul’ is what New Zealand needs right now. For tips, advice and online courses go to or get in touch by email at

Compost Coach based in Titirangi, West Auckland, New Zealand. Using biodynamics to help home gardeners make top quality soil.