I am not sure if it is a result of a few of my formative years being spent attending a think tank for adolescents or if it is my penchant for conversation or even my inability to pay attention to anything for longer than about 3 minutes but I am a huge believe in stream of consciousness thinking. Some may call it going around your butt to get to your elbow. Others may call it taking the long road home. Whatever the case it is the exact method at which I arrive at most of my ideas and plans. And gardening as a tiny houser is no different.

So how does one get from tiny house to garden? Well, I’m glad you asked.

The foundation of the Tiny r(E)volution is stewardship. It is about being fiscally responsible, ecologically responsible, emotionally responsible, and relationally responsible. And somewhere between fiscally responsible and ecologically responsible is the idea of gardening and growing ones own food. It simply makes sense. It saves money on grocery bills while providing incredible sources of natural vitamins and minerals free of chemicals and pesticides. But then the questions arise. I live in a tiny house. I have no land. How do I grow a garden? This is the most logical point where my thoughts turn from traditional plot gardening to container gardening. Want the good news? Almost any vegetable that will grow in a typical backyard garden can also do well in a container. Some vegetables that are especially well-suited for container gardening are tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, bush beans, lettuce, spinach, summer squash, radishes, and herbs. In the right environment others are cabbage, kale, broccoli and cauliflower. See, here is the secret. You don’t need 40 acres or a tiller to garden. In fact, you need very little.

When deciding to abandon traditional gardening (for whatever reason) in lieu of container garden, you will need to think about many of the same things you’d be thinking about if you were gardening on a piece of land; healthy soil, sunlight, water, compost or fertilizer, and pest management. Of course, when container gardening, it is also important to consider what types of containers you will use. And so that is why I am listing below my Top 5 favorite ways to “container garden” when living in a tiny house.

A Planting Tower. Found on the The Casual Gardener blog written by my friend Shawna Coronado, the Planting Tower is a wonderful way to reuse old plastic containers or planters to create a cascading or ascending tower (depending on how you see the glass; half full or half empty) suitable for flowers, edibles, or almost anything in between. Shawna also has a great video tutorial on how to make a tower on your own. So if you are wanting to grow up next to a fence, on a porch post, or even against your tiny house, this is a great idea and an easy one as well!

Bucket ‘o Food. Another good friend of mine, Mike Canarsie, writes a full-on container gardening blog and because he lives in LA has a lot to say about non-conventional ways to grow your groceries. One of my favorite (and one of the easiest) is his self-watering container garden. Comprised of 5-gallon buckets the self-watering containers are both easy to find and easy to make. Use your imagination by spray painting the buckets (with no-VOC paint or non-toxic paint) and find a spot to “landscape” them in.

Painted Cans. Last season I decided we were going to try an herb garden using gallon sized cans that once stored green beans. We got dozens of the cans from a local church who had just hosted a seasonal meal and had lots of tins and cans to be discarded. I got the idea from Gayla Trail’s book, You Grow Girl. If it is edibles you want to grow you may not want to paint them as illustrated but rather peel off the label, soak them in warm, soapy water, and leave them a wonderful aluminum color. You can also use self-tapping screws to screw them onto a fence, into a wall, or just place them on a ledge!

Get Wooly! Perhaps though you want to bring some of that delicious, edible, life into your tiny house. Perhaps you have a wall just begging for some living art. I can’t think of a better way to have a kitchen herb garden or even some sweet, seasonal berries than by using a Living Wall Planter from WoolyPocket. These amazing, mountable pockets are ideal for plants for a few reasons. They are easy to hang. They are easy to water. (In fact, you just water the back panel with a wine bottle or a long spout watering can. The water then wicks down directly to the roots.) They are self-watering. They allow for strong roots. The pockets are eco-friendly (Made from 100% recycled plastic bottles; PET).

A Pallet of Green. Fern Richardson is a published author, a fantastic blogger, a crafty gal, and an amazing balcony gardener. It was from her Life On The Balcony that I first saw pallet gardens. A bit more difficult to put together but still quite affordable and easy for tiny house spaces, the pallet garden is good for almost anything; flowers and edibles alike. With just a bit of stapling, some soil conditioning, and, of course, some plant selection and you can have the biggest garden this size of tiny with almost no effort!


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23 Responses to “How-To garden in a tiny house”

  • Container gardening is awesome, and people in urban settings are often the most creative when it comes to reuse and re-purposing items for the garden.

    Great post!

  • Theresa Fox says:

    Your knack for thinking in a “stream of consciousness” is a gift that has served you well, as outlined by the simple, eco-friendly gardening ideas you graciously shared above. You have taken tattered treasures (old cans, buckets, wine bottles) and turned them in to not only useful, but also bountiful pillars of lush eating! I am sure you are aware of the USDA guidelines for “organic” gardeners and manufacturers. And if you are, I hope you are as disgusted as I am. I have found that the ONLY way to ensure that you and your family are eating truly chemical and pesticide free food is to grow it yourself. Let’s call to mind also the family time spent together (a dying tradition) embarking on home gardening, the stress management, and the plethora of exciting ideas you can put to use. I’d call this a win!

  • Kevin Gilkes says:

    Even though I live in a decent sized house with a postage stamp lot, we have a large area to plant our food, yet are always looking for many ways to go vertical and to plant in containers. As a matter of fact, we plant all our herbs in pots which are on our deck. It adds some color and worry free gardening. Great post!

  • Thank you so much Michael for the compliment. While I don’t live in an urban environment I do enjoy knowing how to garden in “tiny spaces” and I think the tiny house community has much to learn from urban and firescape gardeners.

  • Thank you Theresa! I do think in stream of consciousness. Did I peg it or what? HAHAHA. You raise some awesome points about gardening not just being about growing a few veggies but also about reinvesting in the family and spending some quality time together. As for the USDA? Smphhh. No comment at this time!

    Thank you Kevin. Do you have a website or something to show your plantings? I am always interested in seeing what folks are doing in their own yards!

  • Treva Brigman says:

    Even if you don’t live in a tiny house your “land” may be limited. Great idea, thanks.

  • Gardening in small spaces reap big rewards Andrew great article and inspiring for those that have been wanting to give it a try <|;-) Annie

  • Thank you for joining the conversation Treva. You are absolutely right. Tiny does not always mean a tiny house or even a balcony garden. It can sometimes mean a small neighborhood plot, etc. Growing up always makes sense to me!

    Glad you found the post Annie. Always great to hear from you. I consider you such an authority on good, solid, gardening!

  • I’m in love with all the ideas there are for small container gardening!! It’s so cool to be able to SHOW people images from folks that are living small, and still able to grow their own food. Even if that amount isn’t a huge amount.

  • You are so right Rachel. No garden is too small and no potential should go unrecognized. I have to say that where there is a will there is a blogger out there showing us to do it in great detail!

  • Patti Hausenfluck says:

    Thanks for your inspiration. I am following your advice this summer and for the first time ever I am “container gardening” I have containers of tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, yellow squash, jalapenos, okra, two kinds of lettuce, tomatoes and cilantro in my back yard. I am amazed and excited beyond measure to see the daily growth and I cannot wait to reap the rewards with lots of yummy meals.

  • YAY Patti! I love to hear that you are container gardening. We container garden even though we have ample land. I have a beautiful potted citrus on the porch right now. I look forward to seeing some pics of your yummy meals!

  • Murdocc says:

    I have been inspired of late to start my own garden. Week after week i cut grass and got nothing out of it. Last week we decided to convert a portion of our backyard into a 12×8 garden. I’m sure the college kids and neighbors think we are crazy but we went ahead anyway. I got tell ya, I really enjoyed tilling the yard and even having my 2 year old son eager to help daddy. Although i had no idea where to start our friends at Tiny r(E)volution gave me some simply advice. I visited a local farmer who gladly loaded my truck up with a mix of mushroom soil, cowpie and compost. It is coming together slowly but surely. We can’t wait to eat the fruits, or should I say “veggies” of our labor this summer.

  • Theresa says:

    I’ve tried container gardening in the past, but have had very mixed results. You’ve inspired me to try again this year!

  • Merete says:

    Great post! Applicable for city dwellers and apartment balcony/fire escape gardeners as well. I actually made one of the Shipping pallet gardens that you mention from Fern Richardson last summer and ate herbs from it all season. Love the idea, and the others you mention here. Thanks!

  • That is so awesome to hear Murdocc. Who cares what others say. You are taking care of your family and living a more friendly lifestyle. Keep it up. Oh, we are always here to help!

    I am so glad that we were able to inspire you again Theresa. I hope you have awesome results this time around.

    You are so welcome Merete. Thank YOU for stopping by and taking a second to comment.

  • jen says:

    @Murdocc – if you’d like to have even less grass to mow, you should check out Backyard Abundance. This particular site is run a local group in Iowa, but there may be something similar in your area. I’ve toured several of the yards this community has built and they are amazing little eco-systems that continually inspire me to do better with my own conservation efforts.


  • Our townhome doesn’t have much space for planting and it is always insprining for me to see how much can really get done in small spaces. It gets my brain thinking in new ways inside and outside of my home. Thanks for the ideas!

  • Mel says:

    I love to read all about people growing things…it seems it’s part of our dna almost, there is a happiness derived from it that is different from anything else.
    I too am adventuring a small container garden this year. My neighbors with families are doing larger gardens since we live in a rural area..But I am afraid of losing this right with the passage of the Healthcare Reform Bill…which will forbid us to grow our own food….now I have no political affiliation…..so lets enjoy it while we can….

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