The College Housewife » lifestyle » How to grow a small vegetable and herb garden

How to grow a small vegetable and herb garden

Tips and tricks to growing a small vegetable and herb garden in a small space or backyard. Everything from planters, tools, and what you need to start your own small garden whether it’s a small backyard or tiny patio!

Standing in vegetable and herb garden in backyard

What do you need to start a small garden?!

Well, if we’re being transparent with each other this is my small vegetable and herb garden guide to you from one plant novice to another, okay?!

I’m just as scared of overwatering or killing off my tomatoes as you are. BUT! I will give you some insight and tricks I’ve learned along the way during year 2 of my gardening adventures. I was thrilled to see how many people were interested on insta stories in my little vegetable and herb garden experiments. 

You will be pleasantly surprised at just how much you can grow in a small space! I have dreams of having a huge garden like Meryl Streep in It’s Complicated but for right now I feel like I’m taking full advantage of my small backyard. This year we are growing lemon cucumbers, zucchinis, jalapeños, bell peppers, tomatoes, basil, rosemary and more! 

If you’re wondering what my Friday afternoons have been looking like these days, pretty much like this with a margarita or fun frozen cocktail!


Holding a pea plant in a vegetable garden

Standing in a vegetable herb garden in the backyard.

Choose your yard, patio, balcony, or outdoor location!

Whether you have a decent sized backyard or just a small apartment balcony, you can totally grow some vegetables and herbs! Just be sure that whether you’re using small pots or larger standing planters that the location has plenty of sun coverage.

Most herbs and veggies thrive on full sun during the day (6+ hours or more). I chose to plant most of my planters up against the fence in hopes to help cover it (mostly because I think it’s ugly). This spot is also covered by my sprinklers and receives a bit of water when then go off. This is great because if I forget to water for a day or two I’m usually covered. 

Vegetable garden in backyard.

Pick out your planting pots and containers…

Before picking out your planters just give your space a quick measure so you have a ballpark figure on how much you can buy. I saved my bigger DIY planter boxes for vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini so they have more space to grow. My herbs are planted in the smaller pots on the fence shelves.

Herbs can usually stay thriving in a small container but you will need your veggies to have a bit of depth for roots to grow. The best part is, the planters for most vegetables don’t need to be huge! Think vertical!

Vegetable garden in backyard.

What vegetables can you grow in a small garden?


Easy vegetables that can grow in large pots (10-12 inches deep) and moderately sized planters are: 

Tomatoes, peas, bell peppers, chili peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, Japanese eggplant, lettuce, spinach, strawberries, carrots, rainbow chard, onions, beans and more!

Just be sure to buy some kind of tomato cage apparatus or lattice to allow the veggies to train upwards instead of spreading wide. 

Holding bell-pepper plant

Should I use starter plants or seeds?

Total transparency: I’ve never tried to plant anything from ‘seed’. This takes a bit more time and patience, two of the things I don’t have a whole lot of. Come April I have the planting bug and all of the starter herbs and vegetables are usually 5 for $15 at Home Depot.

I also love using starter plants because they are a bit stronger than plants from seed, which means they might be a bit easier to keep alive. The biggest con of using starter plants is seeds are WAY cheaper. 

Pea plant growing up lattice.


What is the difference between potting soil and potting mix?

A question I asked myself literally every time I went to Home Depot. Besides my two larger planters, mostly everything I have planted is in moderate size planters (with potting mix) that don’t take up a ton of soil.

The biggest difference between potting soil and potting mix is the texture of the soil and the price. Potting soil is the cheaper option and usually is a much denser soil. This can mean that water can become trapped in the dirt often making for a heavier, water-logged foundation for plants. If you plan on planting anything delicate like herbs I would make sure you top few inches is definitely potting mix so that the dirt can breath better. For filling up larger planters the bottom half will do find with potting soil. 

Holding a pea plant in a garden planter.

Resources I used while building up my small backyard garden: 

Season Planting Calendar

Small Space Gardening

Vegetables for Beginners


Vertical Gardens

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Garden Necessities 

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Garden Utility

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Garden Outfit

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