By Catherine Winter
A shortage of outdoor space doesn’t mean you can’t grow a ton of food! It just means that you need to choose compact varieties that offer a big yield in a small area. These mini and dwarf varieties are ideal for patios, balconies, rooftops, and teensy yards.
1. Miniature White Cucumbers
Cucumbers are delicious, but they can take up a lot of garden space. These miniature white cukes are tinier than the average variety, and can be trained to climb up trellises. (They also make really pretty pickles. Just sayin’…)
2. Minibel Tomatoes
These are some of the cutest tomatoes I’ve ever seen. They’re even smaller than cherry or grape tomatoes, and they grow on little bushes that don’t need any kind of support.
Like tomato topiaries!
3. Tom Thumb Peas
Not only are these heirloom pea plants super-compact (growing to only 8 or 9 inches tall) they’re also frost-tolerant, and ripen in 50-55 days. Perfect for tucking into small spaces, or growing in window boxes.
4. White Scallop Squash
Summer squash doesn’t get much better than this. If you love squash, try this miniature heirloom variety, which has been grown by Native Americans for centuries. It was first depicted by settlers in the mid 1500s!
5. Tennis Ball Lettuce
Small in size, but big on flavour, this Butterhead-type lettuce only grows to about 6 inches in diameter, making it perfect for small gardens. These would thrive in gutter gardens and allotments, and mature fully in just over 50 days.
6. Dwarf Nasturtiums
Not only are these little nasturtiums absolutely gorgeous, they’re also delicious. The leaves and orange, pink, and yellow blooms can be added to salads or just snacked on directly.
Bonus: plant them alongside your cukes to fend off dreaded cucumber beetles.
7. Grazia Arugula
These tiny little leaves pack a LOT of peppery punch into each bite. Similar in size to wild arugula, it’s a slow-growing variety that tolerates heat and frost quite well. Just note that the flavour is very fiery, so brace yourself.
8. Red Core Chantenay Carrots
Believe it or not, carrots do quite well in container gardens. These little jewels only grow a few inches in length, making them ideal to cultivate in smaller spaces. They have bright red cores, mature in 60-65 days, and are delicious in soups.
9. Dwarf Green Curled Kale
Packed with flavour, but small in stature, this dwarf kale has compact, frilly leaves that are surprisingly tender, even when mature. It’s an heirloom variety from northern Germany, making it particularly frost-hardy—ideal for Canadian and northern US zones.
10. Thai Lavender Frog Egg Eggplant
I had no idea eggplant could be so adorable. These little eggplants from Thailand grow no larger than a cherry tomato, and are packed with flavour. Even better, they yield abundantly, and mature in about 80 days.
If you’re interested in trying out some other interesting varieties, check out the following articles:
Low-Maintenance Food Plants for Novice (or Reluctant) Gardeners
All photos © Baker Creek, High Mowing Seeds, and Unsplash Creative Commons