Where to Squeeze More Plants Into a Busy Garden

You can always find more space if you're willing to think creatively.

Herbs and vegetables
fotolinchen / Getty Images

In gardens of any size, keen gardeners may bemoan the fact that they don't have much space left for new plants. 

Squeezing more plants into overcrowded garden beds or borders won't necessarily allow those plants to thrive. While relatively dense planting is often an excellent idea, introducing too much competition and too crowded an environment can do more harm than good.

But even when beds and borders seem full, you may still have space for plants that you might not have considered.

Thinking outside the box, you might be able to grow more food and other resources and obtain a higher yield. You might be able to boost biodiversity and do even more for wildlife. And you might be able to make your garden even more effective in a range of different ways.

Break Up Lawns and Paved Areas With Planting

raised vegetable garden beds

David Burton / Getty Images

First of all, one obvious way to incorporate more plants in your garden is to think about areas where there is a paucity of plants, or where plant diversity is lacking.

For example, if you have an area of grass lawn, you might break this up by incorporating new islands or peninsulas of planting within that area. You might even get rid of that lawn altogether and replace it with a native meadow or prairie planting scheme, a food forest, or other food-producing areas. There are many choices to replace a boring grass lawn.

Where there are large paved areas for driveways and patios on your property, if possible, you might break these up where they are excessive or not required and create new zones for planting. But even where you cannot do this, you might consider creating new raised beds and placing planters upon them to expand your plantable areas.

Consider Vertical Surfaces

Small potted herbs in a metal structure against a wall

Naomi Rahim / Getty Images

Another consideration to increase the number and variety of plants you are able to grow in your garden is vertical gardening. An idea typically embraced in small spaces, vertical gardening can work well in gardens of all sizes.

Look at the vertical space and think about the potential to grow up on vertical surfaces, as well as on any horizontal areas. This can really make a big difference in how many plants you are able to grow where you live.

Use Hanging Containers Above

Hanging Green Plant Pot From Roof
nalinratphi / Getty Images

Thinking upwards and using the space above our heads can also be a useful strategy when it comes to squeezing more plants into a garden. 

For example, there may be a lot of usable hanging space below jutting eaves, a porch, or pergola structure. Though you may have the odd hanging basket already, there could be potential to grow a lot more plants in hanging structures or hanging containers of some kind.

Plant Up Pathways

beautiful overgrown garden pathway

Antoninapotapenko / Getty Images

Even in very lush, full, and densely planted gardens, pathways will often represent a space free from plants. One interesting thing to consider is that this does not necessarily have to be the case. If you have a path with paving slabs or stones, the space between these can easily be filled with a range of low-growing ground cover plants.

Less trafficked areas might also have pathways that are entirely made up of plants. For example, I have white clover pathways through some of my forest garden to allow easy occasional access to certain areas.

Use Marginal Spaces

Whether you are planting in the ground or in pots or planters, there are many small spaces suitable for plants that you may have overlooked.

A front step, the edge of a driveway, the space beside or behind a garden shed—if you choose the right plants, then you can often find the right species for even the most seemingly problematic of edge spaces and marginal areas.

More is not always more, of course. But in a garden, there are benefits to planting as densely and diversely as possible.

Just remember that some more marginal areas may be best left for nature to plant, rather than being planted by you. Squeezing in more plants is not always about making your own selections; sometimes it is about letting nature take the reins. There are times when we just need to step back and let diverse plant life arrive.