The first thing any gardener has to do when planning a garden is to measure the space there is available. This is particularly important when planning a kitchen container garden for when space is limited greater care has to be taken to make sure every bit is used to the best advantage.
Whether the space is large or small two fundamental rules apply: all the elements of garden must be easily reachable, and there must be a clear plan to the area. These may seem too elementary, even unnecessary, but planning involves simple things, such as allowing space to walk out of the back door, making sure you can reach all the containers to water them, allowing access to an outside tap, and checking the position of any windows so that growing plants will not obstruct the light. It is surprising how often such practicalities are forgotten.
If your container garden is a window box or a small balcony then there is usually little choice about how the space can be organized and used.
If the container garden is on a patio or roof garden then you have to think about all the likely uses for the space. Is it used for eating out in the summer or sunbathing? Is it an extra room? Do the family sit there? How much competition for the space is there between the gardening and non-gardening members of the family?
Raised beds and potagers
Once these questions have been answered you can decide, for instance, whether there is room for a raised bed around a patio area or whether the patio is large enough to create a miniature potager kitchen garden with small formal beds of herbs and vegetables.
Raised beds have a number of advantages: they are more easily reached by the elderly and disabled; they provide a garden with the large containers that are necessary if permanent trees and shrubs are to be grown; and they give a container garden more substance. If you plan to build one remember to allow space between the container and the walls of the house otherwise the damp course would be damaged. Similarly, if you want to constuct a potager take care not to interfere with the drains or mains supplies to the house or flat.
The vertical dimension
Height and different levels are another important consideration. Are you surrounded by a wall or trellis? Can you position containers so that you can grow climbing plants that will screen you from view? Is there sufficient wall space to grow trees and shrubs? Have you got walls that will support wall pots? Might it be possible to plan arches or pergolas to cover a seating area with vines or other climbing plants? Two essential points in all garden design are access and surprise. No garden should give up its secrets at once, try and achieve a dynamic practical flow, that carries you round the area however small.