What are microgardens?

Microgardens are small production units that can yield a wide range of vegetables, roots and tubers, and condiments in small spaces, such as balconies, patios and rooftops. They fit the urban context and in refugee camps, where limited space and scarcity of water prevail.

Microgarden technology is a container-based growing system. The standard unit is a 1 m2 custom-built table, built from recovered wooden laths. It is lined with a polyethylene sheet to make it leakage proof. The design and materials used can be adapted to locally available supplies.


Around 815 million people suffer from chronic hunger and malnutrition, and more than half of them are in urban environments. An equally important number of people are suffering from overweight and obesity. An ever increasing number of people are living in refugee camps, fleeing cultural or political prosecutions or surviving climatic hazards and catastrophes. 

The microgardens mission is to improve the diet and livelihood of vulnerable communities in urban and periurban environment, at risk of malnutrition as a result of poverty and unbalanced diets. With microgardens, fresh and nutritious vegetables can be are produced at home to meet daily requirements for a healthy diet. FAO/WHO recommends daily consumption of 400 grams of fruit and vegetables. Yield surplus can be sold and generate modest income. 

Microgardens, a sustainable and environmentally friendly production technology 

Microgardens illustrate the principles of sustainable production intensification and diversification. They are a life example of the “Save and Grow” approach, to produce more with less. 

As compared to conventional gardening, microgardens need less space, less water, less soil, less pesticides, less physical effort, less weeding. Instead microgardens can produce more per unit of area, water, time and labour and can be practiced by everyone, almost everywhere. 

Ideally, microgardens are filled with fertile soil. Alternatively, substrates can be used as a substitute, such as rice hulls, peanut shells, wheat husks, sand, wood shavings, coconut coir, or cotton seed hulls. Substrate culture will require mineral soluble fertilizers, which are often expensive and not readily available. A viable alternative is to make compost.

Microgardening allows integrating horticulture production techniques with environmentally friendly practices suited to cities, such as household waste recycling for compost making and rainwater harvesting for irrigation. 

Compost can be made from kitchen waste. It enables to maintain the soil fertility of microgardens at no cost. From the garden to the kitchen and from the kitchen to the garden. Conventional composting bins, or lombricompost bins, easy to manage, can be operated at individual household level. 

Water availability and access is a common constraint in the urban environment of many cities and in refugee camps. Rainwater is free of charge and of excellent quality. A roof of 20 m2 can collect 2 000 litres of water from each 100 mm of rainfall. That is enough water and grow two microgardens of 1 m2 each throughout the year. 

Microgardens are a part of FAO’s Programme for Urban and Periurban Horticulture (UPH), which is a key component of the Food for the Cities initiative. The programme helps governments and city administrations to optimize policies, institutional frameworks and support services for UPH, to improve production and marketing systems, and to enhance the horticulture value chain.

Programme for Urban and Periurban Horticulture
Plant Production and Protection Division (AGP)
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
00153 Rome, Italy
[email protected]