Want to upgrade your balcony into a gardening oasis?! Our guest blogger Alice Glare will share her tips and tricks to transform your balcony into a private wonder-garden.
When you imagine a garden, the picture in your mind’s eye is probably on ground level. But gardens can exist anywhere there’s light, soil and water – so it’s time to throw these old ideas out the (apartment) window!
If you have a balcony that needs greening, now’s a perfect time to start growing some food. And with some of us in lockdown (again…), it’s the perfect time to hone your green thumbs.
Tear up your ground-gardening rule books, this is a whole different ball game. Welcome to sky-gardening, baby!
For any Melbournians out there, this is for you. A private garden is a valuable thing right now, so I hope these lessons gleaned from a Melbs balcony can help your foodie oasis come to life. Tick off your mental-health maintenance and apocalypse preparedness in one fell swoop. You got this!
A Pot Is Not A Pot
If plants could dream, balconies might be their nightmare! With all that wind, sun and concrete, balconies are drying places. Bigger pots are generally better because they dry out more slowly, and glazed terracotta or plastic is better than raw terracotta for the same reason. Pots with a built-in water reservoir can be a lifesaver in summer and, for bonus lockdown points, you can even make your own.
Think about ways to maximise your vertical space, for example growing several pots on a shelf, hanging pots from the railing or letting plants climb up a wall trellis.
Light and shade
Get to know what parts of your balcony are sunny at different times of day and in different seasons. Don’t be afraid to shuffle your pots around, particularly as the seasons change and the weather heats up. Keeping them well watered will help, but in really hot weather it can sometimes pay to just bring ’em inside! It’s not cheating, it’s survival.
Sometimes no matter how much you water your plant, the dirt refuses to soak and it gets thirsty. Are the garden gods against you? Nah, you’ve just got a classic case of hydrophobic dirt.
When potting mix dries out, the particles can form a waxy coating that repels water. Submerge the pot in a bucket of water/sink/bath to re-hydrate the mix. Leave to soak for a few hours until the wax breaks down (and your plant’s thirst is quenched) then drain and water as normal.
Just because it’s raining outside, doesn’t mean it’s raining on your sky-garden! Balconies often have a roof, which means the rain won’t fall directly on your plants and fully soak them. This means even in rainy winter months, you need to keep an eye on hydration levels.
Right Tools For the Job
Small watering cans are cute, but in summer you’ll be trekking to the tap multiple times to get enough. Know your own laziness level and consider investing in a big watering can, or a big bucket with a smaller watering can to dip in for refills. It’ll make the job easier, you’ll be more likely to actually do it and your plants are more likely stay alive.
Plant things you can keep picking rather than plants that culminate in one harvest. Big flavours will help get the most out of your small space – herbs are a classic, but cherry tomatoes, chillies and peppery leafy greens (e.g. rocket) are also winners.
What’s the point of a great balcony if you don’t have a place to sit with your plants, relax and marvel at your greatness!? Make sure there’s room for a comfy chair or two, so you can make a habit of being out there.