More and more Australians are moving away from the traditional “Australian dream” of a home on a quarter acre block, in favour of apartment living. But downsizing doesn’t mean giving up on your love of nature or putting off your dream balcony garden.
If you’re living in a flat in a busy urban area or even a small house, creating a thriving balcony garden can add some foliage to you city-lifestyle. With the holidays around the corner, now is a great time to get your green thumb into gear.
Here are five tips for creating a beautiful garden in a small area.
Appraise your space
Before populating your balcony with plants or furniture, take a wander around your balcony to get the lay of the land. Things to check on include the direction and strength of the sunlight, how much wind your balcony gets and how much weight it can take.
A bit of detective work will determine the types of plants you buy and the kind of containers you are able to use (you don’t want large pots if your balcony won’t withstand the weight or if strata doesn’t allow it). If your balcony is particularly windy, setting up a windbreak may also be necessary.
Get your planting right
Once you’ve determined what types of plants you want to use, get your planting strategy in place. Don’t just use any old dirt, instead use potting soil which is light and designed for containers and top it with compost. If you have room for a worm farm, consider putting one in- doing this means your food scraps don’t have to go to landfill, and you’ll also have some awesome soil for you plants.
Don’t forget to group your plants according to their light and moisture needs – if they are sitting in windy areas they may need a little more TLC, and once a day watering in the summer. If you are using plastic or fibreglass pots, you can get away with watering less than if you are using terracotta.
When planning your garden, don’t be limited by the amount of floor space you have (or don’t have!). Hang some baskets or pots and use recycled plumbing pipes or palettes that can be attached to the wall. IF DIY isn’t your thing, buy pre-made mountable hanging gardens for maximum impact.
Also think about how you can use ladders and shelving to go up, rather than out – your sun loving plants can go up top, while those that are a bit more delicate can sit below.
Investigate urban farming
One of the benefits of having a backyard is being able to plant a vegetable garden, but just because you are working with a small space, doesn’t mean that you can’t grow your own fresh produce.
If your balcony is particularly small, or if you only have a windowsill, herbs are a fantastic option. Try planting parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme as your first foray into edible gardening. If you are more adventurous or have a little more room, you can grow tomatoes and carrots in pot and beans and snow peas on lattice. Garlic is another really useful veggie to add to your setup. It generally needs to be left in a pot for around eight months and needs a little water and some good quality soil to flourish.
Room for entertaining
Now your balcony isn’t only about what your growing, it’s also a place that you can sit in and enjoy or a place to entertain. Think about how you may use it and what kind of furniture you need – would an outdoor couch work, or would a table and chairs made it a nice breakfast nook?
Water features and other decorative items like fairy lights can add to the ambience and give you a much-needed space to enjoy the open air and escape the busy city streets.
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