Space-challenged gardeners can still make a green statement with a few creative ideas that make the most of what they have.
Small balconies, patios, decks or even tiny backyards can be all transformed into a pleasant outdoor retreat. Adding color and vibrancy to your space without taking up too much room can be achieved with vertical planters, some well-placed pots and hanging baskets, clever use of lighting and colorful accessories.
Tom Balon of Vigoro Nursery has some tips to add flair and function to small spaces, as well as what to consider when sprucing up your outdoor oasis.
Watering is a prime consideration. Before putting in any plants, consider how you will get water to the plants, and drainage. An outside tap is ideal, but if you rely on watering cans consider how many trips will be needed to keep everything looking good.
“Remember, plants in pots are a different animal from those in the ground,” says Tom. “In a pot, the soil dries out faster and therefore any plant that may not require much water in the ground will require more in a pot.”
If you are dressing up a balcony space, think about safety. Ensure hanging plants and wall accessories are securely fastened. Also make sure that you are not putting too much weight on the balcony, and there is adequate drainage. “All pots need to drain,” says Tom, “but the result can be unsightly stains in any outdoor space.” Use a saucer or tray to catch the run-off water to prevent it from spilling on the floor – or on a neighbor below.
When choosing containers, in addition to considering appearance, take into account what the containers are made of, and their drainage. Tom says pots made of porous material, such as terra cotta, offer better drainage than plastic or other pots, which don’t allow any water to escape from the soil itself without a drain hole. “Drainage holes are needed,” he says. “Some may think to avoid spilling, plug the hole. Bad idea – the roots will simply stay too wet and, in most cases, rot.”
Create a sitting area
If there is enough space, treat your patio or balcony like another room. Use pots or decorations to create a sitting area, just as you would indoors. Decorate the walls, add some lighting and accessorize.
Sun and shade
Work with the conditions. If your balcony is on the sunny side, think about how to shade an area. If there is a bad view, screen it off with plants and a trellis. “Always choose plants based on the exposure though,” says Tom.
Fragrant plants can add an inviting touch to a small space. “Scented plants are really magical, and can bring a smile with just the scent,” says Tom.
Use vertical spaces
A good space-saving option is to use the vertical spaces on your balcony. “Especially in smaller spaces, perhaps with no room for pots, the walls are optional growing and decorating spaces too,” says Tom. There are vertical gardening accessories that can be purchased and assembled, and pots can also be hung on the wall. “Again, drainage and care need to be considered,” he says. “These things can be absolutely lovely, but they do have some maintenance to them.”
“The one obvious thing that will make a huge difference to any plant or garden – no matter the size – is regular love,” says Tom. Even if it’s just a few minutes, clean up, water and care for your garden – it will make all the difference.