With urban living at an all-time high of 55 percent of the world’s population, the dream of growing a lush green garden seems like a fading distant memory. According to a report from the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs, more than half the world’s population is currently living in an urban area or city, with figures that are expected to rise to 68 percent over the coming decades.
As we shift into an urban designed world, the need for greener pastures has never been more necessary. We see real jungles replaced with concrete jungles, leaving very little room for mother nature, and yet we find ourselves constantly trying to incorporate plants and gardens into our lives. In a bid to adapt with our changing environment, urban and small-space gardeners have developed simple and easy-to-maintain gardens designed for balconies, patios, concrete and paved areas.
Whether you are confined to a balcony, patio, concrete or other paved areas, it’s time to put the gloves on and define your space with these 4 simple garden ideas.
Grow a garden using patio pots and planters
Living in an apartment with the balcony as your only outdoor space can be quite difficult to grow a garden. Even trying to implement a raised garden bed seems impossible. But your green thumb adventures does not have to end there. Patio planters and other gardening containers are the perfect choice for those who are limited to a balcony or a small patio space. The containers come in all shapes and sizes allowing you to customise the best fit for your space. They are also easy to relocate for seasonal changes and can be moved if weather conditions aren’t ideal.
Step 1 – Choosing the right pot for your patio
- Plastic containers are cheap, lightweight and widely available, making it easy to move around as well as cheap to replace. However, darker colours absorb more heat in the sun causing it to dry out and break easier. Plastic also has a higher environmental impact.
- Terra Cotta containers are a lot sturdier and often come in beautiful decorative designs. However, they absorb water and have a high tendency to dry out the soil, may crack if soil is left in pots throughout winter, and can be quite heavy to lift and move.
- Wood containers are a natural option with a low environmental impact that comes in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, or you can build your own.
- Upcycled containers are an excellent choice for recycling old containers and often is free! You may need to drill holes at the bottom for drainage purposes.
Step 2 – Preparing your pot with the right soil
Unlike a traditional garden, pot plants don’t have the opportunity to stretch their roots deep into the ground for nutrients and water. They require a lighter more aerated soil with sufficient drainage in order to thrive.
- Make sure the pot you have chosen has drainage holes for the water to escape.
- Fill each pot with 2 inches of gardening coir to help conserve water, improve soil structure and retain nutrients. Alternatively, you can use gardening gravel that helps improve drainage and aeration of the soil.
- Add soil just above the halfway mark. Make sure to use potting soil as it is lighter and improves water drainage.
- Elevate your pots to ensure excess water can pass. Even if the container has holes, being placed flat onto the pavement or concrete may prevent the water from leaking out.
- Add fertiliser, compost, or manure tea to your watering schedule as your pot plants don’t have the same access to nutrients as a traditional garden.
Step 3 – Choosing ideal pot plants
The perks of patio planters are being able to mix and match from a wide variety of plants. Recent trends have shown that more and more people are choosing to grow their own vegetables, creating a sustainable food source in an urban environment. Some pot plants to consider:
Lettuce works well in shallow containers such as a window box and requires semi-shade.
Tomatoes require a 5-gallon pot or bushel basket. Can be grown in conjunction with other vegetables if a trelli is attached.
Herbs including basil, thyme, oregano, chives, rosemary, or sage all adapt well to containers.
Strawberries are great all year round, choosing from everbearing or day-neutral varieties. Ensure to keep strawberries in a sheltered location over the winter, refresh the soil in subsequent years, and prune where necessary.
Beans are the perfect pot companion to other vegetables as a vine plant on a trelli. Beans require full sun.
Petunias are the perfect candidates for balconies and look great in hanging baskets, providing a colourful bloom throughout spring, summer and autumn. Petunias are a tough plant and can survive rain, hail or shine.
Frangipanis are a great choice as they can thrive in a pot on a sunny balcony. Because they are easy to propagate and take cuttings from, you can have plenty of them in a short amount of time. They need sufficient drainage and require regular re-potting.
Geraniums are extremely popular in Australian garden beds but also work well in container pots or hanging baskets on balconies. They are heat-tolerant and prefer morning sun and afternoon shade.
Grow a vertical garden
Vertical gardens or also known as green walls are an excellent choice for those who lack space and still want all the perks of a garden. They typically come in 3 different forms and can be placed on balconies, fences or any type of trelli:
- Green facades are a system that focus more on vines and climbing plants combined with cascading ground covers. This develops a green wall with consideration to ambient climate, choice of species, depth of soil, orientation, and the plants required nutrition.
- Living walls tend to support a greater variety and density of plant species, and will usually display a lush mixture of ground covers, ferns, low shrubs and perennial plants such as strawberries.
- Retaining living walls have been designed to stabilize a slope while supporting the vegetation contained in its structure which can include lipstick plants and ferns.
Grow a raised garden bed on concrete
Depending on the amount of space you have, a raised garden bed can be virtually installed on top of any inhospitable surface including concrete, aggregate, liquid limestone or pavers. The benefits of a raised garden bed is that they are able to provide ample gardening space at a reasonable price and are as versatile as pots and containers.
Whether you D.I.Y or purchase a raised garden bed kit, you need to make sure you have permission to construct one if your in an apartment, have sufficient drainage, and be vigilant of staining. Some important points to consider:
- It is crucial that your raised garden bed is placed in a location where it is exposed to at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight a day.
- A vegetable garden will typically require around 16-18 inches of soil, including at least 2 inches of gravel at the bottom to help with drainage.
- After you have installed your raised garden bed, monitor the surrounding area for any leakage. Any water leakage that runs off from under the bed will be brown and can eventually stain the concrete if left to dry. Make sure to not overwater, cover them in winter, and ensure the soil has enough organic matter and nutrients for maximum absorption.
Add a greenhouse to your landscape
Miniature moveable greenhouses is another excellent option for those who are keen on cultivating vegetables or flowers. It provides a small shelter giving your plants every chances of thriving by mimicking a natural environment. By being fully enclosed, a greenhouse provides protection from harsh weather as well as pesky insects that may affect your plants growth. Depending on the types of plants you have chosen, ensure that there is ample sunlight and shade when needed. Some plants to consider include tomatoes, lettuce, melons, strawberries, oregano and squash.
Despite the world gravitating towards an urban concrete jungle, it is evident that our love for nature trumps all.
We are constantly finding ways to integrate plants into our lives, whether it be indoor plants at home or in the office, living walls on commercial buildings, to simply owning a few pot plants in the backyard.
If you don’t know where to start, have a look at some software that are meant to help you design your outdoor and visualise what you’re after.
There is a green thumb inside all of us. For all things that are landscaping, contact the professionals at Integrity Concrete for advice on flowerbeds, reticulation, soakwells, and earthworks.