From Berlin to Bangalore, backyard-deprived urban dwellers are using every spare inch of space to grow gardens on terraces and rooftops while others are pooling talents and resources to set up and manage community gardens.
Set Up Your Space
Before you can think about planting, you have to consider how much room and light you have. This will determine what kind of container can house your garden, and help you decide what kind of plants you can grow.
Some are lucky enough to have a little outdoor space, but the rest of us will have to make do. Here are a few creative suggestions for saving space - and your wallet.
Get The Stuff You’ll Need
You really don’t need all that much. Basically, a planter of some kind – be it a pottery or wood container – some soil, and depending on what you want to plant, some seedlings, plants or seeds and possibly some fertiliser. Talk to your local plant nursery specialist and tell them your goals – they’ll help you select what you need – or check useful sites like this for extra tips.
Learn Basic Gardening Terms
First, you need to know a wee bit about different kinds of plants to buy. These terms are the most basic ones to familiarise yourself with:
Annuals These plants complete their lifespan in a single season, then may need to be replanted. A “Hardy Annual” is set outdoors in spring, for example, and may lie dormant during winter, then revive in the springtime.
Biennials These plants thrive over two seasons. If outside, they’re planted in summer and will produce stems and leaves in season one before flowering the following season.
Climber These are plants like ivy or roses that can attach to an upright structure, such as a trellis, wall, or fence. These are great for balconies.
Hardy A hardy plant is one which is not affected by frosts or cold weather.
Perennial A perennial is a non-wood plant that flowers every year, retreating over winter and re-growing the following spring. Geraniums are a good example. These will live for years in a garden or window box.
Select What To Plant
Where you’re planting will determine what you can plant.
For example, these plants can grow with little light, in cool areas:
snapdragons * daisies * parsley * lemon balm * hosta * impatiens * wax begonia
Whereas these plants do well in warm, sunny areas:
marigolds * lavender * peppers * rosemary * thyme * jasmine * honeysuckle * tomatoes
Not all plants are the same size, so they won’t all be planted at the same depth. General rule? Plant a bulb or seedling three times as deep as its height – but note that this guideline will vary depending on your soil type and the plant in question. It’s always a good idea to check the guidelines on the plant packaging (if there is any).
Make The Window Box of Your Dreams
You can follow these tips for an outdoor garden of any kind – even the teeniest ‘garden’, the window box! To make a gorgeous box, first ensure it’s safely fastened to something, or is on a ledge that it definitely won’t fall off – it could literally kill someone below it! Also be sure to buy a window box with holes drilled at the bottom for drainage. Determine whether your window is shady or sunny, then:
Add enough compost and good potting soil around the plants so they sit firmly.
Pack in the plant seedlings that are appropriate for the light you have – don’t be afraid to pack them in! More plants look lusher and prettier than a bunch of stragglers, and you can always pull a few out if they get too crowded and replant them elsewhere.
Some great choices that can bloom for ages are geraniums, lavender, mini cedar trees and ivy.
For herbs, try growing sage, chives, thyme, and mint – these are quite hardy. Cilantro, parsley and basil can be more delicate and prone to pests.
Make sure to water and fertilize often – but never, ever overwater! Plants can be saved from under watering, but once they’re over watered, roots rot and the plant dies, even if there are drainage holes.
Just check the soil every other day or so – if you stick your finger in 1 knuckle and it’s dry, it’s time to add a bit of water.
Don’t be afraid to replace plants that have finished blooming with others.
If you leave the box out in winter, fill it with evergreens, flowering cabbage, pansies or violas.