If you’ve been daydreaming about having a delicious pocket of a green garden for yourself, a little oasis of living goodness right in your tiny apartment, here are a few tips to get you going.
Get to Know Your Balcony
Your balcony is a microclimate which can only support a certain type of ecosystem. Depending on the height your balcony is at, it can be hotter, and windier. Many balconies also face extreme conditions, like high intensity winds, since they are open and unprotected at a height. South facing balconies receive most sunlight and heat. In a largely tropical country like India, this can be a bad things for your plants which can get dried out very easily. North facing spaces receive the least light, and while this can be a refreshing spot to hang out on summer evenings, this may not be the best spot for plants which need lots of sunlight all year round. East and West facing balconies, then, receive intensities of light somewhere in between.
Plants as Flatmates
Living with plants is an active commitment to share your space with living, life giving organisms. This is a symbiotic relationship- bringing plants into your home, which is not their natural habitat, requires you to take care of them. Most plants just require some tough love to be the lush oxygen suppliers of the world. Obsessive pampering and over watering often results in dead plants with spoilt roots. If this is the first time you’re sharing your space with plants, it’s a good idea to take it slow. No need to go overboard with large numbers of infeasible purchases fuelled solely by a distant dream about a picture perfect herb garden. Play it safe, research a little, and stick with plants that seem well suited to your balcony’s microclimate. This way, you’ll organically find out what works depending on the amount of time you can spend on your plants. If you find that you’re a natural at it, you might just end up with a full blown farm if you give it some time!
Different plants to different microclimatic conditions. Money plants, and shade loving creepers and flora for north facing balconies. Mint, lavender, tulsi and similar shrubs for east and north-east facing spaces. Bougainvillea, and succulents are best suited to arid, south facing spaces. It’s important to measure your balcony space before choosing plants, since it should be able to accommodate the plants even after they reach their full size.
How many hours of sunlight does the space get? How windy can it get on your balcony? Wind dries up plants exponentially. How far is it to the nearest water source? You can’t be lugging around enormous buckets of water to quench some water-sucking large pots. Delhi balconies are exposed to frequent dust storms in the summer months, which delicate herbs might not be able to withstand. However, you don’t have to be limited by the hostile conditions of your balcony. There are ways to work around issues like wind. Installing a drip irrigation system is one way to go about it!
The great thing about gardening is that there are great options for every budget. So you don’t have the money to buy fancy planters, turn your old shoes in creative, cute planters, then!
Lookout For Pests!
There really is no such thing as a no-maintenance plant. Most plants will require a little more loving over good water and light. Weed out your pots and plants regularly to keep them healthy. Better than clearing out an infested pot later on! Also important to regularly cut off infected or dead leaves and other debris, so that the rest of the plant remains healthy.
Plants confined to pots are likely to use up the nutrients in the soil, leaving it barren. It’s a good to opt for organic ways, like vermicompost, to fertilize your soil, instead of chemical fertilizers. Especially applicable to herbs and edibles, you don’t want to be eating harmful heavy metals in your meals! While it’s easy to acquire some good quality vermicompost at affordable prices, one hassle free solution would be to be leave coffee grounds and egg shells.These will take some time to compost directly into your soil, but gradually increase the soil’s fertility.
Regularize your watering habits
Like I said before, having plants is an active commitment. It’s so easy to kill plants, inspite of having done your research and everything. Regularising your watering patterns helps plants thrive better than when exposed to unpredictable moisture levels!
Know When To Give Up
In the course of your gardening experiences, you are likely to kill some plants. It’s quite normal, and natural, even the most experienced gardens kill more plants even as they grow more. When your potted plant is showing signs of decay, it makes sense to give up earlier, since pots naturally increase the chance of root rot. You can cut back dramatically and hope what remians can grow back to its old glory, or just deconstruct plant and use it for manure.
If you’ve come all this way trying to grow a cool balcony garden I’m sure you were considering it serve as a leafy escape from the world. When installing outdoor furniture, don’t forget to pick comfortable, loungy seating options as this is something that gets overlooked over and over! In a mad rush to find hardy, outdoor furniture that also looks good, its quite easy to miss out on the finer points, like comfortable upholstery. Opt for breathy, organic fabrics that are easy to wash.