Just because you don’t have bountiful backyard, doesn’t mean you can’t start your own garden. Whether you live in a NYC apartment and still want to provide your own salads or you just don’t want to do the back-breaking work of digging up a sizeable plot in your suburban backyard, you have many options for a modestly sized yet functional botanical paradise.
You may be thinking you’re destined to ugly white five gallon buckets to hold your little green babies, but think again. You’ll have to get a little creative to create your small-space garden, but that’s half the fun. The other half is enjoying the amazing miniature nature scene you’ve crafted from a combination of everyday objects and out of the ordinary repurposed pieces. Without further ado, here are the top ten things you’ll need to get started on your perfect patio garden:
1- Containers – there are way more choices for holding your plants than you may think:
- Pallet: If you can get your hands on one (you can often get these from retailers for low or no cost, or go trash-picking!) you can lean it up against the wall or fence and use the holes to contain your dirt.
- Over-the-door shoe holder: You know the ones with the plastic pockets, just fasten it to the wall and fill the pockets with your dirt and seeds or seedlings.
- Glass jars: Who doesn’t have a few of these hanging around? If you don’t have enough, try asking around or hitting up FreeCycle. Fasten them to a board and hang it up – they make perfectly sized pots for your plants.
- Rain gutters: This is a fantastically artsy idea, and as a bonus it’s easy to drill holes in the bottom as a drainage system.
2- Soil – you’ve got to use a well-draining, nutrient-rich soil. A mix with Perlite is a good choice, and most garden centers carry potting soils that are enriched with fertilizer, so that your plants get what they need since they aren’t going to be getting the natural elements available in the ground. You will still want to fertilize from time to time with something like Miracle-Gro.
3- Sunshine – before you decide how to set up your patio or balcony garden, observe the sun throughout an entire day to see its pattern of exposure. Most plants need to be placed in the location that gets the largest amount of time with direct sunlight.
4- Plants – decide between flowers, vegetables, or a combination of both. Herbs are a great choice for a container garden because they don’t require large pots and they’re functional too. Giving you fresh, delicious flavorings to use in your cooking. Beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers are also good options and if you have a few larger containers – they require less than 18” of soil depth each. Any of these plants can be grown from seeds or purchased seedlings.
5- Gloves – you might think of these as optional, but once you’ve had to dig moist dirt out from under your fingernails, you’ll probably change your mind.
6- Trowel – this small, pointed shovel is invaluable in maintaining and working with your patio plants. It doesn’t just come in handy for scooping soil into your containers, you can also use it to loosen the soil if it becomes compacted inside your pots. This is important because container plants need sufficient airflow and room for water to move through.
7- Watering can – unless you have a hose within reach you will want a good sturdy watering can, a gallon size is good, to easily keep your plants moist and happy. Choose one with fine holes, as smaller plants are more delicate and you don’t want to crush them with a huge gush of H2O.
8- String or sticks – many container plants, like tomatoes, need support as they grow taller. Cages are made for this purpose but they take up a lot of room. A simple dowel stuck in the soil with twine or string tied around it can do a fine job.
9- Spray bottle – many plants, like lettuce, enjoy an occasional misting. You can also use the bottle to apply a solution of water with about a teaspoon of dish soap to deter or wash away pesky little insects, so they don’t eat away at your precious hard work.
10- Creativity – you might have to stack your plants on a rack or move them around occasionally to make sure they get enough sunlight. Flexibility is key – there’s virtually no patio garden problem that doesn’t have a workable solution, so be ready to think outside the box.
Consider a water garden – all you need is a container that’s large enough to hold a couple plants and an area that gets six hours of sunshine per day. Your local nursery can help you choose appropriate plants like tall grasses or water flowers.
Use a French riddling rack to grow your salad – fill it with lettuce, strawberries, and herbs rather than wine bottles. How does the soil stay put? With plastic fencing and coconut fibers strapped to the back. Talk about creative!
The important thing is to have fun playing around with options, and filling your balcony or patio with plants that bring you joy. Happy gardening!