1. Go Vertical
Not every balcony is created equal! Some are big, some are small, but it’s not about the size… It’s how you use it! Save the precious floor space for furniture, the BBQ or the dog house and utilise the wasted vertical space. Even the smallest balcony could have up to 7.5m2 of unused wall space (that’s a 1.5-metre deep balcony with a standard 2.4-metre ceiling height, both sides).
The options for vertical hanging gardens are endless, from fully integrated setups with irrigation down to simple wall mounted plastic pots, you’ll be sure to find a suitable option for your budget.
Don’t forget to plant appropriately for the aspect. Remember, a balcony is usually designed to be quite shady, so you may need to carefully consider which plants will grow in part to fully shaded positions. Also, consider the potential seasonal change, they can also become heat traps and can burn sensitive plants.
2. Just add water
One of the reasons water features are left out of large scale garden design is availability of power, lighting and water close by. It’s just all too hard to get an electrician and potentially a plumber in. A balcony is a different story, particularly when using fully enclosed water features like the Iva Jar Fountain. Literally, just add water! (and a bit of power). Most balconies have easy access to power, which can run both an enclosed pump and any lighting you may wish to add to really make it pop! These systems house everything you need in a small footprint and just need topping up from a watering can every few weeks.
3. Pot it up
Plant a range of plant types in a range of pot styles. An eclectic collection of sizes, colours and textures mixed with a broad range of plant types makes for a striking feature.
Use colourful pots in varying sizes, placed in mass to create the feeling of a deep lush garden bed. Using the same methods employed in garden beds, you can underplant larger shrubs all placed around a larger feature tree/plant. Plant with a theme in mind. Have you ever read the real estate section on the weekend and dreamt of your very own “tropical escape in the suburbs” or “English cottage garden”? Well forget the flashy marketing jargon, you can too plant your own themed potted gardenless garden on your balcony!
4. Keep in clean
Living in an apartment building, townhouse or close to your neighbours can sometimes mean you can’t whip out the Kärcher and high pressure clean your balcony space. Well perhaps you can, but you might make some very close enemies!
Plants need water and dirt to live and together this makes… mud! Not to mention any access water can lead to moss and mould growth on porous surfaces like a concrete balcony. So it’s always better to select pots that come with a dish. A dish will collect any excess water that runs through the potting mixture when watering and provided you’re not over watering, will feed back up to the plant through the mix by capillary action, or evaporate away. In the long run, this should isolate any mess to the dish which can be occasionally cleaned in the laundry tub keeping your downstairs neighbours happy!
An hour once a month should be plenty of time to get out with a set of snips and trim back any wilting, dried or dead dropped leaves, keeping everything tidy and presentable.
5. Add comfy seating
After planting out your pots, hanging your green wall or installing your new water feature, you’re going to want to enjoy it! Make sure you leave ample room to squeeze in some comfy seating to enjoy your evening shandy. If you’ve got a comfortable spot to sit, you’ll be more likely to use your balcony regularly. Match some trendy plastic chairs in bright colours to your pots and planted flowers.
6. Upcycle, all the cool kids are doing it!
You can literally plant in almost anything! All the ‘vessel’ requires is a space to hold some potting media and a hole for drainage. Milk crates, jars, bottles, vintage watering cans even disused pallets sourced from the skip on nearby urban construction sites can all work as planters. Think outside the pot.
Sorry, we mean the media, the potting media that is! Potting up new plants can be a messy business, but if you do it with the right gear, you’ll need to do it less frequently. Like everything in this world, you get what you pay for! All (most) bagged potting mixes available will meet the Australian Standards for a potting medium (AS 3743-2003). But remember, the Australian Standards are a benchmark, some just meet it, others dominate it!
eCo-Environments Bioganic Earth Specialist Growing Media is the cream of the crop. With speciality mixes for a variety of applications including Green Walls, podiums and containers and vegetable and ornamental potted plants, your plants will thrive!
Other top performers include Premium Potting Mix from Rocky Point, it’s loaded up with all the good stuff to get your new plants off to a great start including slow release fertilisers, wetting agents, organic compost and zeolite.
The basic potting mixes available at your supermarket and big box stores are still usable potting mixes but remember, the more you spend at the start the less you will need to spend later. Those slow release fertilisers keep your plants healthy and thriving for longer ensuring minimal fuss for at least 12-months.
What’s better than a lawn? One you don’t need to mow… and your neighbours will be happy you’re not out on your balcony mowing it every Saturday morning that’s for sure! Adding grass (even if it is fake) will give the area an undeniable garden like feel.
Artificial turf has come a long way since your younger years of playing cricket on a fake grass covered concrete pitch on a hot summers morning. With long piles, mixed colours (blue & green hues) and even brown under thatch incorporated, you can hardly tell the difference!
Add your comfy chair, a cool drink and some warm summer sun and you could be sitting in the gardens of a tropical escape somewhere in the south pacific.