Creating a Balcony Garden

Landscape Gardening is not limited to large, open gardens. Recently, more and more urban dwellers have decided to give it a go. This is great and there’s absolutely no reason why you cannot create a garden in a smaller space. Balcony gardens are particularly popular, with city slickers growing vegetables, fruits and flowers on their small bit of space. Here are some tips.

Plan Ahead

It’s important to establish a few things before going ahead and planting. First of all ask yourself the following questions;

  • Which way does your balcony face?
  • Does it get a lot of direct sun throughout the day, or is it fairly sheltered?
  • What is the climate like where you live?
  • How much space are you willing to use for gardening?
  • Do you want to grow food or flowers?

With these questions answered you’ll have a much better idea as to which plants you should buy. For example, if you only have a tiny space, it’s no good buying plants that grow huge as they will take over! If your balcony doesn’t get much sunlight, avoid sun loving plants like tomatoes.

Containers & Making The Most of Your Space

In a balcony garden, containers are essential. Flower pots, trays, sacks and troughs can all be used depending on what you want to grow. Ensure all containers are able to drain. Place bricks under ground pots to raise them up. As space is no doubt limited, considering vertical gardening. Select plants that don’t need an awful lot of space to grow and place your containers one above the other. Cable ties can be used to secure containers on rails, or shelves can be used. Hanging baskets are fantastic and climbing plants can look beautiful entwined on a trellis or railing.

Plants & Crops

Pretty much any plant can be grown on your balcony. Some favorites include:

  • Potatoes – grown in a sack;
  • Nasturtiums – In a hanging basket or trailing a rail;
  • Hanging tomatoes;
  • Peppers;
  • Carrots and radishes in shallow troughs stacked vertically;
  • Marigolds for organic pest control;
  • Various types of Herbs;
  • Jasmine, for a wonderful smell;
  • Climbing beans.

Four Fun Family Gardening Projects

The garden can be the social hub for your family, and not only in summer. It can be enjoyed all year round and there’s always something to do!

Create a Vegetable Patch

Enjoying the fruits (or vegetables, literally) of your labor is incredibly rewarding. It’s a great way to get your kids interested in the garden and eating their greens as well! Get them involved from the very beginning, turning the soil and sowing seeds. It’s bound to keep them interested and it’s a great chance to get their hands dirty without getting in trouble. As the weeks go by, water your crops together and enjoy watching them growing. You can even create a separate section that is their responsibility. It’s a great experience for kids that teaches patience and an appreciation of the world outside!

Redesign Your Garden

If your garden is looking a bit neglected and you’re looking to breathe some life into it, get your kids involved and get their take on garden design! After you spring clean your garden together, get the sketchpads out and design your family’s perfect garden. The great thing about starting from scratch is that you can create a garden unique to your family, with something that appeals to every member!

Birdwatching

Rather than just waiting for the birds to come to you and your family, encourage them in with some great projects. A simple, hanging bird feeder can be made from a milk carton and bamboo. Create a bird bath with three different sized flowerpots stacked one on top of the other with a terracotta saucer placed on top. The kids will surely enjoy painting these in bright colors!

Growing Sunflowers

Sunflowers are great for kids to grow with minimal supervision. They grow fast and they grow tall. It’s great when they become taller than your kids! Once the flower dies, don’t fear. Show your kids how to let the seeds dry out in the sun, before harvesting them. Or roast them up and enjoy a tasty, healthy, homemade snack!

Creating a Pet-Friendly Garden

Many pet lovers fear that they must choose one or the other. A beautiful garden or their pets. With proper forward planning and a little know-how, this need not be the case. You can create a fantastic garden that can be enjoyed by both you and your furry friends.

Go With the Flow

Monitor your pet’s behavior in the garden and go with it. If there are areas they like to run on, keep it clear for them to do so. Create corridors along their current tracks, with hardy shrubs on either side. If you have a dog that enjoys digging, create a designated area for it. This can be hidden with tall grasses.

Materials

Try to avoid gravel if you have cats, who may mistake it for a litter box. Wood chips, paving stones and brick paths are great for keeping your pet’s feet clean. A fence is the best way to keep dogs inside your garden. Consider making a window in the fence, allowing your dog to rub noses with passing friends.

Boundaries

There will be some areas you’ll want to prevent your pets from entering. This will come down to training, mostly, but strategically placed prickly shrubs, boulders and hedges can do the trick. If you plan to grow your own crops, use raised beds, edged with preventative plants.

Pet Friendly Areas

Animals value their territory. Provide specific areas, such as a cattery. Include hardy, urine resistant plants such as Spirea shrubs. For cats, large flat rocks will allow them to enjoy the sun, while long grasses will tend to their hunting instincts. Sheltered shelves and scratch posts are also a great idea. A source of running water will benefit both cats and dogs, but stray away from ponds.

Select Your Plants Wisely

Avoid the following plants, which can be toxic to cats and dogs.

  • White lilies;
  • Foxgloves;
  • Azaleas;
  • The onion family;
  • Potatoes;
  • Tomatoes;
  • Certain fruit trees.

There is a far more extensive list and it is essential you check it out before planting! Finally, use only organic pest control methods in your garden.

Organic Pest Control Methods

A beautiful garden is the ideal place to relax and enjoy life in. But there are a great many pests out there intent on turning your tranquil safe place into a buzzing hive. They’re also fanatic about destroying your beautiful plants. What can you do to prevent them from coming near your garden without resorting to chemicals?

Encourage The Good, Repel The Bad

Certain types of bugs are essential to the ecosystem of a garden. Bees and ladybugs are prime examples, but they are not the only insects you should be welcoming. By growing certain plants you will encourage many bugs to inhabit your garden, many of which will feed on the bad bugs. A professional Landscape Gardener will typically use the following plants to create a healthy ecosystem.

  • Herbs: Dill, yarrow and parsley can all be used to effectively attract beneficial bugs such as bees and wasps.
  • Marigolds are easy to grow and repel a number of animals (including deer) and bugs, both above and below ground. The ultimate in organic pest control!
  • Nasturtiums, besides being edible and delicious, also attract pollinators. They’re typically used to divert aphids, slugs and butterflies from your other crops.

Organic Sprays

If pests persist, you can always treat your plants with the following organic sprays. These are easy to make at home and are cheaper and safer than chemical sprays.

  • Mix a few drops of natural liquid soap with one tablespoon of canola oil. Add this to quart of water and mix well. Spray on onto plants to deter aphids and mites. For a more potent mix, substitute the oil for hot sauce or chili powder and let stand overnight.
  • Neem Oil has been used for centuries by Native Americans as pest control. It works by confusing bugs and adjusting their hormones. Eventually, they will “forget” to eat and starve. The oil can also suffocate aphids and soft bodied mites. Mix one tablespoon of Neem oil with a touch of natural soap and a quart of water. Apply as a spray but beware: it takes time for it to work.

The Life of a Landscape Gardener

Most people don’t really know what exactly it is that a Landscape Gardener does. Is it just a glorified term for a groundskeeper? Or are they the guys that build labyrinths? Well, to answer the question, they do a bit of anything and everything garden-related. Landscape Gardeners are responsible for both the design and practical completion of a successful garden.

Design

Most jobs begin with a meeting with the client. It’s important to spend time with them and discuss thoroughly what they want. It’s worth taking a notepad and writing down the key points, measurements and rough sketches for later use. The more information you get from the client, the better your designs will be for them.

Unleash The Creativity

Armed with the client’s brief and your own notes, it’s time to sketch out some initial ideas. They’ll normally make a detailed plan as well as some sketches showcasing the potential finished garden. During this stage, it’s important to think about what plants are best for the space and what plants will work together to create a harmonious ecosystem. Once the designs are complete, it’s time to show the whole lot to the client. If all is well and they’re happy with your ideas, you can then move on and make it a reality. The client sometimes wishes to make some alterations and occasionally you’ll have to go back to the drawing board.

Get Cracking!

With the plans in place and the client happy, it’s time to get stuck in. A Landscape Gardener is not only a designer. Oh no, they’ve got to be happy to get their hands dirty! They will be familiar with long days and hard work, do anything from planting trees to erecting fences and building rockeries. They are also responsible for buying materials and renting equipment if necessary. A thorough knowledge of plants is essential as well as practical skills such as wood working. For larger spaces a team will help complete the work, but for private gardens it’s not unusual for the Landscape Gardener to do everything alone.

Growing Edible Flowers

Short on space and not sure whether to grow food crops or flowers? You can have the best of both worlds and create a gourmet garden. Flowers have been appearing on the menus of various cultures around the world for thousands of years. Now you can easily grow your own!

Chive Flowers

These purple beauties are excellent in a salad and have a light taste similar to onion. They look wonderful in the garden and on the plate. Being easy to grow, they’re a popular choice. Simply grow chives as normal but wait until it has flowered before harvesting. Of course, you can leave them in the garden to act as a natural pest repellent as well.

Nasturtiums

A great plant to have in the garden for its pest control powers as well as the beautiful leaves and flowers. This super plant can be trained to climb or it looks fantastic cascading from a hanging basket. The taste is peppery, similar to cress and both leaves and flowers can be added to salads or cooked meals.

Zucchini Flowers

These big yellow flowers are great for stuffing. They’re crisp and delicious and can also be deep fried. Wait until the male flower has pollinated the female flower in order to grow zucchinis as well. In fact, nearly all members of the squash family produce edible flowers, from cucumbers to watermelons.

Chrysanthemums

This is a great flower to grow if your garden enjoys a lot of sunlight. They’re bold and beautiful and come in many colors and varieties. The taste ranges from spicy to smokey pungent, not unlike radish. They can be used to give a salad or rice dishes a little extra kick. Just use them sparingly as they can overwhelm the other flavors if you’re not careful!

Other edible flowers such as Borage are great for decorating cocktails. Create fancy ice cubes by freezing Rose petals with water or garnish a gin and tonic with lavender to impart its unique taste!

Grow A Garden For Your Chickens

While raising chickens can be hard work, there are several benefits.

  • Each day you’ll be rewarded with delicious, fresh eggs, the taste of which does not compare to shop bought eggs.
  • Besides providing great eggs, chickens are an endless supply of excellent fertilizer. When mixed with compost, chicken litter will give your soil the boost it craves.
  • Finally, they provide excellent pest control. They love to feast on the bugs that love to feast on your plants.

That’s what chickens can do for you each day, so what can you do for your chickens?

Give Them a Good Home

Happy chickens produce more eggs. Keeping a chicken happy is relatively easy. Keep them safe and with plenty of space to roam. When buying a chicken coop, consider how many chickens you have and be sure there is space enough for them. There are many styles available and you can even make your own. A chicken coop and garden shed combo can be very useful for those short on space. An outdoor space to roam and a shelter is basically all they need, though a separate area for egg laying is a nice touch. Straw bedding should be changed regularly (it can go straight onto the compost).

Keep Them Well Fed

You can feed chickens from your own garden rather than relying on commercial chicken feed. You could even consider reserving a separate patch for your chicken crops!

  • Berries are a favorite and the bushes are easy to grow.
  • Sunflowers grow fast and chickens love the whole plant.
  • Herbs such as basil, parsley and fennel are tasty – even for them!
  • Nasturtiums attract certain bugs that chickens love to eat, but are also edible.
  • They also love kale, spinach and lettuce.
  • Tomatoes are a favorite.
  • Garlic gets gobbled up quickly and boosts their immune system.
  • Broccoli is full of nutrients and also doesn’t last long!
  • Ground oyster and egg shells provide calcium.

Be sure to leave some grit or coarse sand for the chickens to aid with their digestion when eating larger foods, as they have no teeth!

Decorating Your Garden

Leaving a garden unfurnished is like leaving your house empty. With the groundwork done and your plants thriving, it’s well worth adding a few finishing touches to your garden. From functional outdoors furniture to stylish planters, it’s these touches that allow you to put your stamp on your personal green space. If you’re stuck, here a few ideas;

A Colorful Garden

If you want to create a bright, vibrant, family friendly garden, invest in some tins of bright, non toxic paint and brighten up some everyday objects. Old car tires, desks and boots can all be painted and used as planters. Half tires can be mounted on walls, or full ones can be stacked on the ground. Colored boots can be kept on the ground or attached to a fence. Why leave the rocks grey and boring? These too can be painted and even used as vegetable markers! The kids are bound to have fun painting the garden furniture!

The Rustic Look

An old fashioned wishing well looks great in any rustic garden. Log benches and tables surrounded by trees and ivy are both functional and beautiful. Why not create a log cabin summer house, or a rustic garden shed? Old wooden wagon wheels and barrels can be used as simple decoration or to house plants. Tree stumps can also be put to good use as stools or hollowed out to make planters.

Slick and Stylish

Modern garden furniture comes in many varieties to suit all tastes. Pick tables and chairs that match your personality and the space available. Minimalist water features add a sense of tranquility and look great at the same time. A raised decked area is a fantastic place to relax with friends and can become complete with the addition of a hot tub! Place elegant statues and ornaments among your plants to liven things up a bit.