Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Gardening Article: Balcony Gardening

Have you ever come across an idea and thought, "Where has this been all my life?" Having lived in various apartments for over ten years, my gardening has always been limited to a few sad rosemary and basil plants by the kitchen sink. When a friend mentioned vertical gardens, I was blown away. My tiny balcony suddenly can be more than bicycle storage. Below are the steps I followed to create my own vertical garden; however, there is a lot of room for creativity in this sort of project so you can use my instructions as guidelines.
Getting Started
First, I gathered the basic materials. Many tools were lying around the house: screws, screwdriver and a few extra shelves. Then I had to hit the hardware store for a screen, two-by-fours, a large piece of plywood for backing, and a big bag of soil. Finally, I chose some flower buds, though many people use climbing plants like ivy for fuller coverage, I prefer flowers. Fortunately, previous tenants had mounted storage racks to the brick balcony wall, so all I needed were some new brackets to hang my garden.
Building the Garden
I decided to start with a relatively small frame -- about two feet by three feet. Even having seen pictures of a vertical garden in action, I found it hard to believe that all that dirt would stay put! I used long screws to build the frame, and then cut out the screen to the size of the frame, adding an inch around the edges. I attached the screen with intermittent screws, though a stapler would probably have worked just as well, and poured in most of the soil. The trick is to pack it as tightly as possible before flipping the frame to tack on the back, which I learned through a messy trial and error.
​Plant away
Finally, all that remained was to press the buds into the garden. I widened a few of the squares and dug small holes with the end of a pencil, then pushed my buds through. I watered it, just a little, and mounted the whole frame to the wall. A few extra shelves are holding gardening supplies for now, and maybe eventually potted plants. Within a few weeks, the flowers really started to bloom. I showed anyone who came over, even the person who delivered my bag of broken tile pieces for a little mosaic pattern around the frame.
I would definitely suggest that anyone considering this project approach it with a lot of patience. It took some guessing and checking to figure out the hardiest plants and the amount of watering needed to have my vertical garden really thrive. However, in combination with one of those hanging tomato plants, my balcony is now a source of beauty and lunch, instead of an eyesore. With my relocated basil and tomatoes I can make a pretty mean caprese salad, and enjoy it by a flowering garden. Not a bad way to spend the afternoon.

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About the author: Along with writing and gardening, Kristine likes to jog, watch bad TV and paint.

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