An oasis on your balcony

Your little slice of balcony heaven

A balcony garden is a great way to introduce nature into your life. Aside from the visual aesthetics, they provide a regular dose of fresh air into your home – quite literally, through photosynthesis. Beyond that, multiple studies have demonstrated that engagement with plants helps improve our creativity, productivity and general sense of wellbeing. In addition, the presence of houseplants can also help to regulate humidity, which will do wonders to your skin and complexion. However, if you are uncertain about how to get started on a garden balcony project, we’ve prepared some tips below to help you get going.

Size, Space and Layout

Before starting on your balcony project, please make sure that you are allowed to have one in the first place. If you are staying in your own property, check with your flat management or homeowner association. If you are renting, please also check your lease or rental agreement. Next, calculate the available area, down to the inch. Use chalk or masking tape to outline the boundary of your garden. Then measure the dimensions using a measuring tape. Don’t forget to measure the height of the balcony wall and ceiling as well, since it will be useful if you decide to built a trellis or shelf. Once this is complete, sketch a simple layout of your planned garden. Factor in the watering path, as well as a space to work inside. This will help you to better visualise the plants, pots and racks required to complete your vision, as well estimate a budget. Save a small area to store your gardening tools and other garden accessories.

Type of plants

Choosing the right type of plants is the key to a successful balcony garden. Sure, you can grow practically anything in your garden, but many will wither away and die from the heat of the sun, malnutrition, wind, temperature, etc. Other consideration when choosing your plants is colour, fragrance, growth duration and height at maturity.To save you some time, we’ve prepared a few suggestions that will be a perfect fit for most moderate climates.

The foundation

Your foundation should be heliotrope and coleus. These are bushy plants with relatively wide leaves that will grow no more than a metre tall at full maturity. They will serve as the garden wall, and protect more delicate plants inside. During blooming time, the heliotrope will produce beautiful purple flowers, while the coleus will chip in with pinkish flowers. Even on their own, these two plants can be used to make fine gardens. If your balcony requires further protection, please consider a few pots of ferns. They are hardy, and give your garden a burst of green throughout the year.

The stars of the show

These plants will make your garden look like a million bucks. However, don’t overdo it on the beauty front – your choices must also be somewhat hardy and low maintenance. Speaking of low maintenance, marigold should be high on your list. It is a quick bloomer that requires very little maintenance. Its scent also naturally repels insects, whiteflies and bugs. Its flowers bloom into gorgeous yellow suns, so you might need shades to look at them (not really). Other low maintenance, but equally gorgeous, showstoppers are portaluca, with flowers ranging from white to hot pink, and verbena, with bright red starburst flowers. To further enhance the explosion of colours, consider coral bells. This hardy perennial’s dark maroon leaves will serve as a great background for all the colours in your garden.

Hanging baskets and racks

Every great show needs supporting actors, and it’s no different for your balcony. Not only will baskets and potted plants on racks give your garden added depth and complexity, they will also carry their own weight. Fuchsia, a short and bushy perennial with small green leaves and striking red flowers, will provide the garden with variety throughout the year. If it’s hung up in baskets, the leaves and flowers might even trail down the edges of the basket for a more rustic look. Clematis, meanwhile, is a creeper which can cover the steel and wood of racks and walls to boost the authentic feel of any space. Our suggestions are neither exhaustive nor definitive, so please spend time looking at other options. Talk to your nursery guru to learn about plants which will thrive in your local climate.

Setting up your balcony garden

Once you have all the fine details in place, you can begin to set up your balcony. Do not make the mistake of setting everything up at one go. Plans rarely translate perfectly from paper to the real world. By doing things in stages, you will be able to modify the layout gradually to optimise the garden.The foundation section is the best place to start, and will provide protection to the other plants once they’ve settled in. Keep your pots and flower beds at a distance to take into account future growth. This will also give you enough space to water, trim and re-fertilise them. Keep an eye for the excess water flow – make sure they are funnelled into the balcony’s drainpipes. Once everything has been set up to completion, you have to maintain the plants. Water them regularly, look out for shadows blocking sunlight from smaller plants, and be vigilant against pest infestation. Be wary of any allergic reactions to family members and neighbours – some people can be affected by the scents and spores of flowers.

In return for all your hard work, your balcony garden will make your life richer, healthier and generally more pleasant. That’s a fair trade-off, right?

Balcony gardening