Balconies in Bloom

Photo: Stock Image.

Photo: Stock Image.

Do you live in an apartment or have a small patio or balcony that needs some cheering up? Gardening can be a little overwhelming for a beginner and if you are tight for planting space it is sometimes hard to know where to start. Here are some easy suggestions and tips for going green in the city!

Primroses are great for some immediate and inexpensive colour. They can be picked up cheaply in multiple trays or individual pots at most local hardware stores and gardening shops. Put in a lightly shaded area and watch out for slugs.

Geraniums are mercifully resilient and smell lovely in the sunshine. Try a potted Lemon Geranium on an indoor window ledge for a free and natural air freshener. Outdoors, they work best with full sun in the morning and part shade in the afternoon.

Bee Kind! To help the plight of the endangered Irish Bee, grow some Nasturtiums for an eco-friendly nectar ‘pit stop’. The edible flowers also make a delicious peppery garnish in a salad.

African Violets have a pretty purple flower and can be easily grown indoors or in balcony containers. Tip: Use room temperature water and try to avoid wetting the leaves while watering as it can cause spotting. Bright and indirect sunlight is ideal.

A slightly lazy, but more sociable option is to ask any green-thumbed friends or relatives to give you some off-shoots and clippings from their own gardens, these donations usually come with sound advice and care instructions as an added bonus.

Rosemary, Thyme, Sage, Parsley, Chives and Mint are all hardy herbs that will do well in a window box or pot. They also offer cheap, organic flavour to your cooking and the mint might come in handy for a spontaneous mojito on a rare sunny evening!

If you like the sound of eating what you grow, you can take it up a notch, both literally and figuratively. Vertical gardening is ideal for balconies and small patios – set up hanging baskets or stacked units to grow Tomatoes, Runner Beans, and Peas.

Use bamboo or wire trellis frames to create support for the plant as the veggies start to grow. Watch them carefully and pick off any extra shoots that may start sprouting. Too many shoots will dilute the plant’s nutrients and energy and will be counter-productive for small-scale growing. Pick a few strong shoots and focus on them for a small but healthy crop.

Containers and pots will dry out quicker than a flower bed would and will need regular watering, so put a reminder post-it on your fridge: ‘WATER THE PLANTS!’ Morning and evening are the best times to water; avoid doing it in the mid-day sun and if you have space for a water butt try to collect some rain water (dare I mention water charges!).

If it all sounds a bit too much, start off slow with this fail-safe option – English Ivy is easy to grow in containers and almost impossible to kill. A great candidate for running up a trellis or in a hanging basket, it will add a splash of guaranteed green to your outdoor space. If grown indoors it also cleans the air of formaldehyde, benzene and carbon monoxide. You can’t ask for much more than that!

By Caoimhe Fox