Monday, May 11

Episode 2: Seven Tips on How to Design your Tiny Balcony!

I decided to use my fountain as a planter 

Tip One: Decide what your design priority is. Are you a plant addict and want to fill the whole space with plants, or do you have another usage for the space?  One big question is if you want some kind of seating. Even in a small space, it is possible to have a tiny chair, bench, or stool to rest or enjoy your tiny garden. In my case, my design priory is my dog. I wanted a place to let him go to potty if I can't walk him for some reason, I also wanted a secure play area for my rabbit. My top considerations were safety of the balcony for my pets and privacy. 

I used shade-tolerant plants

Tip Two: Commit to an overall garden theme. This is important even in a small space like a tiny balcony, but unlike a large balcony, it takes a lot less to make a big impact. Accessories that can add to the theme of your balcony include pots, screens, types of plants, lights, and other garden accessories. I decided on a zen kind of look with the bamboo fence and an old fountain that I decided to plant in just because it was too heavy to use as a fountain on my tiny balcony walls.

Coleus add summer-long color via their leaves

Tip Three: Realize that you will make mistakes that can easily be fixed quickly on a tiny balcony. So don't worry if something does not look right.  For example, I decided to try some of those grow bags that are popular now. I ordered them in a green color that I ended up hating. They also took up more space than I had planned. Every time I went out to work on the balcony it would bother me so I replaced them with simple, and cheap black nursery pots. Another mistake I made was with the grass, but that is another post for another episode.

Small succulents that were given to me by a neighbor

Tip Four: Create a plant list and be realistic about how many plants you need'. It is a tiny balcony so you can't plant everything you want. Think about which plants you really like, their space requirements, and your design theme. Your budget is also an important consideration. Make sure to carry that list with you as you never know when you will spot a great plant. Yes, small plants and varieties make sense in a tiny balcony garden but don't disregard the strong statement a few larger plants or a miniature tree can make.

Headboard used as a trellis for hanging and climbing plants

Tip Five: Use what you have on hand for garden accents and decorations instead of spending money. Do you have any cups or bowls that can be used as pots? You will be surprised what you can come up with. I just completed a big move and had a headboard that I did not have a place for. I turned it sideways against a wall to hang a few hanging pots and will train a climber on it.

A hanging basket planted with  Inpatients

Tip Six: There is more space than you think if you get creative. Think about using your vertical space like walls where you can add hanging plants or climbers.  Can you use the ceiling for hanging plants?
Can you add pots to the walls? Also, make sure you know exactly how much space you have by measuring before you buy plants or seating. 

Potted annuals and perennials

Tip Seven:  Be patient. Even a tiny balcony garden needs time to grow and mature. Such is the case with my garden. The plants are just now growing so it is not what the garden will look like in another month or so. For the next episode, I will talk about what I am growing. Do you have a tiny balcony? If so how do you use it?

Tuesday, March 10

Episode 1: Gardening on a Tiny Balcony-Deciding what to do

You know that saying 'life just happens?' Well,  like many other gardeners I have had to downsize and give up what I considered a good-sized garden. I was just about to bask in the sun, kicking up my feet and gazing at my finished rose garden when 'Life happened' and I moved into an apartment with a tiny 4ft by 4ft balcony. Some people call them a Julliette Balcony. 

Laying down sod

Yes, that is grass sod going down on the floor of the balcony for my sweet dog. He and I are getting older and after 2am pee trips are now out of the question.  I bought the sod from a company selling it for dogs. The idea is that you get the sod delivered every week or so. I don't know what I was expecting, but a heavy piece of sod did not come to mind. I did not see anything special about the sod other than the fact that it came with a warning not to water it. I laid the sod over a sheet for now until I get a better idea. I did purchase a tray with the same company that came a week later. I found the sod impossible to lift at that point so  I replaced it a second time.  However, that was against my best judgment as I found the quality sketchy and just too darn expensive. I found some DIY projects by googling it.  Right now I am re-seeding with grass right over their sod. Buying two small stepping stones is on my list of future projects so I do not step on the grass.

Bamboo privacy fence with lights in the evening

The next project was creating privacy and safety. I just did not feel grounded with the open railings as I am 5 flights up and I have a health condition where my balance is off. Not to mention that I have a free-roaming rabbit. I got the fencing at Lowes for under $30. It only took one roll to enclose the space. I secured the bamboo with jewelry wire that I had on hand. I can still look out but all three sides are fenced in. I think long zip ties would work a little better. Then I added two cords of garden lights from Fred Meyers. You can just use fairy light, but I didn't have any at home anymore, I ended up spending more for the lights than I wanted to even though they were on sale. Each set was around $20. 
You can see one of my Clematis in the corner
I knew I had to go with light containers for plants so I ordered these grow bags from Amazon. It was a set of 5 for under $20.  Those would be the bring kelly green bags that you see in the photo. Oh, how I regret not sticking to the traditional black ones in a smaller size. These are so big that you could plant a tree in them. No space for a tree on my tiny balcony. I also bought a few gray pots and window boxes that were on sale from Fred Meyers. Yep! they don't match too well, but I am thinking that when the plants or the "stars" of the balcony appears, no one will notice what they are in. If I have the time I could also re-pot everything My tip is to decide on your colors beforehand and make sure not to buy these items to early when selection is poor.

Gray window boxes
One of my earlier projects was to decide what  I am growing, and the theme of the garden. I will discuss this in detail in the next few weeks.
But for now, you should know that  I am mostly sticking to edible plants due to my rabbit using the space sometimes. I might be able to get away with some non-edibles if I place them high up on the bamboo. I potted up two early flowering Clematis vines that will climb up the bamboo. One is white and the other is Peach. Clematis like their roots to be a  bit damp but their tops in the sun, That is what I have always read about them in gardening books. They can stand a little shade. I hope so because the privacy fence does change the light level from intense sun to hot shade.  Before I bought any plants I made a plant list. With a tiny balcony, you cannot overbuy plants. You really have to limit your selection too. Research plants growing habits,  but don't be scared to break the rules. And do not be tempted to shop early in the season when they are just putting out plants. Wait until your selection is greater. 

Close up of light and wall grow bags
Another growing area is the wall next to the back door. It's a challenging wall because I can't use nails or screws on it. They put some kind of tile on the wall.  I bought some wall grow bags in black and planted Strawberries for now, but I have a feeling it will be too shady. I attached the bags with those plastic hangers that don't leave a mark, but they fell down after a day. Only one set of the wall grow bags remain up. I had to move the others onto the privacy fence by tieing them with garden twine. They were under $20 for all 4 wall grow bags sections with 6 grow pockets from Amazon. I will see how they work out this summer.

I will attach the fountain to the wall

Yes, it is a mess right now as I am still putting together the structure of the small balcony garden.  It's a bit embarrassing, but I think it will come together and you will be surprised. In the photo, you can see an old fountain that I would like to mount on that wall, but I wonder if it is just too big and heavy. What do you think? Other tasks include more planting, shopping or making the small stepping stones and even more if it warms up. Stay tuned in for more updates and video clips of my progress.

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