Creating a balcony garden is an easy way to increase your curb appeal, and to green up an otherwise underutilized space. Many flowering annuals, bulbs, vegetables, herbs, and even small shrubs can survive quite well in containers and pots, serving as an invaluable addition to your balcony or outdoor space. They can be a focal point for entertaining guests and family, can provide you with fresh cuttings of herbs–think parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme–or maybe just aid in the creation of a quiet place for contemplation.
Whichever the case, here is a mini guide on how to create an urban balcony garden for your outdoor space in Denver.
1. Assess Your Outdoor Space
The first step in planning any balcony garden is assessing your site conditions. Ask yourself critical questions such as: 1. How much sunlight does the site receive? 2. Is is exposed or sheltered? 3. Will there be access to water for irrigating? 4. Is the area very shady, or vice versa, and at what times of the day? 5. Are there high rises nearby, or things that you may want to block out? Be sure to take note of all of these observations.
2. Brainstorm Ideas
Once you have performed a site evaluation, start your planning process by creating goals. It can be helpful to write out a list of objectives. What do you want this new space to achieve? Perhaps it is adding color and interest to your outdoor space. Maybe it is screening the view of the neighbors and providing more privacy. Or maybe you just want something low-maintenance to green up the area, and something that will bring you joy throughout the year. When it comes to designing an outdoor balcony, the possibilities are endless! Think back to the lists of site conditions and objectives that you made – these will inevitably dictate what you can plant and where.
Now, the fun begins! The actual work.
3. Choose Plant Containers
The first step in the installation process is selecting a proper container or pot. Plastic pots are low-maintenance, and lightweight so they are easy to move, but generally don’t give you the same aesthetics as would a ceramic or clay pot. Wood is a good option if you are on a budget, and there are endless other options to choose from such as metal, stone, and composite materials. As a general rule of thumb, stick to one theme, be it ceramic or metal or stone. Groupings of different materials tend to confuse the eye, so limit it to one or two types of containers, of varying sizes.
Fill your containers or pots with a high quality growing medium. Regular potting soil is fine, or if you want to give your plants a little extra boost, mix in some peat moss or compost. Before filling your pots, be sure they have proper drainage holes (if they don’t, you will have to drill holes). I like to place a few stones or gravel in the bottom of each pot so that the holes don’t get clogged. Remember, good drainage is key.
4. Select Your Plants
Need ideas for what to plant? Go back to your original list of objectives and site conditions to see what will be appropriate. Herbs are a terrific and low-maintenance option, especially if you like to cook with fresh ingredients. For the more adventurous, try growing vegetables such as tomatoes or salad greens. If you want to add color, annuals such as geraniums or salvias require little more than water, fertilizer, and dead-heading to encourage continual blooming.
If you have shade, try Begonias or Coleus. For the low-maintenance types, tall grasses such as Feather Reed Grass (Calamagrostis) and seasonal color changing Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) are easy to care for and have interesting flower heads in the fall. On the other end of the spectrum are the shrubs, such as dwarf Arbrovitae and Boxwood (Buxus), which have the added benefit of being evergreen. Be sure to source your material from a reputable local nursery – you may pay a little more than the big box stores, but you will get better service when it comes to asking for help, and your plant material will be of a higher quality too.
5. Organize & Maintain
Once you’ve potted your plants in the containers of your choosing, organize them accordingly. Make sure each plant is in a spot that will allow them to reach the most adequate amounts of sunlight or shade, depending on the plants needs. You can also arrange your containers in a way that adds volume and additional decor to your smaller outdoor space. In terms of maintenance, plants in containers need the same things that all other plants need – a proper amount of sunlight, adequate watering, occasional fertilizing, dead-heading when necessary, and good drainage. If you keep up with all these, your outdoor space will flourish!