Every problem is an opportunity
Possessing your own green space in London is becoming an increasingly difficult feat to achieve. As housing prices skyrocket and rampant development and commercial expansion continue, even having an outdoor space at all is simply not a reality for the majority of newer homeowners.
However, there are outdoor spaces that are multiplying fast across the capital: Balconies. These pockets of space are becoming a standard for new-build apartments in the city and, given their relative availability and accessibility, many first-time buyers or renters are looking to these neighbourhoods in the sky to make their first home in.
The presence of a balcony presents a unique opportunity to create an outdoor area for yourself and we’ve put together some insights on how to maximize the appeal of these limited spaces.
Choosing and positioning your plants
The central feature of your balcony garden will be the plants you select however, we must observe practical restrictions such as space and access to sunlight.
Fortunately, there are some elements consistent with balcony design that can unlock new possibilities exclusive to such a space, namely the presence of railings. Many balconies use these as a safety precaution but you can also turn them into a plant rack with relative ease.
Invest in small potted plants and corresponding brackets that will allow you to hang them from a rail, not only will this bring them closer to eye level, it will create more floor space for you to enjoy.
As for which plants you should select, this depends largely on personal taste though there are a few rules you should always observe.
First, consider how much weight your balcony can bear before buying any particularly large plants and also when selecting the types of pots they’ll be housed in.
Second, get a good idea of how exposed the space will be since this will dictate the hardiness you should be aiming for in the plants you select.
Popular choices for balcony planting often seek to maximize the utility of the limited space and to help elevate it as an area of relaxation.
If you feel the space is not too exposed to high winds, herbs are an excellent way to cater to both of these needs since they will produce a pleasant scent for those nearby, won’t outgrow their pots any time soon,
and have relatively diffused – and therefore light – root structures.
Aromatics like Jasmine, Honeysuckle, and Clematis can also be a good option (provided you’ve plenty of sunlight) since they can be trained to entwine with other structures on the balcony – including the handrail it’s likely to have.
It might be a little confusing trying to calculate the level of sun you’re getting but there’s an easy system to work it out: Southern aspects receive the most sunlight throughout the day, while east and west get moderate exposure, and north is finally the shadiest aspect.
Use a compass to figure out which way your balcony faces and plan your planting list accordingly.
Since the elements of a balcony garden are decidedly more limited than that of a regular garden, we thought it would be more valuable to call out some common pitfalls that first-time balcony gardeners often make to help you avoid the same heartaches.
Always be conscious of weight
Avoid heavy potting materials like stone, metal, or glass, and use plastics wherever possible – ideally recyclable plastics!
Reach for the sky
Verticle planters are an excellent way to increase the number of plants without losing out on living space, check with your landlord or building manager before drilling any holes though!
Coordinate Soil types
Depending on what floor your balcony is on, you might have a lot of lifting and carry up and downstairs in your near future but planning ahead can help save you from some of this labour.
Obviously different plants have different needs when it comes to soil and soil is one of the most cumbersome materials needed in a balcony garden.
Save yourself time, money, and sweat by trying to make sure all your plants have similar soil requirements so you can feed them from one or two bags as opposed to three or four.
Although balcony gardening might feel like new terrain, don’t let that discourage you since all the fundamentals of gardening still apply. Once you’ve got your first plants established we encourage you to lend as much creativity and individuality to the space as you can.