Friday, November 9, 2012

Space and how you use it

Following up on queries about just how big my garden is and how I fit so much in there, here are some pics, and some points to help shed some light. This is my balcony from each end:

So you can see it is quite long, not so wide, and shaded in 1/3rd of it by some slats. It is about using whatever space I can to plant the things that I want, and throwing out all sage gardening advice about planting spacings. Here are some more pointers:
  • I once saw this amazing lady on Gardening Australia who has a 'proper in the ground' garden, i.e. a plot with ample space, and she used every square centimetre. Traditional plant spacings went out the window as beans heaped upon more beans and lettuces sidled right up to herbs. And you know what - despite the fears of gardening gurus - her garden was magnificent. Things grew and fruited and flowered and all was well. So, in honour of her, I say to hell with the garden advice, do what you like and plant as closely as you darn well feel like it (just remember which plants are good and bad neighbours.) I mean, what's the worst that can happen? They might die? Well I hate to break it to you but plant death is just a part of gardening. But so is experimenting and finding out what varieties work at what spacings and in what part of the balcony. And really, if they don't work out, then don't plant so much  next season. Don't believe me? See the lettuce below - they should have a good 25-30 cms between them according to normal logic - but that's only a 40cm long pot and that's at least 6 plants in there. Sure they didn't grow massive, but they have lasted several weeks worth of meals, and when they're done, I can grow two more crops in their place before the summer is out (new soil, new or cleaned pot of course.)

  • Or you could grow corn and beans in a medium sized pot. Two of the three sisters in action right here:

  • Better yet, grow 6 types of tomatoes, basil, lettuce and celery in the same pot, I dare ya! (to get an idea of size, this is two large polystyrene containers placed together. We call in megapot here in the balcony garden.

  • It is all about having a mixture, of plant types (vegetable, fruit, tree, flower, native, succulent, etc) of plant heights and planting spaces. Big pots, little pots, vertical pots, hanging pots, fit them in however you can.
  • Don't scrimp on potting mix, if you want lovely flowers and ample veg in small spaces you have to have or make the best. It isn't cheap, and on a student budget I find it tough, but it is something I wont budge on.
  • Vermiculite is also your really, really good friend.
  • Grow things that you like to eat and look at. If you don't like tomatoes, or are allergic to strawberries then don't waste space on them. Can't stand lobelias, then don't plant them. And don't get stressed about free range planting and letting the garden wander where it wants. Worried that those tomatoes could grow to be over 2 metres high and simply wont fit the trellis - awesome! Let's see where they do once they outgrow the trellis. Let the garden amaze and inspire you and lead you to where it wants/can go.
  • Always check the amount of weight your balcony can carry - we don't want it crumbling under the weight of soil and pots and taking you down with it. Plastic pots are a balcony gardeners best friend.

So really just have fun with it and keep experimenting. You'll fill your space and just when you think you can't fit any more plants in you will find more places and ways of getting them in there.


Daphne said...

Thanks for the pics. I always did wonder how big your balcony is.

Missy Piggy said...

A great post...your balcony looks about the same size as mine, long & skinny - though mine is 100% sunny (no cover). I was a bit "thing" about plant spacings at first too...but when your pot is only 30cm big...well, you've just gotta crowd 'em in sometimes. Great post.

prue said...

Daphne - it is definitely a reasonably sized space to work with, but it is burst at the seams.

Thanks for the kind words Missy Piggy, and yes you do totally have to crowd them in sometimes. :)