How to Garden in a Small Space

We’re living in an era where cottage gardens and large backyards are a luxury. Many of us are living in apartments or smaller urban complexes. With these living spaces becoming more popular and much more affordable, the traditional sense of gardening will soon become limited. However, with these contemporary living areas comes new possibilities for gardening. Advanced gardening innovations and techniques are on the rise, which allows for balcony, patio and small space gardening to take place. We delve into tips and tricks for cultivating small spaces and the tools to equip a new age of urban gardeners.

Balconies are the most common private outdoor space in apartment living. Whether you are interested in growing your own with an edible container garden or sowing a spectacular flower patch, balconies have great potential for urban backyard living.

It is important to remember that balconies are microclimates. This means that the atmospheric conditions are significantly different to that of a typical garden, particularly as, traditionally, a garden is established on the ground.  A balcony is susceptible to sun, wind, shade and extreme heat. The most important first step before going out to buy plants and seedlings is to assess your balcony or small space and establish what type of climate your mini garden will be exposed to. The key is to take your time for the best chance of success.

 

Weather Elements

Sun - The Australian summer sun will burn exposed plants, so ensure you consider the level of shade your balcony or patio receives. Herbs like rosemary and thyme thrive in exposed positions whereas rainforest plants, such as lemon myrtle, grow best in shady areas. How much sun your outdoor space gets will determine which plants will thrive. Living in an apartment can expose your balcony garden to the effects of retained heat. Larger buildings attract the sun and, therefore, if you have a garden bed close to a wall or floor this can help heat-loving plants such as tomatoes or hinder others like blueberries.

Wind - Ask yourself these questions: What type of flooring does your balcony or small space garden have? Does your balcony have a roof or is it exposed? These questions will help determine if wind will affect the success of your small space garden. When planting seeds, wind has the tendency to upturn soil so your seeds could fly out of your garden bed. Wind can also bring unwanted pests such as aphids and whiteflies who will devour your plants and decrease the chance of your garden’s survival. Such bugs travel in the wind and if your garden bed is exposed you will find that these pests will take refuse on your balcony since it is protected from predators found on the ground.

Rain - When assessing your small space garden consider the sections of your space that will receive natural rainfall. Rain shadows occur where natural rainfall is blocked by fences, balcony roofing or buildings. It is important to monitor if or where these rain shadows occur to ensure that you do not plant your entire produce in these pockets. Consider positioning cacti and other desert plants in rain shadows and less hardy herbs in the path of natural rainfall.

Techniques

Screening plants - Often small space gardens are a shared space. Whether it be on an open-rooftop community space, dual balcony or patio shared with a neighbour, screening plants are easy to maintain and double as a privacy screen or low fencing. Always ask for your neighbours’ permission before separating your garden spaces and double check with the landlord before placing screening plants in communal gardening areas. Bamboo is a popular screening plant as it grows rapidly and looks attractive. Bamboo does need maintenance. If you intend to keep the plant at a specific height, you will need to trim it like you would a hedge. Bamboo is drought-hardy but in the summer month it is best to offer frequent watering for the bamboo screen to look its best.

 

Herb patch - Herbs come in many varieties, colours and shapes. They not only look great, but they are also edible, making them the perfect dual plant for your green thumbs and urban cooking. Display them in a way that is decorative, whether that be in a planter along your balcony or along your kitchen windowsill. Herbs are extremely versatile, and their longevity comes down to regular watering and regular trimming to avoid suffocation.

 

Planters, pots and containers - Transform a space in your small garden into a gardening opportunity. Using planters along a patio, balcony or steps makes a big difference and can look beautiful, not just practical. For example, popping pots on your stairs looks aesthetically pleasing whilst being resourceful with the limited space. It is also important to note the size of your pots in small space gardens. Pots smaller than 20cm in diameter will need watering once or twice a day if they are in direct sunlight or away from natural rainfall. You should be aware that using pots much bigger than the plant is called over-potting. Over-potting means that your plant has a loose, unstable root ball, which will stunt the plant’s growth. It may even die when you go to re-pot the plant in future as the root system will be damaged and it will not be able to readapt to the new environment.

 

The types of pot also need to be considered. For example, terracotta pots and hanging baskets may need lining to help with potential water loss. Consider ceramic and plastic pots which are common to have self-watering systems build within the planter dishes or trays. Remember that the plants you are sowing would have originally been grown in the ground, so you must consider the environment of the pots once you plant. Pots can get hot if the plants receive a lot of sunlight and so the absorption of water will increase. With increased water absorption comes the need to water more often. Make sure you have a consistent watering routine in place that complies with your state’s watering restrictions and regulations. This being said, the unpredictability of rainfall in a small space garden can also drastically affect potted plants. All pots need drainage so be sure to drill out some holes on the underside of your pots or consider using pot-feet underneath to allow pots to drain properly.

Vertical garden - Barely have room for a table and chairs on your balcony? Why not maintain a vertical garden and trade your floor space for wall space? These types of gardens can consist of herbs, small veggies or a floral display. Take a trip to your local garden centre or nursery and you will find a variety of vertical garden hangers and structures you can pull apart and re-design to suit your space. If you prefer a simpler approach, why not consider installing shelving on your wall with enough room for a few pots to grow your favourite blooms? If you prefer hanging pots, then try making a feature of them with coconut husk baskets and decorative planters.

 

One plant wonder - If you are tight on space, stick to one species of flower. To give your small garden a consistent aesthetic (and to accommodate the small space you are working within) picking one type of flower will save time and space. 


Tools

10m Compact Portable Hose Reel - Every plant needs to be watered, no matter how small or large your space is. This is often the most difficult part of small space gardening as you fill and refill a watering can several times a week. Why not consider investing in Hoselink’s 10m Compact Portable Hose Reel? The perfect solution for small space watering, the compact reel is designed to allow you to easily store it away without taking up much space whilst its light weight makes it easy to transport around as you water.

Lightweight Bamboo Garden Gloves - Any garden, grand or small, will have maintenance work to be done. Investing in a good pair of gloves will protect your hands against nasty thorns and will make potting and weeding easier – and cleaner!

Rain Gauge - Every garden will be affected by rain differently. To establish the areas in your garden that have rain shadows it’s a good idea to invest in a rain gauge, so you can measure how much precipitation your small space garden is receiving. This is ideal to determine which plants will flourish the best in your outdoor space.

Handy Snippers - Looking to snip off a few herbs or harvest fruit? Every urban gardener needs a pair of compact Handy Snippers! Hoselink’s Handy Snippers quickly cut stems and are pocket-sized to fit perfectly in your hand. The sharp blades are made from stainless steel whilst the rubber overlay on the handles are perfect for an easy grip. 

Seaweed Tonic - Sometimes water and delicate pruning isn’t enough to get your plants reinvigorated and looking healthy. Often on balconies and small open-planned patios, plants can be more exposed to the elements causing plants to look a little neglected. Hoselink’s Plant Health Seaweed Tonic Concentrate promotes vigorous growth and stimulates flowering. With a combination of kelp seaweed and soluble potassium humate, the Seaweed Tonic can enrich the soil surrounding your plants. The Seaweed Tonic is ideal for indoor plants as well, which makes looking after all your plants a breeze.

Garden Fertiliser - Keeping your plants nourished all year round is easy with Hoselink’s Super Grow Garden Fertiliser Concentrate. This complete fertiliser has been designed to keep your plants flourishing from new seedlings to well established plants including edibles and trees. This formula contains the three major elements necessary for healthy plant growth: nitrogen, to promote healthy green leaves, phosphorus for stimulating strong root growth and plant development, and potassium to boost fruit and flower production. 

Warm White Solar Party Bulb String Lights - Your outdoor haven can be beautifully complemented with Hoselink’s range of garden solar lights. The Warm White Solar Party Bulb String Lights are the perfect accompaniment to balconies, vertical gardens, fences and railings. Transform your outdoor space with four different lighting modes and the convenience of charging the solar panel separately, either using the port on the back if consecutive rainy days occupy your outdoor space, or by placing in a patch of sunlight. Enjoy your small space garden at night without the guilt of an electricity bill and the ease of the automatic function, turning your solar lights on at dusk and off at dawn.

Quick-grip tool organiser - Small space gardening often does not include the luxury of storage, so why not invest in Hoselink’s Quick-Grip Tool Organiser to help maximise a small area? It is ideal for storing rakes, brooms and mops on the wall to keep your tools organised and neatly in one place.

Slate Plant Labels - If you have an herb or veggie garden, why not make it easy to keep track of what you’re growing with these beautiful plant markers? Hoselink’s Slate Plant Labels are the best way to keep your plants organised and an eye-catching way to make your plant bed beautiful. Made from premium quality natural slate, these labels are durable and suitable for all weather conditions, so you need not worry about your handwriting coming off. These fun and quirky labels are the best way to customise your veggie patch or windowsill herb pots.