Maximising greenery in minimal space: How to master small-scale gardening
The art of gardening is a popular hobby adored by all generations. Viewed as a great form of exercise, and a cost-effective way to grow your own produce, it’s no wonder that so many take pride in tending to their outdoor space.
Whether you live in an apartment, are new to the activity, or simply want to maximise space, this is a guide on how you can still reap the benefits of growing your own produce without requiring a large garden or allotment plot.
The success of a balcony garden begins with creating the right environment. Repositioning the location of a balcony is obviously not possible, therefore you must consider the factors that will affect the growth, maintenance, and selection of plants. For example, sunlight exposure, wind patterns, and any limitations or restrictions imposed by a landlord or building regulations.
Before plant shopping, you must factor in the type of plant containers and accessories you wish to use. Sticking to lightweight and durable materials such as plastic, fibreglass, or resin will avoid adding unnecessary weight to your balcony – particularly important in a rented property.
The next step is to check you have access to plenty of water. Using drip trays underneath hanging baskets or investing in self-watering systems and drip irrigation systems is a great way to make sure your plants never go thirsty. If you have the opposite problem, to avoid overwatering your plants, allow the top inch of soil to dry out before you consider watering again.
With every garden, you’ll unfortunately still have a problem with unwanted visitors. Keep an eye out for the most common and disruptive pests, aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites. Try to avoid harsh chemical pesticides, and select natural pest control methods like neem oil, insecticidal soaps, or companion planting techniques. You can also rely on natural predators to help manage pest problems. Ladybirds, lacewings, and beetles can be great defenders for your plants, so be sure to welcome them with open arms!
Vegetables that thrive in small spaces:
- Runner beans: These climbing plants can be trained along balcony railings to utilise vertical space
- Radish: Quick-growing and perfect for impatient gardeners, radishes can be planted in pots and harvested within a few weeks!
- Peas: Like runner beans, these plants are great to grow upwards against walls or railings.
- Carrots: Choose shorter varieties of carrots such as Chantenay, as these can grow best in containers.
- Salad leaves: Lettuces, spinach, and other salad greens can be grown in shallow containers for easy organisation.
- Tomatoes: Compact tomato plants such as cherry or patio varieties, can be grown in pots and provide a large harvest, without compromising on size.
When faced with the challenge of zero outdoor space, gardening is probably the last hobby you would consider taking up. However, a windowsill provides just enough space for anyone to try growing their own produce.
If you’re lucky enough to have a selection of windows to choose from, ideally select one located somewhere that receives a few hours of sunlight each day such as a south or west-facing window. If you’re stuck with a window that isn’t so sunny, supplemental lighting such as LED grow-lights or fluorescent bulbs make a great alternative.
Playing with shelving, stack containers, or hanging smaller plants using hooks will give your window garden dimension, and give the illusion of having more space. Those who are feeling more confident can also implement vertical gardening systems, such as hanging planters or wall-mounted pots to welcome the possibility of growing vegetables such as those that could grow on a balcony.
One issue with growing plants indoors, is that the environments can be particularly dry. To create the correct humidity levels for your plants, you can try placing a tray filled with water beneath them. As the water evaporates, it will add moisture to the air and prevent your garden from drying out.
What to Grow on your Windowsill
- Mint: Grows in abundance and adapts well to indoor conditions. Its strong aroma also acts as a natural air freshener
- Chives: Require moderate sunlight, and thrive in containers, making them an ideal choice for growing next to a window
- Parsley: Prefers to be placed on a window with bright, indirect light and well-draining soil
- Thyme: Endures various growing conditions, including the limited light of a windowsill, and only needs occasional watering
- Baby Beetroot: If you have a slightly larger windowsill or deep container, you can try growing baby beetroot. It requires moderate sunlight and frequent watering but is a useful vegetable to grow
- Kale: Its compact growth habit and preference for cooler temperatures means kale is right at home indoors but will need watering to keep the soil moist
Once you’ve set up your gardening area, you don’t want to undo all your hard work by not caring for it properly. Every plant has individual needs, so you should read up on how to care for every new species you choose to grow. However, there are some general tips everybody can implement to ensure their plants stay healthy and strong:
- Regularly dust and clean the leaves of plants in your home, this helps leaves absorb as much sunlight as possible
- Feed plants with organic fertilisers and add nutrient-rich compost to help plants stay healthy and strong
- Prune any overgrown branches or stems. Just like human hair, regular trimming helps to promote growth
- Keep an eye out for weeds. This is not a problem confined to the outdoors, you must carefully remove weeds to prevent them from taking over
- Have fun! You can still be creative and make your garden as visually appealing as the outdoors. Brighten up your space by decorating with pretty décor such as twinkly lights, colourful pots, and mini ornaments
Now you know that gardening in a small space isn’t impossible and can still be rewarding when faced with restrictions. Don’t let the limitations of your outdoor space prevent you from digging in and experiencing the joys of gardening. With the right plant knowledge and determination, you’re now armed with the tools to transform even the tiniest balcony or windowsill into a flourishing haven that you can be proud of.
Content provided by Holly Dodd – images Unsplash