Outside space in Malta is a commodity. With Malta being such a small country, it’s not usual for houses to have gardens. Of course, some do, however, these houses are few and far between and they tend to be very expensive! An alternative to the garden is a small backyard, which some properties in Malta do have. Although only properties on the ground floor will be able to have one! So, for the majority of us, we have to make do with our humble balconies. You might think that it’s impossible to have a garden when you only have a balcony, but you would be wrong! Having said that, you can’t have a garden in the conventional sense, but you can have plants and grow herbs and vegetables and create your own little green haven. We’ve put together some great tips to help you grow your very own garden on your humble, little balcony.
How many hours of sunlight does your balcony get??
Before you head off to the garden centre, you’ll want to have some sort of idea of which plants will thrive on your balcony. Not all plants’ needs are the same and they all require different conditions. Some plants (like lavender, sunflower or geranium, for example) will enjoy being in full-sunlight. Other plants, such as fuchsia and fern, don’t mind being in the shade. Observe how many hours of sunlight your balcony gets per day. See if your balcony gets sun in the morning or in the afternoon. Think about whether your balcony sees a lot of wind or if it’s sheltered. Once you know these facts, you’ll be able to see which plants will or won’t like living on your balcony. It’s important to get it right, otherwise you’ll pay a lot of money for plants that just won’t survive. If you need some extra guidance, you can ask someone at the garden centre as the staff there are normally very knowledgeable and can help you choose the right plants for you.
Pretty or useful??
Another thing you’ll want to decide before you start growing your balcony garden is whether you want it to be pretty or useful. Or both! A pretty garden is pretty straightforward, if you’ll pardon the pun. All you have to do is pick the plants that you think are beautiful. Plants come in all shapes and sizes. You can choose plants whose leaves you find interesting, or you can fill your balcony with bursts of bright colours. Red, pink, orange, blue, purple, yellow… you name it, there’s a flower to fit! Do bear in mind that many plants only flower once a year. So, if you’re going for a pretty garden, make sure to get a good mix of plants that bloom once a year (perennials) and plants that look good all-year-round. In contrast, you could have a balcony garden that’s good to use as well as good to look at! On top of growing flowers, you can also grow herbs and a variety of fruits and vegetables on a balcony! In terms of fruits and vegetables, you can grow: tomatoes, chillies, peppers, strawberries, spinach and even beetroot in pots or containers. When it comes to herbs, you also have oodles of choice! Chives, rosemary, thyme, basil, mint, sage, coriander and parsley all do very well in outdoor pots.
Pots, pots, pots!?
It’s inevitable that if you’re going to grow a garden on your balcony, you’ll need to plant your new green friends in pots or containers. Just like the plants themselves, pots come in all shapes and sizes, too! When a plant is in a pot and not in the ground, it needs to be able to drain properly. If a pot plant is unable to drain properly, the plant can easily develop root rot. You can buy terracotta pots (which are porous) or you can buy plastic pots. Either are fine but try to buy pots with holes in the bottom (especially plastic). You can get trays to put them on, too, so that the excess water drains into the tray and not on your balcony (or the unsuspecting pedestrian walking underneath it!). Again, ask the staff at the garden centre to make sure you’re buying the right size pots for your chosen plants. Some plants have deeper roots than others and therefore will need bigger pots. Keep in mind as well that pot plants will need watering much more often than those in the ground. In most cases, potted plants will need watering once a day. Perhaps twice in a heatwave! If you don’t have neighbours who will be able to water your balcony garden whilst you’re away, you will need to set up some sort of system. You can buy a fancy irrigation system, but you can also just fill up a normal water bottle, pierce the lid, turn it upside down and stick it in the soil. This will slowly drain into the soil and help keep your plant alive while you’re not around. Simple!
Use height to make the most out of your space.
You don’t just have to buy pots for the floor! Besides, if you do, you won’t leave any space for you to be able to step outside and enjoy your new garden. Use height to make the most of your small space and enhance your balcony garden! Aside from floor pots, you can buy rail planters. These hang over the railings of your balcony. You can either hang them with the pots over the inside of the railing or over the outside, whatever you choose. You can also buy ‘double-sided’ ones that hang over both sides of the railing. Make sure that, if your balcony isn’t very sheltered and sees a lot of wind, that you secure these planters to your railings very well. You don’t want your new plants blowing away! In addition, you can get hanging planters and baskets. Depending on your setup, these could either hang from the balcony above yours or you can buy brackets and hang these from the wall. Rather than just having everything on the floor, a balcony garden that plays around with height will feel lusher and more verdant.