Spring is coming. Depending on who you ask, it has certainly been a long old winter - perhaps exacerbated by the varying degrees of pandemic-induced lockdown we have found ourselves in. But better days have called to tell us that they’re on their way. Thank goodness. This one is for you - apartment dwellers, city folk, and urban aspiring gardeners!
In this two-part blog, we will be sharing accessible ways to spruce up your outdoor space in anticipation of spring and summer.
Dive into part one for our tips on how to surround yourself with an abundance of green, including those of the edible variety – and how to get the best out of a space, however small it may be.
What are you waiting for?
If winter weather has completely decimated your garden greenery, it is perfectly okay to admit defeat and start again from scratch. Depending on the region you live in, the spring does allow for more optimistic gardening decisions to be made compared to winter - however you may still need to be a little choosy about what plants you invest in. Consider your weather conditions, in terms of the temperature and rainfall, and even the potential effects of wind (especially if you live at the top of a high-rise block).
Nothing says spring like the sun-loving classic daffodil or tulip - it is usually advised to plant these bulbs in autumn, but you should be able to get your hands on some pre-potted beauties this year (if you didn’t plant any in advance that is). Sweet-smelling lavender makes a good addition to any space. Despite its Mediterranean origins, there are varieties (English being the hardiest of the bunch) that will endure and even appreciate cooler weather. It is equally tolerant of sunlight too - where some green plants may fall victim to sun scorch - lavender’ s silver foliage means it reflects the sun’s rays, protecting it from damage.
Trees can be tricky candidates especially for balconies, but really do add a touch of sophistication. Take care to check you aren’t planting anything that could grow into an over-sized heavy monster, as this could cause real problems for you (and definitely for your downstairs neighbours) if your balcony couldn’t take the weight. Opt instead for slow-growing or dwarf varieties that will happily live out their days in a pot. Gardener’s World recommends trying a bay or olive tree or dwarf varieties of Japanese maple, all perfect for sheltered or shady urban spots.
If your outdoor space isn’t big enough to house large pots on the floor, how about some climbing plants? Climber ivy is a year-round champ - its evergreen leaves mean this baby always keeps its deep green colour - and laughs in the face of frost. Ivy’s malleable nature means you can guide them to grow in a particular way, by tying them carefully to a suitable structure such a railing or trellis.
Don’t veg in vain
With the environmental pressures of food goods travelling monumental distances from source to consumer, and supermarket visits being discouraged due to the spread of you-know-what; why not try your hand at growing your own grub this spring? You’d be hard pushed to get more local than your own balcony.
“Creating edible forests is surely the solution to fight against global warming, the biodiversity crisis and to feed the ever-increasing world population.”
Introducing veggies to your garden is a sure way to spruce things up, hopefully providing plenty of colour, as well as giving you a bit of purpose and a reason to be outdoors. The process of nurturing your food from a seedling can be super rewarding, and can both save you money and encourage healthier habits. Urban gardening veteran and veggie expert Wendy of @up_on_the_rooftop shared her tips on how to get started:
“As with any new exciting project or adventure, sometimes the enthusiasm of the moment overtakes our normal measured approach - we can purchase armloads of seedlings and packets of seeds, pots and bags of soils and amendments, only to end up with just bare soil or plants ravaged by pests and disease.”
“The best place to start the journey is with some research on the types of plants and vegetables that are suitable for your climate zone and location. Plants that are not in their optimum environment are likely to be stressed, and more susceptible to succumb to pests and diseases. Armed with this information, you can then decide what is appropriate to plant and when, and what that plant’s particular growing requirements are.”
Wendy also let us in on which veggies will give you the best value for your valiant gardening efforts:
“Leafy greens are bountiful, and the choices are wide ranging from lettuce varieties to many Asian greens. Employing the cut-and-come-again method whereby you pick from the outer leaves of the plant, leaving the remainder to continue to grow - the plant will provide a long season of produce for you. Growing plants where both the ‘fruit’ and the leaves are edible, such as beetroots, carrots, or broccoli provides more bang-for-your-buck. Vegetables that provide multiple flushes of fruit - such as indeterminate tomatoes, beans and peas, that are encouraged to grow more by constant harvesting - will also provide a long season for you.”
Thanks Wendy - great advice!
Remember that it’ll be you eating the veggies once they’ve grown too, so if you’re struggling with where to start, let your personal taste guide you. Go for your favourite!
Fresh herbs can also be a good shout for beginners; resilient varieties, such as mint, sage and rosemary, are all chilled-out choices, and are perfectly suited to small containers.
For that extra bit of warmth and to elongate your growing season, house your projects in a quaint miniature greenhouse, to trap those rays and keep your seedlings satiated. Greenhouses are great for protecting seedlings at the very start of life before they are hardy enough to be fully exposed to the elements.
Size doesn’t matter
Get creative with space-saving solutions to make the most of what you have. There are an incredible variety of lightweight, sturdy pots and planters in our collection that have been designed for this very purpose - enabling those with little outdoor space to surround themselves with as much greenery as their hearts desire. Wendy also gave us a little insight into how she deals with the issue of space:
“Perceived space challenges just require some creative thinking to design ways of maximising your space. Using the horizontal and vertical spaces, you can create potted gardens on shelves, raised planks, tables, trolleys, suspended from hooks and balustrading and more. Growing veggies that climb or utilising trellis allows maximum use of that aerial space that is so often wasted."
Could an Ecopots Hanging Bruges be your space-saving saviour? We also have a whole range of minimalist wall-fixed pots and planters enabling the urban gardener to verticalise their veggie patch with ease, whilst keeping everything looking clean and neat. For sociable plants willing to grow harmoniously alongside other varieties, the mix and match Ecopots Manhattan Wall series is perfect. Or for those independent guys that thrive better in their own company, try the Sofia Wall or Amsterdam Wall.
We hope these tips have put a little spring back into your step - stay tuned for the second part of the blog, where we will be focusing more on the design aspect and how to create the cosiest space outdoors.
A special thanks to the Wendy for giving the Ecopots team some insight into veggie-growing. Check out her socials for more fantastic tips and some seriously inspirational photos of her incredible crops.