Balcony Botany

As long as you have enough space for a windowbox, you too can be a green-fingered guru, and those with a bigger balcony will be in clover. Mark Grehan, of The Garden at Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, offers us a crash course in setting up a balcony garden for the uninitiated?

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When starting off, be sure to take into account considerations such as drainage. Where will access water run off? Another important thing to keep in mind is position - is it sunny or shady? Windy or sheltered? If windy, use heavy pots that won't blow away. Also check that rainwater will reach pots, especially under overhanging roofs.

To get going in earnest, you'll need: potting soil (generally clay-based), plants, and containers. You'll also need a watering can or access to a hose, and a bit of muscle!

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One of the major pitfalls to avoid is buying plants too small. Balconies can be windy, dry and sunny, so it's a good idea to purchase plants that are semi-mature. Using he right soil is vital: John Innes clay-based compost with plenty of mulch and some grit will help keep in moisture and won't dry out as quickly as peat-based compost.

Decide on plants you like and ones that are of interest all year round. If there is a wall, use climbers such as scented Jasminum officinale, which is evergreen, hardy to low temperatures and produces a beautifully scented white flower. Plants with texture and form such as succulents and bamboo tolerate conditions in pots.

For a mostly sheltered balcony, I suggest ferns such as Japanese maples, Helleborus niger, and Libertia grandiflora. A balcony that gets a lot of light will mean lots of sun, think plants such as succulents, sedum and lavender.

 

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The good news is that a balcony garden is far less labour-intensive than a regular one. Balcony plants really need just a general feeding and watering.

Vegetables are tougher as there's a problem with wind drying out pots - tougher ones like onions, radishes, tomatoes and peas would be suitable. Mediterranean herbs tend to do well on balconies, as do bay leaf, parsley and rosemary - these are a good idea for an exposed spot which gets a good amount of light.

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For a vibrant visual display, a top tip is not to overcrowd. Select plants you like and give them space - less is more. Create balance with different height of plants, and bring the interior out with the style of pots and containers you choose. For flowering plants, use colours that blend together and plant varieties that will have interest even in the depths of winter.

Ikea have taken stock of the momentum of the ?grow your own? trend and followed suit with fresh and sleek new range of plant holders, pots, storage and growing kits for the urban gardener. Shop their outdoor products here.

Pick up your plants from?The Garden and click through the gallery at the top of the page?for the perfect balcony accessories.

See next: cool things to do with common garden weeds.

Sharon Miney for @Image_Interiors

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