Most people’s dream garden covers acres, with flowerbeds, parkland and untamed woods rolling off towards the horizon. In real life, sadly, this is possible only for a few, and the rest of us have to make do with a patch of roof, a tiny back yard or even a couple of flowerpots on a windowsill.
On the other hand, having a small garden can be a kind of blessing: you don’t need to buy an expensive lawn mower, spend hours every weekend just to keep it looking respectable or worry too much about water restrictions. As it happens, there are also a number of ways to make a small garden more productive and pleasant than most people will believe.
When you can’t go sideways, go up. When considering techniques such as trellising, vertical gardening really is nothing new, but it has been receiving much more attention recently as detached houses become more difficult to afford.
All you really need is a wall that receives at least some sun, which in a small courtyard might mean three out of four. The most labor-intensive part of setting up your own hanging gardens is usually building a structure, perhaps using old wooden pallets, that can support the weight – wet soil weighs more than you think! To this, you can attach ordinary flowerpots, guttering or even plastic bottles, fill these with potting mixture and start planting.
Vertical gardens are much easier to maintain and harvest, especially if your back isn’t what it used to be. Since the plants and flowers are at eye level, these “green walls” also look much larger than they have any right to, and with proper care, they can produce an astonishing amount of flowers and vegetables. Decorative species to consider include giant lilyturf, geraniums and star jasmine; while cucumbers, strawberries, peas, green beans and herbs of every kind also do well in a vertical garden.
Keeping Plants Indoors
Either due to their living arrangements or the climate, some people simply can’t do much gardening outdoors. A few of them, missing being surrounded by a little bit of foliage when relaxing, have simply moved their gardens inside.
This need not imply being restricted to sticking a wilted ficus in the corner and a struggling fern on your desk. Some people go much further, even adding a purpose-built “green room” to their houses to relax and entertain guests in.
Humidity is an obvious factor to bear in mind. If your house is built of brick, moisture-resistant paint and polyethylene sheets may be all that’s needed to keep this at bay. If you’re dealing with drywall…well, the clue is in the name.
Light quality is also, generally speaking, a concern. A few species of plant might be able to survive even in a north-facing room, but setting up an indoor garden may require you to change the way you currently use your space and even knock a few new holes in the walls. Luckily, there is a workaround in the form of grow lights, which come in handy especially during winter months.
If you have a limited amount of space and only a few plants, you really want to do all you can to make them as lush and productive as possible. This obviously means feeding them well, and one of the most effective ways of doing so is to apply the ejecta of earthworms to the soil. The way this works is not really by adding more NPK, but by improving the concentration of helpful soil bacteria around the roots, meaning that your plants will be better able to make use of nutrients and be more resistant to disease. Just look at these seedlings:
Vermicompost can be found at any gardening center with an organic inclination, or simply be created by composting kitchen scraps and garden clippings with the aid of some worms. If there is one single thing any gardener can do to increase the health of her plants, it is to scatter a teaspoon of vermicompost around the base of each.