[Infographic] How to create your urban garden?
We have looked at the trends in the cooler northern European climate, but now let’s get our suntan lotion on and see how gardens and urban areas are embracing plants in the south.
For southern Europeans, the importance of fresh fruit and vegetables cannot be denied. But, what to do when your urban property has no outdoor space? Creating a balcony vegetable garden is the answer!
With such balcony harvesting in mind, a few companies have designed tiered planters, maximizing the space available for your tasty crops. Growing in this way isn’t just convenient but it also makes a lot of sense. First of all, there’s no digging, plus you can treat your veggie plants to the very best soil- reducing the chance of weeds too!
Capsicum, tomatoes and egg plants are all popular summer crops, but did you know there are developments that allow you to grow them together, on the same plant! UK company, Thompson & Morgan have introduced the jaw-dropping TomTato plant, which happily produces hundreds of sweet tomatoes as usual on the top of the plant. However, under is where the magic is happening, as the tomato has indeed been grafted onto a potato plant, meaning you can then harvest potatoes. It’s a patata-bravas plant!
In a smaller space, home growers shouldn’t forget to use the walls. Squashes and cucurbits make decorative wall climbers, and look fabulous as the fruits hang down ready and clean for picking, not dragging in the soil as ground-grown plants would be.
With an ever-changing climate, urban plants people are relying more and more on succulents as the bedding plant of choice. Pelargoniums are also up to the job, but fail to keep their shape well later in the summer. Succulents (and even cacti to that matter) are versatile, colorful, textured and- most importantly- store much of their own water, meaning much less maintenance!
One of my favourites is the Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Rosea’ with it’s wiry, architectural appearance, and autumn-winter orangey tinges. Using cacti and succulents as hedging is also gaining ground.
For many years, the staple of many a balcony has been the humble Pelargonium with it’s unapologetic red blossoms. There are a few new kids on the block too though, why not try some energetic Petunias, with a sweet fragrance you don’t get from Pelargoniums. ’Tidal Wave’ is particularly boisterous and covers more ground than the well known Surfinia. If that isn’t quite to your taste, then there are some similarly steroid-packed Pelargoniums, look out for ‘GeRainbow’ with larger than life blossoms, and a rainbow colour range, literally!
A useful frothy plant that you may not be aware of is Laurentia. This unusual little plant originates from Australia and is remarkably drought resistant, an simply does not stop flowering! In the UK, many gardeners are finding it the perfect antidote to the often short-lived Lobelia.
Everyone wants an English garden, but not everyone has the space or the right climate, but there are some ways you can overcome this. Some of newer, compact, cottage garden perennials are really at home in patio pots, so now you can create a cottage garden anywhere, and give it just the care it needs! We can now enjoy Gertrude Jekyll inspiration on balconies! Scabious ‘Kudo’, with an unstoppable flower power, is a front runner for this range, and the branching Verbena ‘Lollipop’, often dubbed as the tidy person’s bonariensis!
I cannot resist Delphinium ‘Flamenco’, either with double flowers, that don’t dissolve on a windy day! Plants of this Delphinium are also short and branching, whilst being compact. These are all perennials too, and will last 2-3 years in their containers, so represent less maintenance than their annual relatives!
Everyone seems to be juicing fruit these days. But, don’t forget you can easily make our own herbal teas. The difference between a dried up herbal tea bag and some fresh leaves is quite something. Raspberry leaf tea is good for you and tastes good, or why not experiment with infusions of fruity leaves such as pineapple sage or my favorite lemon verbena. Most of those plants can be grown on the balcony, or even indoors on a windowsill or similar, which means your next hot tea is never going to be far away.
Michael Perry is a well-known European plants expert and product developer, with a career spanning 18 years and around 300 new plants! He lectures worldwide and is a regular on British television, thanks to his enthusiasm and likeable approach to gardening.
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