Gardens on the Balcony
Balcony gardens in a sheltered position with a mild climate all year round can provide constant blossom and foliage to be enjoyed from inside the house or flat, even where the balcony area itself is too small for sitting out. Where the weather is less mild, half hardy flowering plants and bulbs can still be used to brighten up the balcony in summer and can take inside in the winter. Large balconies offer a broad range of possibilities; they can be treated either as a raised garden with climbing plants spreading over railings, walls and floor or as an extension of the inner room, with furniture of the same style and more re-trained plants in containers. Unfortunately, in modern blocks, many balconies are designed on a systematic plan, often overshadowed by the floor above and overhanging the one below. The arrangement can present a problem for gardeners because of the lack of direct sunlight, and also because there is a likelihood of showering the neighbours when you water the plants. However the touch of individuality given by plants is essential in counteracting this uniformity of design; a screen of creepers on a trellis will also provide a welcome measure of privacy.
The most common problem with balcony gardens, as with roof gardens, is their exposure to cold winds; to prevent this, some kind of screen on the windward side is necessary. A glass screen, though expensive, can be a good idea as it will not block out any light from your garden or from your neighbour. Slatted wooden verticals or bamboo screens can also be attractive, especially when creepers growing up them. Always ask the neighbours and, in municipal housing, the agent, before building and permanent structure onto the balcony.
Since a projecting balcony cannot support the excessive weight, try to hang screens and plants in containers from the walls, and from overhead beams if these exist. Exploit the vertical space available as much as possible, training creepers upwards towards the light. This is particularly relevant where only a small area of the balcony is in full sunlight, and all the plants have to be positioned along the outside edge of the balcony. As with roof gardens, lightweight containers of fibreglass are most suitable as they will not overload the balcony.
Watering the plants will probably be using a hose fed from the kitchen tap or a watering can though a tap on the balcony itself would be invaluable. A convenient way to water several pots thoroughly is to lay a length of hose pipe along the line of containers, pierced at spaced intervals to spread the water evenly. Self-watering containers can be obtained as well but these are heavier than the standard type. There will probably be adequate floor drainage but it is as well to check before you soak the balcony. You may want to pave larger balconies used for sitting out with lightweight tiles. Quarry tiles or wooden decking, are all more attractive than the usual asphalt or concrete floor surface.
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