on April 14, 2015 by test_editor in April, Archive_2015, Coming Events, Print Articles, Comments Off on April 16, 2015: Balcony Gardens; A Daily Dose of “Vitamin G”.

April 16, 2015: Balcony Gardens; A Daily Dose of “Vitamin G”.

April 16, 2015: Balcony Gardens; A Daily Dose of “Vitamin G”.

By Hilary Kemsley.

In 2006 a group of scientists in the Netherlands studied the impact of nature on human health, and found irrefutable evidence that natural landscapes improve well-being. The Dutch researchers dubbed this greenery elixir “Vitamin G”.

In neighborhoods everywhere, concrete is rapidly covering green-space. New condo and apartment buildings often overlook traffic-filled streets or other new condo and apartment buildings. So what can apartment dwellers do to get their daily dose of Vitamin G? Create balcony gardens like the Italians.

Here are 4 tips to get you started:

A scaled drawing of the balcony and your outdoor furniture will show how much space you have to work with.
Tip #1: Include room for movement in the plan. An open space of three feet in front of chairs makes maneuvering comfortable. Any less is a squeeze.

Tip #2: Besides pots on the floor, consider vines growing up the walls, a double layer of window boxes on the railing and baskets hanging from the ceiling.

Blazing sun and wind are the nemeses of balcony gardens. Both dry out planters in no time. Wind can rip apart large leaves.

Potted annual flowers like the ones in this picture need water almost daily and fertilizer at ¼ strength once a week.

Tip #3: Check the water drainage on the balcony. Your neighbours won’t want dirty plant water on their balcony, and you won’t want it on your furniture. You may need catch basins. Mounding ice cubes on hanging baskets or railing boxes allows the plants to be watered slowly and avoids dripping excess water.

The deeper the hanging basket, window box or planter, the easier it is to maintain luscious growth. Annuals require at least 8 inches of soil to absorb enough key nutrients from the soil. Perennials need closer to 14 inches for root growth. Deep containers require less frequent watering, and protect plants from excessive heat, drought or cold.

Low-maintenance plants that perform well throughout the season are ideal.

Tip #4: Choose flowering plants that are proven winners.

Sun-loving Petunias are among the easiest floriferous annuals available. Hybrids such as The Wave, Supertunia and Calibrachoa / Million Bells are reasonably-priced, vigorous, weather tolerant and, best of all, never need deadheading. Avoid Grandiflora Petunias. They rip in the wind; the flowers need constant pinching off, and if dead too long, petals turn to a slimy, unsightly mush.

Geraniums and their cousins Pelargoniums, if old-fashioned, are hardy repeat-bloomers. In containers, they need diligent fertilization to stay lush.

Geraniums and Petunias on their own are unremarkable. But repeated planters Pelargonium peltatum / Ivy-leaved Geraniums can turn a plain dock railing into a picture-worthy sight.

Imagine walking down Wellington Street West this summer, and seeing ‘Italian’ flower gardens spilling over every balcony. What a sight! What a hit of Vitamin G!

photo wirh 2 balconey gardens, simple top right, extreme bottom left

Big or Small Dose of Color

Photo Caption: With patience and care, even a small balcony can be transformed into a hanging garden Photo by Hilary Kemsley.

[Ed: Want to learn? There are gardening talks Tuesdays in your Area April 21, 28, May 5, 19, June 23rd. See the Newswest Garden Calendar for talks, walks and sales to get your garden growing!]

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