First it was “Green Roofs” now it is “Green Walls” or Living Walls. You can create an outdoor Green Wall on your balcony.
– a couple of trellis, anchored in a pot of dirt against one of your balcony walls. Depending on the amount of light you could grow flowering vines in the summer then plant peas in early spring.
– metal shelving or a bookcase against the wall with planters on each shelf. If your balcony is shady your “wall” can be made up of indoor plants – philodendron or other trailing plants.
– there are more sophisticated systems of hanging Green Wall “pockets” that look kind of like a magazine rack or sets of pots that can be attached to a wall in rows. You could have edible plants like herbs and lettuce which require very little soil. An internet search on green wall gardens will show you many options.
As always, weight, water and building rules remain considerations for any system attached to the wall. Ask before you invest.
Visit a local green wall. “July Walking Tour – Sensory Garden’s Green Wall” by Angie Andrade Foster, Senior Horticulturist, Denver Botanic Gardens.
Colorado State University has a residence hall with an indoor green wall. It is the Pavilion at Laurel Village. An internet search will yield a variety of stories and photos.
Send me a comment and let me know where you find other indoor or outdoor Green Walls in Denver.
The Summer Solstice is past, Fourth of July is coming up. What if you forgot to water the flowers, the vegetable plants did not get enough sun and then it hailed!
Denver Botanic Gardens – Succulent Garden
There is a succulent garden for all budgets and all spaces:
– buy individual cactus and arrange the pots on a tray a quick solution and many can become house plants at summer’s end.
– many garden centers have succulent gardens ready for purchase, ask how to care for them
– buy annual or perennial rock garden plants and create your own using a shallow container, cactus type potting soil and gravel
– Winter-hardy cactus could be an option for your balcony
Plant Select Petites has “Garden Treasures for Small Spaces” and a lot of suggestions for plants, planting and maintenance.
Pay attention to where you buy your plants. If they were indoors they will do best in a shady location. If they were outside in full sun they will enjoy a sunny balcony.
If a cactus or succulent looked sunburned that is very possible if it was too much sun too soon. Put your succulent garden in a part sun, part shade location to begin. Even a cactus can get sunburned.
When in doubt – don’t water. Too much water will cause the roots to rot and the damage is hard to spot until it is too late. (I’ve had succulents surprise me by just falling over!)
The internet has lots of information on succulent gardens. If all this sounds like a better project for next month, then a few pots of red, white and blue petunias is a cheerful alternative. Enjoy!
French Tarragon 1 year after planting in container.
Time to plant your balcony garden
Soil for container plants is easy to find. Don’t use “Top Soil”. It is likely to be mostly clay and too heavy for your balcony use. Potting soil (with or without time release fertilizer) will be just fine.
If you buy plants – fit them tightly into the pot. You will have a nice showy pot and it is unlikely that they will outgrow the space over the summer. If you plant seeds, don’t put the pot in full sun. Keep seeds moist until they germinate by covering the pot with plastic wrap to keep the soil from drying out and
How much sun your balcony gets will determine your choice of plants. Don’t forget reflected light from nearby buildings. Your balcony may receive direct sun only in the morning, but also receive reflected light from the building next door in late afternoon. This article lists 5 ways to categorize sun and shade for choosing plants (about 2/3 down into this article is the list). More information is there is you want the details.
Vegetables: most container vegetables like full sun but may need shade from reflected afternoon light or direct afternoon sun. Vegetables need to be checked every day to see if they need water – many will, especially when putting on fruit. Recommended Container Vegetables are listed by type and by name.
Herbs: Basil is a standard and will probably need water daily in hot weather. Try cilantro or a chocolate mint plant. Most perennial herbs grow well in containers and may survive the winter. Good choices are French Tarragon, any of the Thyme varieties, Winter Savory, Chives. Here is more information about Growing Herbs in Containers.
Flowers: If you would like to screen the view from your balcony – plant tall annuals. An 8 inch deep pot is best. All of these grow easily from seed: sunflowers, cosmos, morning-glory (add a trellis for it to climb). Amaranth is a grain ( not very edible) and grows 6 feet tall! Look for the burgundy variety.
Time to get your balcony garden ready for planting.
Rules: ask the building management or homeowner’s association if there are any rules about having planters on your balcony. You don’t want to invest money in pots and soil and not be able to use them.
Containers: Check last year’s containers for cracks or sun-fading. If you are buying new containers check out this link about container gardening basics
When researching containers be aware that some articles may focus on patio containers – where weight and water run-off is not a consideration. This link to house plant containers has useful information that could be applied to balcony containers.
You can buy up-scale containers that are light-weight plastic but look like ceramic or stone. Most of these do not have a drainage hole. Planting directly into these containers you run the risk of over-watering and drowning your plants. It is best to put a saucer inside this pot and another container with a drain hole.
If you would rather re-use and re-purpose – local thrift stores have many different types and sizes of pots and planters. Just wash them out with regular dish soap. In most cases that is sufficient.
Pots with a drainage hole need a saucer under them. You do not want to water your plants and have the excess drip down into your neighbor’s balcony. Deep saucers with sides at least an inch or more will work the best. You can pour water into the saucer and the plant will soak it up from the bottom.
Pot sizes: You can use large pots on your balcony if you do not fill them completely with soil. Most annual plants and culinary herbs only about 6 inches of soil. Fill the bottom of your 2 foot tall container with empty water bottles or other light weight items that will take up room and not break down in the soil. You can top off the container with a saucer and a pot with the plants in it. Or you could top with a saucer and then fill the top with soil. Some soil and water will drip down into the bottom of your container but that will not usually not cause any problems.
Check back next month to hear about soil and plants or you can jump ahead to more detailed information in this Colorado State University Fact Sheet on container gardening.