Many believe that living in a condo or an apartment limits their options for having a garden. The reality is that urban gardens in outdoor living spaces provide just as many options as conventional garden spaces; in fact, there are no limits to the creative way you can maximize your outdoor living area in order to have lush, abundant flower, herb, and / or produce gardens.
How to Maximize Outdoor Living Space
Typically, nice-sized condo patios are around 300 square feet or less, and most want that space to fulfill multiple functions including providing outdoor entertainment and seating as well as cooking and dining. Outdoor gardens can accentuate outdoor living areas by making them feel both welcoming and private, and there are several small garden ideas that maximize the space allotted for a patio garden without overcrowding the other objects in the space:
- Vertical Planters: Get innovative using shelves, shipping pallets turned on their sides, or hanging rain gutters as windowsill boxes. Planters can be filled with soil and can be directly planted in, or they can be filled with small potted plants (this makes for easier plant swapping as seasons and your plant preferences change).
- Hanging Baskets: Hanging planters are great for more than leafy ferns and colorful pansies; they’re also fantastic for vegetable gardeners. Cherry tomatoes and peppers grow well in hanging planters as do other produce, herbs, and florals that sustain well in well-drained soil.
- Ladders for Climbing: Place pots at the base of ladders or lattice work to create a space for vining plants to climb. Grape vines, tomatoes, squash varieties, beans, wisteria, and ivy are among a variety of plants that love to spread upward and that are more prolific if given room to rise.
- Raised Containers: Container gardens are very popular; these are boxed-in raised beds filled with soil that can be used and re-used year after year to grow a variety of plants. All you have to do is keep the soil fertilized and well-tended, and you’ll enjoy years of fruition. Some urban gardeners use cinder blocks with which to build their container garden as smaller plants and herb varieties can be grown in the cinder block holes.
- Potted Plants: Unlike raised containers that accommodate a variety of plants, potted plants enable gardeners to grow hibiscus or small citrus trees. Potted plants have the advantage of being able to be moved indoors during periods of inclement weather.
Most urban gardeners prefer to use a variety of options for designing their outdoor green space. Doing so visually diversifies the space and creates levels, layers, and textures that add to the condo’s exterior appeal.
Pros & Considerations of Patio Gardens
Even though residents of apartment and condos have a wealth of options at their disposal for gardening, there are a few obstacles that must be considered before establishing a garden; however, there are also some benefits to having a small, contained garden versus one of sprawling sown rows.
Even though it seems the grass is pretty green on the patio side of the fence, there are a few considerations that you must take into account before you start gardening:
- Space: No matter how creative one is, the reality is that there is only so much space on a patio, which means that you’ll need to be selective about what you will grow and in what quantity.
- Lighting: Most plants like partial to full sun (at least six hours per day), so you’ll need to plan your garden based on when and where the sun hits your patio.
- Regulations: Some residential complexes have regulations relative to what you can do in your outdoor space, so make sure to familiarize yourself with your home’s covenants and restrictions before you start gardening.
Thankfully, all of these “challenges” can easily be worked around; meanwhile, there are some important advantages that patio gardeners have:
- Small, elevated, and even portable contained gardens offer the advantage of temperature control. For example, new growth or seedlings that would otherwise die during an unpredictable cold snap or in frosty soil can be sustained by being taken indoors, by being covered, or by being warmed with outdoor space heaters (if need be).
- Another advantage is that you have greater control over soil conditions. Loamy soil is ideal for growing any type of plant life as it retains moisture and nutrients while allowing for drainage. Depending on what you’re growing, you can control the soil’s consistency and pH balance more effectively in a patio garden.
Getting Started: Step-by-Step Patio Herb Garden
While flower gardens are always stylish, many are opting to grow gardens that are as practical as they are picturesque. Herb gardens make great starter gardens because herbs are attractive, tend to be hearty in most environments, and their yield can be used for culinary and craft cocktail purposes.
- Start by selecting the type of container you wish to use. A vertical garden that allows for an assortment of plants or a container work well for herbs.
- Pick what you want to plant. First-time gardeners are wise to pick plants that have been started professionally; wait until you’re more established as a gardener to grow from seedlings. Suggested starter herbs include:
- Baby Arugula
- Transplant plants to their container or into the soil.
- If you plant directly into the soil, some plants like oregano and mint tend to take over unless maintained.
- Keep plants pruned to avoid them going to seed
- Pick leaves from the tops of plants; this will both help with pruning and will ensure that the large leaves at the base of the plant that absorb nutrients via photosynthesis remain in-tact.
- Water sparingly; though, it’s okay to water more often when it’s hot and sunny. Keep the soil well-fertilized. Coffee grinds (which are easy to find in Tacoma) are a great organic fertilizer.
Once your garden is established, you can change the plants out as you see fit. Defer to The Old Farmer’s Almanac to get an idea of what grows best in your conditions and go from there. Having a small garden outside of your luxury condo in Tacoma adds to the property’s aesthetic value as well as to your overall enjoyment of your outdoor living space.