by Anna Lucca
With winter in full swing around us, I agree it may seem a bit strange to be planning for the sunshine already; but, with some advice from yours truly and a sheet of paper, we will be able to design an organized, functional, and aesthetically pleasing balcony by carefully selecting the best layout and leaving plenty of time for any needed corrections. And once you’re done, you can while away the gray winter days imagining a space which you can fill with colorful flowers, aromatic wild plants, and maybe even some herbs and vegetables.
Don’t worry, we’re not building the Sistine Chapel here! Putting an idea on paper helps make it happen. Think about what would brighten up your balcony, keeping in mind the exposure to sun and the elements and how much time you can dedicate to it (even here, we cannot escape the clock’s relentless toll). Some small suggestions on the choice of plants which give good yield with minimal maintenance will help in this aspect, as well . By drawing it out, we will at least achieve these goals:
- understand what size vases to buy
- how to arrange them in the available space
- where to position each plant according to its needs, how to harmonize the other furnishing elements
From experience, I recommend you favor hardy plants, with little risk of diseases: the colorful geraniums and the luxuriant surfinie are fine (if you have balconies particularly exposed to the sun), but also the nasturtiums, beautiful flowers you can even eat; if grown without pesticides and properly fertilized, they can enrich your summer salads. Cherry tomatoes? Why not? You will have pleasant surprises.
Aromatic plants such as the classic basil, thyme, or mint, will also be very pleasing, especially if your balcony does not enjoy much sun during the day.
Now let’s do it!
Arm yourself with a meterstick, a block of checkered paper (preferable to graph paper, but either will work, and a pencil.
First of all, let’s take the measurements! If you use a tape measure, you can also have your children help support it. Establish a unit of measurement (four squares for one meter) and start on the side with the fewest obstacles, such as French doors. Scale the measurements and remember to also mark the fixed elements (railings, steps, etc.), the orientation (all you really need is an indicator for north) and the areas that receive the most shade.
Now it’s time to choose the most suitable plants and the pots in which to keep them. If your balcony is on the smaller side, you may want to opt for vases with a rectangular base, as they will allow you to optimize the space available, and keep in mind that if you have a railing you can hang them using the special supports for pot holders.
Plan to place the aromatic plants in the least sunny place, the geraniums in full sun and the tomatoes in fairly spacious planters. You can complete the design with furniture such as tables, chairs, and even the position of the barbecue.
MY TWO CENTS ABOUT TOMATOES
Tomatoes are a great addition to any garden. They are easy to grow, they have a high yield of fruit, and there are many varieties. Make sure to do your research when buying! Personally, I love date tomatoes: they have a more elongated shape, they are firm, versatile (both raw and cooked are tasty) and they are very sweet!
To spice things up, try choosing more than one variety. You will have to support the growing seedlings by binding them to a trellis of some sort (simple bamboo sticks about a meter in length will suffice). Make sure when drawing up the plans to take into account their development in height; avoid placing them in front of a window, for example, or at the railing where there are wires for hanging clothes. This way you will avoid any potential problems down the line. Three or four pots’ worth should give you a sufficiently bountiful harvest to eat them nearly every day.
I hope this advice has left you inspired with your own creative green projects. Good vegetables to all!