small-garden-tips

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5 top gardening tips for small outdoor spaces

Agents of Field share their top tips with HELLO!

Grace Lindsay

Summer is fast approaching, which means many of us will be turning our attention to our gardens, and how to make them look as good as possible for when the warm weather arrives. If you don’t have a large outdoor space, or live in a flat with a balcony, then do not fear, as you can still create a garden to remember.

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Ade and Sophie Sellars of Agents of Field have shared their top five tips on how to utilise your small space in the best way possible, and what plants are best for the different conditions. Time to put those green fingers to good use!

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What flowers can I plant on my balcony?

If space is an issue, think about planting in hanging baskets and containers. Fill them with trailing plants, so they can hang down over your balcony, filling the area with colour for the summer season ahead. Plants to consider are petunias, lobelia and trailing fuchsias. To help create height to your containers add osteospermum, gerbera, gazania, or even smaller variety dahlias. If you want structure, greenery and a bit of drama, try adding a standard bay tree. With a stem running up to 50cm, and a round evergreen foliage head, not only does this make a statement, but the leaves are great for cooking. Easy to maintain, this will never become unruly for an area with limited space.

hanging-basket

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What vegetables can I grow on my balcony?

People seem to think you need a lot of space to grow vegetables, but this isn’t the case. There’s so much you can still grow with limited space. Also, many varieties of veg now have a dwarf variation. It still produces the same crop, just the plant doesn’t grow as big.

Potatoes are always an easy veg to start with. Growing them in potato sacks and containers, they take up little space. Also, once the flowers and foliage appear, they make for an attractive feature. If you have a sunny balcony you can’t go wrong with courgettes. Happy to grow in containers, just make sure it’s filled with fresh multi-purpose compost, and always keep them well watered. Once they start to produce their fruit, the key is to pick the courgettes regularly. Not only are you getting a constant supply, but it tells the plant to continue producing. Salad leaves are really versatile, and perfect for the summer menu. Whether it’s rocket or little gem, they need little container space but come with great results.

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If growing out is an issue, try growing up. Smaller variety of squashes can be grown as trailing plants such as uchiki kuri and little gem. Beans and peas are vertical growing plants, and you don’t need to grow many to get a good crop. The key is to create a strong structure so they can latch on and pull themselves up. Hanging baskets are always useful on a balcony, and with the right plants can make for a great feature. Imagine growing your own tomatoes, well you can. Varieties such us ‘tumbling tom’ and ‘pear drops’ are perfect. Hanging downwards, these plants are smothered in fruit. Just remember to water and feed regularly.

If fruit is your thing, there are so many varieties of apples, pears and plums that are grown specifically for patios and balconies in small containers. If you can hang a long container along your balcony, try growing strawberries. By buying early, mid-season and late varieties, you could be eating strawberries throughout summer as they hang over your balcony showing off their plump, juicy fruit.

strawberries

Try hanging strawberries in a long container over your balcony

What plants and vegetables can I grow when I haven’t got much space?

Whatever you grow on your balcony, the key is to make your plants as comfortable as possible. And that means, watering and feeding regularly. Containers are a limited space, and once the warmer temperature arrives, they can dry-out quickly and exhaust the soil’s nutrients. Try to water first thing in the morning, or early in the evening when temperatures are lower, and there’s less water evaporation. Also, always water at the base of the plant and not over it. In the hot sun, water can act like a magnifying glass, so if it’s sat on foliage it can scorch the plant. Finally, make life easier by adding water retention gel/granules when potting up your new plants. This will help the pots from drying out and could mean less watering for you.

watering-can

6 litre watering can, £10.99, Amazon

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What if my balcony is shady?

Just because you balcony is shady doesn’t mean you can’t have a healthy growing area. It’s all about the right plants for the right spot. If you want a lush green area to relax in, hostas and ferns make a fantastic addition. Thriving in shady areas, they are low maintenance whilst producing some fantastic colours and structures giving your balcony the ‘wow’ factor.

For added colour try filling containers with coleus or heuchera fuchsias. Finally, if you have an unloved corner, a small acer might be just the thing. A slow growing plant, it can sit there for years to come. With attractive foliage, it will change with the seasons giving you interest and a talking point.

balcony

Try filling containers with lots of colourful flowers for a pretty addition to your balcony

What are the best plants for direct sunlight?

If your balcony gets the full sun, then celebrate it with a season of colour. Plants such as dahlias and cannas will thrive. Want to grow sunflowers? Then go for it. There are so many dwarf varieties, with different colours, shape and petals, you’re spoilt for choice. Sunflowers to consider are 'Sunbelievable', ‘Brown Eyed Girl’, ‘Teddy Bear’ and ‘Sunny Smile’.

Looking for climbing plants that can be set in a container and grow up? Then try thunbergia or ‘Black-eyed Susan’. A low maintenance plant, not only do they produce thick green foliage but also striking flowers in different colours. They can be grown up a structure or trailed over your balcony.

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Check out Agents of Field's popular blog for more tips. 

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