It seems as though more and more people have been bit by the urban gardening bug. With the grow your own food movement resurgence and a renewed focus on natural ingredients, home gardens are popping up left and right. Even without a large backyard or space to plant straight into the ground, patio and rooftop gardening is easily accessible and just as fun.
Lara Burchfield, an avid home gardener, has had a patio garden for five years. "The great thing about a patio garden or balcony garden is the weed control," she says. "You don't get a lot of weeds when you are gardening in containers." On the flipside, keeping your soil moist in the containers can be tough. While most people might be tempted to garden in big, gorgeous terra cotta pots, Burchfield cautions against them as they don't hold moisture. "Plastic pots are really inexpensive, and a lot of the time you can ask your local nursery for some and they are happy to give you used ones," she suggests. Burchfield, who is studying to become a master gardener, is a huge fan of organic potting soil. She then mixes in homemade organic compost.
Once you have the containers and soil, the next step is to figure out your home's level of sun exposure. If gardening on a rooftop, be cautious of overexposing your plants to the sun. Creating some sort of shade covering can dull the direct light. With a patio garden, check to see how much sunlight the area gets at different times of the day. "For example, I am not going to plant tomatoes on a balcony that faces north that has only a minimum of an hour sun exposure," says Burchfield, referencing that tomatoes need at least six hours of sunlight each day to grow.
Once you have the potting area set and know the amount of sunlight you can expect your plants to receive, the fun begins. Decide what kind of space you are trying to create with your patio or rooftop garden. Do you want a garden that supplies food? Or is this garden going to be a place of serenity to get away from it all? Maybe you really like succulents and want to create that type of garden. Are you looking to attract insects? By keeping in mind your end goal, you can choose plants fitting your vision. Burchfield suggests getting in touch with your local extension office for ideas on which plants work best in your climate. These offices, as well as botanic gardens in your city, can help point you in the right direction.
The last step is not to get discouraged. "Don't beat yourself up if you kill a plant in the process; it is all trial and error the first couple months when your garden is installed," Burchfield says. "Until you have been gardening for a couple years in the same location you may have some hiccups along the way."