There are several hot new ideas available these days for compact gardens. Even in the tiniest urban area, you can have an herb or vegetable garden. A simple investment in the appropriate equipment is necessary. One idea that is all the rage in drought-affected environments is the living succulent wall.
The word succulent comes from the Latin word "suculentus," meaning juice or sap. Succulent plants store water in their leaves and stems and do not require much soil to grow. You can easily make your own living wall. Visit Sunset magazine online or Pinterest for dozens of ideas to either make or buy a frame for the plants. Basically, you'll hold a shallow bed of cactus potting mix in place with wire mesh and moss. Propagation of additional plants is easy! Just break off a piece of an existing plant with an inch of stem and insert it into the soil. This easy process, combined with the minimal amount of moisture required to maintain succulents, makes them wildly popular in any climate.
Here we see a rack that is similar to a laundry drying rack. It's compact and easy to move around. Made of oak frames and sturdy plastic bins with drainage holes, this garden rack could be used to plant herbs, vegetables or flowers. It is made in Germany and can be shipped to the U.S. This convenient device could be positioned right outside your kitchen door or at the end of a high-rise balcony.
You can research polyvinyl chloride containers to sit right on top of a balcony handrail. There are containers that hook directly onto the rails, too. From Walmart to Amazon, there are window box containers, free-standing containers and decorative racks. Check out Grandin Road, Overstock and Target for even more ideas. Obviously, plastic is lighter to transport, and its price is lower when compared to ceramic or concrete containers. But remember that you will get what you pay for: Very inexpensive plastic containers will only last a couple of years with sun exposure and weather.
Many of us prepare areas of our homes to be used during seasons of pleasant weather. In a few more months, I will clean up my electric awnings and remove chair covers from outside furniture. This requires a hose and some soapy water. I wipe off the metal parts and get rid of all cobwebs and dirt. Take a good look at your patio seating area to see if you need to repair anything. My outside dining table has been covered during winter, and it's time to inspect it and the seat cushions. Accent pillows can fade and may need to be either replaced or reupholstered. Check any battery-operated lanterns and decorative lights, too.
This is also a fine time to think about ordering a standing propane heater or two. You might also consider gas or electric overhead heaters. I opted to purchase a standing infrared heater last summer because it eliminated the need to fiddle around with propane tanks, and the standing heater is simply plugged right into an outdoor outlet. No one will linger for outside dining if they are cold, so it's good to look at all sorts of portable fire pit tables, standing heaters or tabletop models. There are even wall-mounted ones that can be hung from a trellis or patio cover. Always consider the safest device for your particular living space. If you live in a condominium, be sure to check your community regulations before purchasing.
Christine Brun's column, "Small Spaces," can be found at www.creators.com.