Just because you live in a condo or apartment, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a garden at the same time. In this week’s tip, we’ll cover five tips to have a more enjoyable and fun gardening experience.
1. Create a Microclimate of Plants
We’ve talked before about how containers tend to dry up quickly for condo and apartment gardens because of the increased wind and temperature fluctuations many units face. One simple way to combat this is to create a microclimate by grouping plants and containers close together. This way, the leaves of each plant have other plants for protection from the wind, creating a slightly more humid environment with less water loss from evaporation. Proper spacing, or moving containers as plants grow, will ensure that they aren’t too crowded as plants reach their full size.
2. Lookout for Pests and Diseases
Just because deer, raccoons and groundhogs may not be able to get to your garden, it doesn’t mean you’ll be fully protected from all animals. Birds and squirrels are always on the lookout for an easy meal and that may include your tempting garden. Likewise, diseases like blight, powdery mildew, aphids, and white flies can still wreak havoc on your garden – whether they were brought in on existing transplants/plants, brought it from a nearby neighbour’s garden or from the general climate, pests and diseases can be found both at ground level and 30+ stories up on a condo and apartment balcony
3. Protect Plants/Containers During Winter
Most condo and apartment gardeners leave their plants and pots outside all year round, including winter. While it is preferred, it’s often not possible to bring containers inside. For plants that are going to die back and be replanted next year, clear off any debris, drain off any excess water, and store containers close together in a more protected spot if possible. You can also use a tarp, large cardboard box, or other material to wrap around the pots for some extra protection. For perennial plants that survive the winter, extra protection is also recommended. These containers don’t have the buffering effect of being planted in the ground to better insulate their roots. To try to mimic this insulation, we recommend getting a large cardboard box that is slightly bigger than your container/plant. Fill it with lightweight packing material (ex. crumpled newspaper, straw, loose shipping materials, etc) to provide insulation and wind protection after the plant has gone dormant. This will improve their chance of surviving the winter and allow them to start growing again faster in the spring
4. Move Plants to a More Shady Location During Trips out of Town
If you know you are going to be away and don’t have anyone to water the plants during that time, you may want to move your plants to a more shady spot. A few days of being in a more protected spot means less water loss from evaporation. If you have multiple containers, group your plants to create their own microclimate and give them a good watering before you leave and once you come back. One tip we’re starting to see good results with is to use compost tea on our plants. This increases their root system and makes them more tolerant to dry conditions for longer periods of time. Your results may vary, and finding high quality compost tea may be a challenge in your area
5. Cleanup on a Rainy Day
We’ve heard of some buildings that prohibit water runoff from the edge of the balcony and strict tidiness standards. At the same time, gardening isn’t always the cleanest activity and sometimes a mess is made. If you find you have a need to clean up your gardening area, one of the best times to do this is during a rainstorm. No one is going to complain about water running off the edge, a little bit of dirt being washed off isn’t going to be noticed, and the sun will come out and dry everything shortly anyways.