Patio gardens soften the transition between indoors and outdoors by bringing plants into outdoor living areas. This might involve something as simple as setting up a few window boxes on an apartment balcony, or as elaborate as enclosing an entire porch with trellised vines, potted trees and shrubs, hanging baskets, and containers filled with annual and perennial flowers.
Let's look at some challenges gardeners face, and see how patio gardens can provide solutions.
Perhaps you've longed to have a garden, but your city apartment offers minimal possibilities. Even the smallest balcony can become a peaceful oasis with the addition of carefully chosen and well-placed plants. Also, many vegetables, fruits, and herbs thrive in containers.
You may have the loveliest gardens in your large front yard--but the deck where you spend much of your summer leisure time faces your small back yard. Why not bring some of your favorite plants into your living area by planting them in containers and placing them where you can enjoy them daily?
Plants can help provide much-needed relief from the crowds and noise of city life. Create privacy screens by planting fast-growing annual vines up trellises around your patio. Place container-grown small trees and shrubs around the perimeter of your deck, to muffle noise and create a visual barrier.
You'd love to grow tomatoes, but your yard is too shady. Tomatoes adapt well to growing in containers, so pot some up, place them on your sunny porch, and look forward to mouth-watering tomatoes all summer long.
You have a plot at your local community garden, and grow most of your produce there. But wouldn't it be nice to be able to pick a few cherry tomatoes or some fresh basil for a last-minute salad? Even if your garden is in your back yard, it's still nice to have planters with your favorite herbs and vegetables right outside your kitchen door.
Container-grown plants can be arranged in endless ways to create the ambience you want. Containers are available in a wide variety of styles, colors, and shapes, and can become an important part of the design. Furthermore, you can rotate ornamental plants into and out of the design, as they reach, then pass, their peak.
You can arrange containers close to an outdoor seating area to create an intimate ambience for a small dinner party, then move them further away to make room for a larger gathering. You can arrange tall plants to provide shade during the heat of summer, then move them so you can soak up the sun's warmth as the weather cools. You can also move containers to a protected spot if the weather turns threatening.
Before you dive into patio gardening, begin by defining what your needs are, what you are trying to accomplish, and what degree of versatility you'd like to have. Then choose containers and plants that best meet your needs.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
Note that if you add plants to a balcony or deck, you'll need to take into consideration how the added weight of the plants will affect the structure, especially if you are considering large containers with trees or shrubs. You may want to get the help of a professional contractor to determine the structure's load-bearing capacity. Also, be sure any overhanging containers are properly secured to the structure.
Article published on June 23, 2008.