Tips for Balcony and Roof Gardening

Is balcony or roof gardening practical?

| June 2016

  • Roof gardens are idyllic throughout summer; perennial plants in containers can be removed during winter to a less exposed position.
    Photo by Federico Rostagno/Fotolia
  • In addition to growing plants on balconies, don’t forget that they are leisure areas.
    Photo by Alexey & Svetlana Novikov/Fotolia
  • "Home Gardener's Small Gardens" by David Squire offers a plant directory that covers it all: summer-flowering annuals, herbaceous perennials, shrubs, small trees, climbers, water plants, bamboos, culinary herbs, fruits, vegetables, and more. For a finishing touch, there's practical information on garden construction, with step-by-step instructions for making paths, patios and other garden structures.
    Cover courtesy Fox Chapel Publishing

Home Gardener's Small Gardens by David Squire (Fox Chapel Publishing, 2016) is the essential guide to improving a small garden and turning the most modest-sized space into a stunning outdoor area. It offers lushly illustrated strategies for making the most of a confined space-whether backyard, terrace or courtyard. Get started with an informative discussion of small garden types, appropriate plants, problems and opportunities, design, and planning. The excitement truly begins with a look at the wide variety of stylistic options. The gardens range from Mediterranean to wildflower, secluded to low-maintenance, container to balcony.

On Top of the World

Roof gardens are popular where the climate allows more than half the year to be spent on it. In other places, despite initial enthusiasm, the reality of a seasonal garden becomes apparent when icy winds roar across the site. Conversely, during summer the area may be exposed to strong, scorching sunlight, which may be ideal when attempting to gain an attractive sun tan but will shrivel plants which are not regularly watered. Nevertheless, the ability to garden "on top of the world" has unmatched eye appeal.

Balcony and Roof Gardening

It is surprising how much color can be created on a balcony or roof, whatever its aspect. Pots, troughs and hanging-baskets packed with summer-flowering bedding plants are ideal during summer, while from autumn to spring reliance is mainly on small, evergreen shrubs and dwarf conifers. When tender plants are grown, these may have to be taken indoors during winter. Alternatively, a friend with a frost-proof greenhouse might be able to offer them sanctuary.

Roof-Garden Ideas

Construct screens to create privacy as well as giving you protection from strong wind. In summer, temporary privacy screens may be all that is needed. Privacy screens are also essential to reassure neighbors they are not being spied upon; before problems arise, tell them about your plans.

In windy positions, it is best to rely on summer-flowering plants in troughs and tubs to create color.

Construct a series of strong railings along the outer edges of the roof garden and then train small-leaved, variegated Ivies to grow over them.



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