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Gardening in Small Spaces

By Sadiya Anjum

Gardening can be a very rewarding experience and watching the fruits of your labor grow can make you swell with pride. Not all of us have the privilege of a huge space to indulge in landscaping and large-scale gardening. But there is no need to give up this option entirely just because of limited space. A balcony or patio, no matter how small, can be turned into a garden. All it requires is passion, patience and imagination on your part.

You may think that limited space means limited options. But this is so untrue. There are hundreds of varieties of plants that you can pick from which will grow in containers. Start off by analyzing what the function of your garden is. Is it a place for you to relax, meditate, entertain family and friends? It may even be thematic garden of fruits only/ vegetables/ herbs/ flowers that are scented/ flowers of vibrant colors etc.

Examine the space to see what all you can do with it. Remove items that you never use and are just lying there or transform them to become a part of your garden. If the space is big enough, you may consider adding a chair, swing, recliner etc.

Apart from the space, you need to now consider the plants that you are going to grow. No matter which plant you choose, you need to take into account its soil, temperature, moisture, fertilizer and light preferences. You also need to consider proportion: small plants look ideal in smaller containers and bigger ones in bigger containers.

Picking out containers is important. Generally any item from kitchen bowls to washtubs can be used provided you make a small hole in the bottom for drainage. Recycled items apart, containers made of clay and wood are popular. Pretreated wood should be avoided as due to moisture its preservatives may leak into the soil and damage the plants. If you are gardening on a balcony, you may want to consider the weight of the container. Fibreglass is ideal for this because of its light weight.

As said before, each plant has its own preferences but for potted plants some of these general rules should be taken into account.

Soil for potted plants is best bought from stores which are usually cleaner and check the growth of diseases and weeds. This soil will also help in draining water quickly so as to prevent the roots from rotting by sitting in too much moisture. Taking fertilizers into account, avoid chemicals as a general rule. Use organic or diluted liquid fertilizers like fish emulsion, liquid seaweed or bone meal. Depending on the particular plant, you will have to use specific fertilizers.

As for climatic conditions, these are specific to each plant. Consider the amount of sunlight, wind and rain that your space is subjected to and choose plants accordingly. Herbs practically grow in any climate. Fruits and vegetables require much sunlight- tomatoes and cucumbers needing a lot. Flowers like marigolds and petunia also need the bright sun but begonia and fuchsia prefer shaded areas. Find out the climatic conditions of each plant before purchasing them.

So much can be done with a small space. All it requires is some planning and tender care. Find the theme or function for your space, study its climatic conditions and depending on the above pick out your plants. Before you know it, you will have transformed your tiny space into a beautiful garden that will delight you.

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