Space-savers for your balcony

Space-savers for your balcony

Hanging pots are ideal substitutes for planters placed in the balcony, which often stain the floor. Also, with most home gardens limited to tiny balconies, hanging pots are a great choice, writes Rashmi Shrinivas.

A garden enthusiast living in a metropolitan city has to make many compromises for his garden. With most home gardens restricted to little balconies and with most landlords not too happy with the mud stains on the floor that result out of pots placed in the balcony, hanging pots are ideal replacements. Hanging pots don’t occupy any floor space and are excellent substitutes for climbers. Depending upon the size of your balcony and availability of sunlight, you can choose from a variety of plants for your balcony.

‘Donkey’s Tail’ has been a popular hanging plant since decades. Botanically known as sedum morganianum, it belongs to the family crassullaceae (bryophyllum or eleyodka family). Its closely packed small succulent leaves, pointed at the tip, completely cover the stem. Many branches grow from the base of the main stem and completely cover the hanging basket in due course. This plant is easy to propagate by its cut stem. It seldom flowers. It easily reaches a length of about two-three feet downwards and at times even more. Being a succulent, it does not need more water. It is to be watered moderately. Excess water may kill the plant.

This plant soon fills the hanging basket completely, so that no soil is seen in the pot. Also each strand of the plant tends to be thinner, indicating that nutrients available to the whole plant is too less. That means it is the right time for re-potting.

Re-potting

Re-potting is not complicated. All that you have to do is to slowly take the plant out of the hanging pot without causing any harm to its delicate leaves and keep it aside. Losing a few leaves in the process is not uncommon.

Prepare the pot in the same manner in which you plant any other variety. Close the hole at the bottom of the pot either with a pebble or small piece of old pot. This ensures that all the water is not drained out of the pot instantaneously. Fill one-fourth of the pot with a layer of gravel or baby jelly.

Fill the next one-fourth of the pot with sand. Now fill another one-fourth of it with a mix of red soil and compost, mixed equally. Always leave the topmost one-fourth of the pot empty. Since hanging pots are generally smaller, each one of these layers will not be too thick. Now the pot is ready for planting.

Divide the old plant into three-four parts of manageable size and plant them in different pots prepared in the manner mentioned earlier.

Water them moderately. Make it a point to hang them in a suitable place in your balcony, where enough sunlight is available. Soon, your plant grows well into a healthy adult plant to impart a beautiful look to your balcony!

For those who prefer flowering hanging plants, ‘Baby Sun Rose’, botanically known as aptenia cordifolia, belonging to the family aizolaceae is an ideal choice.

This plant has tiny heart-shaped succulent leaves with small sunflower like pink flowers. ant was one of the early inhabitants of my tiny balcony garden.

There are many other plants suited for hanging pots. While ‘String of Banana’ (senecio radicans) looks like a climber, ‘Spider plant’, ‘Lady’s Tears’ and asparagus cascade from the pot. Table rose, ‘Portulaca’ and ‘Drooping Geranium’ (pelargonium variety) are for those who are fond of flowering plans. ‘Purple Heart’ is for those fond of richly coloured foliage.

Choice

Hanging pots are available in various shapes and sizes in the market. While pots made of terracotta and plastic are available, the ones made of bamboo are most preferred since they are eco-friendly besides being lightweight.

Coffee tree has been a popular choice since decades as an accessory in the balcony garden.

You can hang one or two nests of weaver birds and perhaps small artificial birds too for that natural look! Small wind chimes only add to the charm of your little garden space.

Pros and cons

nThe floor of the balcony does not get soiled, unlike in the case of terrestrial pots.
nLike other types of gardening, if you prepare your own compost out of kitchen waste, you are saving monetarily, besides contributing a bit towards solving the waste management problem your city may be facing.

nUsing recycled water can reduce the burden on authorities to provide potable water.
nHanging pots are well suited for those with back problems, as they can reach the plants without having to bend.

nOn the flip side, hanging pots become heavy when watered and may fall and break, causing injury.


Precautions

* Ensure that the hook and the support provided to the hanging pot are sturdy enough to avoid any untoward incident.

* If an additional wired basket is fixed to the pot, it may reduce the possibility of falling and breaking of the baskets.

*Ensure that the pots get natural sunlight. Plants need sunlight and they tend to grow well in the direction where they get sunlight, often leaving the pot empty on the other direction, where sunlight may not be available. This results in uneven growth of the plants.

*Make sure that your gardening enthusiasm does not cause inconvenience to others.

*Make sure that the hanging pots are hung in a suitable place, where it does not affect people’s movement.

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