How to grow plants when you don't have any outdoor space

If you don’t have any outside space, you can still grow a few things.

Of course, there’s always house plants but if you want to grow plants that need to be outdoors, think about window boxes and hanging baskets.

It can be a bit daunting to think about what is suitable.

Freddie Blackett, Co-Founder of plant delivery service Patch, has some tips: ‘First, always consider the natural environment that your space most closely matches, as all plants are at home in different conditions.

‘Some will prefer lots of sunlight, whereas others like shady spots, for example. Some won’t put up with windy conditions too well whereas others will be in their element. Choosing plants that suit your space means they’re more likely to thrive.

‘Remember that outdoor plants often experience more seasonal changes than their indoor counterparts, such as by only flowering for a couple of months each year or dropping their leaves over winter. This could affect whether you want to choose them for your space.’

Annuals are plants that grow from seed, flower, go to seed and die within the space of a year. Once they’ve died, you’ll need to replace them.

Biennials are plants that complete their life cycle over two years. In the first, they’ll usually just grow leaves. In the second year they’ll also produce flowers and seeds, after which they will die, and need replacing.

Perennial plants put out flowers and seeds year after year, although they have different lifespans. Some will last for a few years, others will pop up again and again for decades.

Evergreen plants will keep their leaves green all year round. Some may look the same all year, whereas others may flower.

Freddie explains: ‘In urban gardens where space is often in limited supply, you probably want to make the most of it, making it really beautiful, rather than one that looks rubbish for months at a time.

‘Evergreen plants will look lively year-round, but rarely offer much by way of colour or flowers. Seasonals can provide this, but also need to be replaced from time to time.

‘Annuals look great for a season or two but then need replacing. Most spaces look best with a little bit of everything – some reliable evergreens to provide structure and interest all year, some seasonal and perennial plants to enjoy when they are at their best and annuals for a little shake-up every year.’

It’s not just about the plant – you need to think about the container too.

It needs to have drainage so make sure there are some holes at the bottom to allow water to escape. If your pot doesn’t have them, you need to drill some.

If the container is heavy, it might not be right to use it high up. Combined with the plants, soil and water it can be too much for a balcony or windowsill. It does need to be heavy enough so it doesn’t fall over if it’s a little windy.

Freddie adds: ‘Certain container materials, such as unglazed terracotta, are porous. This allows more airflow around the plant’s root system, but also means the soil dries out more quickly as the pot absorbs some of the moisture.

‘As a result, check the soil more regularly in these pots as you may need to water them more frequently. Frost can be the end of outdoor containers if you’re not careful; if you plan to leave your container outside all year it’s best to go for something frost-proof like plastic and metal that won’t crack when temperatures drop.’

Once you’ve chosen one, you need to plant it properly and give it the right attention.

Containers need more attention when it comes to watering. Avoid root rot by planting in containers with holes and on hot or windy days, check your plants’ soil to make sure they haven’t dried out.

A benefit of container planting is that you can put any potting soil you want into your containers rather than dealing with the particular soil mix that you’ve inherited in your garden. While most plants will be fine with a standard multipurpose compost, it’s important to check if your plant prefers acid or alkaline soil.

If you’re putting more than one plant in a container, it’s important to make sure they like the same conditions: keep shade-loving plants together and in a different pot to sun-lovers, for instance, and those that prefer drier soil in a separate camp to those who like things moist.

Freddie explains: ‘Planting up a container is pretty simple. Once you’ve made sure your container already has drainage holes, add a layer of drainage material to the bottom. Crocks (broken bits of terracotta pots), gravel or even chunks of polystyrene work well.

‘Fill soil to a level that will lift the root ball of the plant so that its top sits just below the lip of the container.

‘You can add some moisture retaining crystals at this point – you can find out more about these in our watering section.we’ll let you know a bit more about these in a later lesson.

‘Next remove your plants from their plastic nursery pots, loosen the roots a little, and pop them into the soil. Fill in the soil around the plants and water them into place, and you’re good to go.’

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