Retirement is a great time to get into gardening!

May 14, 2020

If you’re living in a Retirement Living and Aged Care community and don’t have acres of rolling green, it doesn’t mean sacrificing a connection to nature. Simply create an outdoor oasis on your balcony or small courtyard/alfresco area instead.

Especially important for retirees, the act of planting and tending to your garden is good for the soul and it can detract attention from the blandest or most unsightly views. The key is to choose plants that suit your balcony’s aspect, then plant in a way that maximises floorspace. This ensures you can still comfortably move around whatever space you have available.

Do I need a big space?

Not at all. If your balcony is small or awkwardly shaped, the key is to minimise mess with planting that won’t crowd out the space and create unnecessary clutter.

A greenwall – or vertical garden – is a fantastic options as it makes use of your walls instead of the floorspace. Alternatively, consider a series of long narrow pots framing the perimeter of the balcony. This will only take up a minimal amount of room, while adding a touch of nature to your alfresco area. Having them at different heights will give you a sense of an enclosed garden space.

What’s the most important consideration?

Your balcony’s aspect is the main thing to consider when choosing plants. Your balcony has its very own microclimate, so you need to assess how much sunlight and wind your space receives. A windy balcony, for example, is not the best spot for hanging plants as they will simply blow around, while certain plants won’t cope well with too much sun or shade.

You should also be realistic about how much attention you’ll be able to give your plants, as some require more care and watering than others in order to thrive.

What else should I plan first?

  • Irrigation: How and when you will water your plants? Is there a tap on your balcony where you can connect a hose? If you’re time-poor, automating your irrigation system is a great idea and doesn’t have to cost the earth.
  • Drainage: If you’re watering manually, assess whether your balcony has suitable drainage – the last thing you want is for water to drip onto the neighbours’ balcony below. You should also consider drainage in the plant pots themselves. Ones made of porous materials, such as terracotta, offer better drainage than plastic pots.
  • Potting soil: Be sure to choose potting soil that suits the plants you’ve chosen in order for them to thrive.

What are the best plants for balconies?

The following picks are hardy, wind-resistance and relatively low in terms of water requirements and maintenance.

  • Bromeliads
  • Aroids
  • Begonias
  • Epiphytic cacti

Succulents such as epiphytic cacti are a particularly appealing option if you lead a busy lifestyle, as they will live through the occasional time you forget to water the plants!

How can I add a splash of colour?

If you’re looking to add colour and punch to your balcony garden, try planting brachychiton. This is a native deciduous plant that boasts vivid and beautiful red flowers over summer and plenty of thick green leaves.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors, please consult your own legal, financial or health advisors before making any decisions.

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