|The Tiny Apartment Patio|
So, you've finally found an apartment that has it all: close to where you need to be, has a pool, lawns with 'gasp' actual grass under the trees (something hard to find today in the Desert Southwest), a private patio, all the features you need inside and you can actually afford the rent without having to get a second job. There's only one catch: it isn't very big. I'm talking about the patio. For a gardener who can't really afford to own their own house, that's a big deal. We were glad to find one that even had a patio at our price range. Even found an apartment in the complex that had the coveted North facing patio (sun exposure and shade is critical here - especially in the furnace of the summertime). But, it's not much bigger than a large shower. What to do?
After shuffling the stuff around a bit, this is what we've come up with for now.
|Welcome to my new personal garden!|
The chairs are the bungee cord suspended 'low-g' style which are much more comfortable than the old vinyl weave lawn chairs. The only problem is, the foot rests are so long that, while two chairs will fit, only one person can have the foot rest up at a time. The red one is Joani's as it's a little smaller and shorter than the brown one so it fits her short legs better. One great thing about this patio is that the patio above forms a roof so we can fold up the chairs and leave them out there without them being fully exposed to the elements.
The cart is an all metal, power coated one from Ikea. The shelves are vented so water flows through. It was the sturdiest yet most portable cart I've seen in a while that I could actually afford. It's narrow enough that it doesn't take up too much width which is the biggest limiting factor on this patio. It holds this asparagus fern quite well with storage below. The other plant holder/storage units are actually milk crates - stacked two high with the tops facing outwards to the side to form shelves. I wired them together so that they can't fall over or come apart if they get jostled about.
|Ikea cart and real milk crates get the job done.|
Each plant has its accompanying 'hardscape' element. The asparagus fern has an all metal, candle holding lantern also from Ikea which I like because the plastic ones fall apart in this heat and dry air. The society garlic has a tall, narrow terra cotta pot that I found at a thrift store. It doesn't have any drainage, so I fill it with water to create an evaporation pool which is handy for raising the humidity around plants. The aloe has a ceramic dragon with a secret compartment inside which I got from Z-Castle, a cool little store that has the stuff you find at Renaissance fairs - even real swords that you can use for practice dueling - only year round.
The plants were carefully chosen for their ability to tolerate shade as well as a few hours of intense sunlight; heat and occasionally dry soil. I rescued the society garlic from the clearance shelf at a Lowes. It is planted in a shallow yet very wide terra cotta pot so that there is room for broadcast seed planting other herbs around it. It had cilantro in it this Spring. Currently, it has a few flowers from a wildflower mix. There is another pot below the asparagus fern with more wildflowers. They didn't seem to be doing well with the amount of sun they were getting, so I'm using the shelf as even more shade for them. Eventually, the society garlic may overtake the pot unless I pull the new bulbs out and transplant them elsewhere. The asparagus fern was on sale at a Home Depot. The aloe is from a KMart also on sale.
Yes, I do prefer planting stuff by seed but sometimes, you want something perennial with some size to it and that's often best achieved (without having to wait for years for seedlings to grow) by getting a potted plant. I usually don't do that unless I can get them at less than full price though. By seed is always the way to go for getting annual plants as they grow much faster. I'll be replacing the wildflowers with herbs seeded herbs this fall. I'm using the wildflowers as living mulch for now.
|Ceramic Dragon lurks behind the aloe.|
In this picture above, you can see the evaporation pool formed by the terra cotta pot better. There is another, short and shallow drainless pot below the metal cart full of water for another evaporation pool. I got the idea for evaporation pools from the observation that there is a wider variety of plants in the desert near open water like wetlands and ephemeral streams - partly due to the somewhat higher humidity in those places. These evaporation pool pots are deep enough that they don't need filled every day, I usually just add a bit to them when I water the other plants.
While a huge back yard would be nice, it would also be too expensive for us at this current time. For that matter, it would also demand more of my time, cutting back on how much time I have to work on other's landscapes. So, this little patio of potted plants makes a nice little private oasis for sitting outside reading and relaxing. I like walking our dog, Tigger, on the grass lawn under the pine trees in the common area and feel lucky to have that rather than a pile of crushed rocks, but this little patio gets me away from the occasional chaotic play of the neighbor kids. While those kids can be a bit annoying at times when I want quiet contemplation, I am glad to be living somewhere where the kids feel safe enough to play outside for hours at a time.
Do you have a tiny garden space? What are you doing with it? If you have any questions or have neat ideas that you've come up with, feel free to contact me here.