Small spa­ces

Short on space? No prob­lem. Plant in con­tain­ers, or start gar­den­ing ver­ti­cally.

NZ Gardener - 365 Days of Flowers - - Practical gardening -

Don’t be ham­pered by the size of your yard. There are plenty of space-sav­ing so­lu­tions. Nar­row niches al­low for flow­ers in con­tain­ers, and ex­ist­ing walls lead you to gar­den up­wards. Just make sure wher­ever you gar­den your flow­ers re­ceive ad­e­quate light.

PETALS IN POTS

It's been said that con­tainer gar­dens should have a thriller (a plant that catches your at­ten­tion), a spiller (one that trails over the sides) and a filler (plants that add colour and tex­ture). Try a red-leafed heuchera and golden creep­ing Jenny for the wow fac­tor.

RE­CY­CLED POTS

Visit your lo­cal thrift store and pur­chase vin­tage salt cel­lars or other ves­sels that can be hung up for a pretty wall fea­ture. These suit smaller plants like pan­sies and polyan­thus, or try grow­ing dainty flow­ers like lo­belia, alyssum and creep­ing campanula.

BAL­CONY BITES

If all you have is a bal­cony, at­tach spe­cially de­signed planters to house smaller bed­ding plants. Plas­tic or wood planters are avail­able to buy. Or at­tach old plas­tic gut­ters to ei­ther side of the rail­ing and plant these up. Just make sure you drill drainage holes first.

STACKED GAR­DEN

To build a cost-ef­fec­tive ver­ti­cal gar­den, find re­us­able, durable ma­te­ri­als des­tined for the dump. Crates will last a cou­ple of sea­sons be­fore wood de­grades; con­crete blocks and plas­tic last for­ever. A plas­tic or steel frame (try an old book case) can house plas­tic boxes for plant­ing up. A mod­u­lar sys­tem that can eas­ily be taken apart is ideal for swap­ping out sea­sonal plants, or be pre­pared to re­plant your wall as the sea­sons change.

SHIP­PING PAL­LET CRAFT

Ship­ping pal­lets, of­ten free for the tak­ing, make ex­cel­lent tem­po­rary ver­ti­cal gar­dens. Turn them on their sides and fix a length of tim­ber to the bot­tom of each hor­i­zon­tal board to cre­ate a con­tainer. Line with plas­tic, poke holes in the plas­tic for drainage, then plant up. Re­mem­ber that tim­ber, even when treated, will rot un­der wet soil. Make sure the pal­let is firmly an­chored in place – the soil makes it heav­ier than you might think!

The sun should drench your wall if you want to raise flow­ers. If all you have is shade, plant ferns.

SAV­ING AND STOR­ING SEED

Sav­ing seed makes eco­nomic sense as you can cut down your gar­den­ing costs con­sid­er­ably. Af­ter flow­ers fade, a seed­head or in­di­vid­ual pods will de­velop. When these are nearly dry (if they dry com­pletely the seeds may dis­perse be­fore you have a chance to col­lect them) and the seeds in­side ripen to a brown colour, re­move and bring them in­doors. Lay in­di­vid­ual pods, like those of the sweet pea or wild blue indigo ( Bap­tisia aus­tralis), on news­pa­per to dry com­pletely and place whole seed­heads into pa­per bags with the stem stick­ing out. When dry, shell the pods and store seed in pa­per en­velopes in a cool, dry place. The seed from the seed­heads will fall into the pa­per bag, or just shake them out af­ter a week or two, and then store them when you're cer­tain they are com­pletely dry. Do not store in plas­tic, as seeds will rot if there's any resid­ual mois­ture.

When col­lect­ing seeds, choose plants that are vig­or­ous and free from dis­ease. Start with an­nu­als and bi­en­ni­als; it is quicker to di­vide or take cut­tings from peren­ni­als.

How­ever, some peren­ni­als, such as chic win­ter-flow­er­ing hellebores, are fab­u­lous seed pro­duc­ers too. When the pods turn black in late spring, col­lect and dry. They need a cold win­ter to ger­mi­nate so must be re­sown within a few months.

Easy an­nu­als to save in­clude love-in-a-mist, hon­esty and pop­pies. As a bonus, once you‘ve shaken out the ripe seed, their seed pods are great in dried flower ar­range­ments.

To save sun­flower seed, tie a sack or pil­low­case over the flower as soon as the petals fade and the head starts to droop. Hun­gry birds will al­most cer­tainly filch all the seeds oth­er­wise.

Marigolds and zin­nias are pro­lific seed­ers and easy to har­vest. Pick the flow­er­heads when they have faded, then dry whole. Split open the head and re­move the seeds.

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