’Tis the season to show off your gardening skills—but for those of us who live in a city, that looks a little different. Instead of, sprawling backyard plots, we have window boxes. Mini herb pots on the windowsill are our equivalent to patio planters. When working within the constraints of an apartment, you have to take all sorts of considerations into account. So we tapped a few experts and asked them to share their firsthand experience.
From the miniature item that keeps balcony sprouts regularly hydrated to the storage solution that helps a pro cram as many greens as possible into limited square footage, these are their holy grail tools.
The tool: Plant Tarps
Why she swears by it: These are great when it comes to any plant project, from watering to repotting to soil mixing to even moss making—they keep the dirt and water in and prevent a mess (whether that’s on your coffee table or your fire escape). Plus they’re super-easy to clean and store.
The tool: Ladder Bookcase
Why he swears by it: A wood shelf allows you to add layers and depth to your plants in a tiny space by filling in the ledges with foliage to create a dynamic look. Place trailing plants in the top corners so you get the most out of them—let them drape over the side so they don’t hang over your other greens and make the setup look too clunky.
The tool: Moisture Meter
Why she swears by it: It really helped me fine-tune my watering schedule! I found that the soil used for my indoor plants was not drying out as quickly as that of my outdoor plants—a lot of people overwater indoor greenery, and it’s the opposite for fire escape and balcony gardens. This tool eliminates the inaccuracies of eyeballing the soil.
The tool: Terracotta Pots
Why he swears by it: I’ve got quite a busy lifestyle, the downside of which is that when I get home at night, I still have to water more than 400 plants before I go to bed; often I’m very sleepy and end up overwatering them. With terracotta planters, this isn’t an issue! The clay material absorbs excess liquid and releases it by evaporation. These simple pots stand up to rain on balconies and prevent those plants from getting soggy, which greatly reduces the chance of rotting roots. They’re also strong enough to withstand freezing temperatures, as long as water can drain from them.
The tool: Cold Pressed Neem Oil
Why she swears by it: Neem oil has dozens of botanical uses—I use it as an all-natural insecticide for fighting pests like spider mites. You can also dilute it and apply it to a microfiber cloth when cleaning your leaves. I like to use it twice a month this way; it’s great for helping your plants look shiny and pretty but also keeping them healthy.
The Tool: Champi Oyas
Why she swears by it: Oyas help avoid wasting water and make sure the soil stays moist without risking overwatering. These wonderful ceramic pieces have a reservoir to fill with water, and a porous tail to put into the soil that will gently release water over time as the dirt becomes dry. There are some companies that sell terracotta versions, which are perfect for balconies because they’re weatherproof; you just need to put them deeper into the soil and cover the top with straw in order to keep them away from the sun. My west-facing balcony is happy with them, especially when I leave for vacation.
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