When I moved into a flat with a balcony, I was penniless but absolutely determined to make something of my small space. Now, after three years of hard work, my balcony is beautiful and produces veggies and flowers all year long. Money should not hold you back in gardening, so I’ve compiled my top four tips for skint gardeners.
I am lucky enough to live in a city with particularly giving streets, Glasgow! Take a wee stroll along Great Western road, West Princes Street, or any of the side streets jutting off from Dumbarton Road and you will know what I am talking about. The streets of Glasgow are paved with old bookcases, chests of drawers, side tables, and all sorts of fantastic street furniture which are perfect for creating levels in your balcony garden. Creating levels makes your space look bigger, more interesting, and complete. Rather than just a bunch of pots on the decking, you have a curated space.
Of course, as most furniture pieces are not meant to be outside for large stretches of time, lots of these additions will not be permanent fixtures to your green space. They are here for a good time, not a long time. Then, of course, you have the next generation of street furniture to take its place. Just remember when you are done with your furniture to call the council to uplift it.
Top tip – one of the best times to look for street furniture is around June/July, when lots of students move flats or move out of the city.
Anything Can Be a Pot
Absolutely anything can be a container for your balcony garden. Mug? Pot. Wine crate? Pot. Ceramic bust you found in a charity shop? As long as there is somewhere to plant, it’s a pot. You just need to make sure your chosen container has plenty of drainage holes in the bottom, and to ensure this you will need a drill.
If you already have a drill, then make sure you have the correct drill bit for the material you are going to be drilling. Ceramics can be drilled with a carbide bit, while glass and porcelain call for a diamond-tipped bit. Although this sounds expensive, some smaller carbide drill bits can be bought for under £10 online, and diamond tipped tips can cost under £15 for the same size. It’s not exactly free, but if you want to make a habit of planting in unusual containers, it’s well worth the investment.
If you don’t have a drill and you don’t fancy getting one, then it is worth looking into sourcing one from your family, friends, or community. The Glasgow Tools Library allows you to sign out tools like a library book for a small annual donation. You could always put up a post on your community’s local Facebook group and see if you can borrow someone’s drill.
There are so many people looking to get rid of amazing pots, plants, and garden furniture, you just have to find them. Facebook marketplace, Gumtree, and Freecycle are awash with brilliant oddities, deals, and absolute steals to spark your gardening creativity. I recommend searching for old whisky barrels if you want a standout container to be a feature on your balcony (note: maybe best going for a half barrel, depending on the strength of your balcony)!
Find a Community (or Make One!)
When I first started gardening, I went on the hunt for local Facebook groups: groups about my local community and groups about gardening. It did not take me too long to find a few and I do not know what I would have done without them. No matter where you live, you will have gardeners in your area and gardeners love to sow too many seedlings. Starting out as an inexperienced (and pretty skint) gardener, I found these groups to be a haven of seeds, sprouts, and encouragement. Since then, I have started a Facebook group for the blocks of flats on my street and it’s so nice to finally put names to balconies. So, what started out as a hunt for old furniture turned into a way to make new friends!
Lucy Bloom is a container gardener living on the side of the Forth and Clyde canal. Lucy has been gardening for five years and has been on Beechgrove three times showing off her wee balcony in Maryhill. Her gardening philosophy is: buy local, recycle, keep it cheap, and balance beauty with practicality.