Thursday, January 27, 2011

Small Patio Spaces

Kitty sees a butterfly!

So you rent but still want to garden?  Today's post is on how you can be a gardener in your own rented space PLUS keep your plants.  It's called container gardening and will require an investment of pots and other outdoor furniture like a miniature fountain or patio table.  While renting, I made every patio space my own.  In both instances, I covered the patio space with bamboo curtains which I hooked onto to the balcony beams.  This protects your plants from frost and it protects you from wandering eyes....and adds a bit of security since the pots are essentially heavy blocks of soil with plants in them.  People think that if you rent; you can't have a great garden space....and that couldn't be the furthest thing from the truth.  Any garden you want, whether it be vegetable, tropical or desert or.....well is all possible!. With a little patience and planning, you can magically transform an unused patio eyesore into something beautiful.  
Grandma at my first apartment in Phoenix near 7th and Osborne

Also VERY IMPORTANT!! I lived in my apartment for 5 years and when you have a lot of plants on your patio, you also attract other gardeners who like to garden.  Gardeners are generally cool people that won't play music at 3 in the morning and will be outside on that beautiful day chatting with you instead of getting arrested for the latest drug overdose. Do you catch my drift?:)  It is an important secret I share with you today. Let me tell you something about our building....all my neighbors over the 5 years were great! While there was a lot of police activity at the other buildings; our place maintained a quiet and stable community.  The plants on the patio areas screamed for other gardeners to come and join in on the fun.   Each one of us gardened together and our area was one of the most beautiful in the complex.  Beautiful
gardens attract beautiful people.

In Phoenix.  You can rent some nice places downtown and stay within your budget.  My place overlooked the downtown from a forest of trees and birds.  I had a hard time leaving my place because to me it was perfection.  I am trying to model El Presidio gardens after this place.

Issues can happen.  For example, sometimes a person will steal a pot that you put outside of the patio area.  My recommendation is to keep all of your valuables inside the fenced area.  Also during the monsoon, special critters will enter your sacred garden like tarantulas, the Colorado Desert Toad, perhaps a packrat, lizards, a Gila Monster, a stray cat, and get this.....QUAIL!!!!  One day I came home and found quail in my pots laying eggs.  They left a dozen eggs and for a month or two, and I watched the quail parents guard those eggs.  Some were in pots too high for them to jump out so I created a chute for them to slide down from my patio table.  On a Saturday morning I woke up to chicks all over my patio with Mom.  I threw chicken feed all over the patio outside so that they could eat and stay safe.  It was the event of the weekend.  The father would hang outside of the patio area making  protective calls to the mother who in turn cared for the chicks on the ground.  I left room under the table for them to hide if danger came near.  After about 2 days, momma and the chicks left my patio for good. I felt really lucky to have been a part of their family for awhile.  PS.  With a bamboo curtain, moisture is trapped inside and keeps the humidity in....guess who likes that?  Butterflies!  So you can raise native butterflies in your garden without even trying!!
A Jatropha to the of my favorite plants to grow.  Protect from frost.
I miss this garden as I had it for 5 years.  I know that I will recreate this again in another way, shape, and form.  But I do love established plants.
The secret to small patio gardening is to create multi level gardens so that all space is utilized.  Plant stands work wonders as do planters that hang over the fenc, etc.  I had a garden bench outside to store my ties and twisties and also grow some of my more exotic species of plants.  It was a very special space and my guests loved it! I thought I had a pic of my fountain, but I didn't.  It was a blue pot that had water bubbling out of it with water plants around it.  A trend got started at my complex because of me and a lot of people started taking pride in that otherwise wasted patio space.  I'm not sure if that was a good or bad thing, but I know people noticed and liked it.  Put solar lights up and add unique lighting around your area.  What a great place to have some wine and relax after a stressful day at work!! 

Dream it. Plan it. You can make it a reality.
The curtains protect the tropical foliage from the hot desert sun.


  1. You patio was very inviting. You're so right about gardens attracting nice people. Love the story about the quail. You created a santuary even the wildlife appreciated.

  2. Oh this was fun quail!
    I would have been in heaven with babies around
    but kitty would too
    I love that you gardened in a rented space...driven to nuture
    When we were first married living in a furnished place we had a plant was sweet potato plant went all around the room....sigh


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