Living in the city has its perks. The restaurants, the night life, the shopping, being in the middle of it all can be fabulous. But the other side of that coin is the added expense, you sacrifice space for a fast-paced lifestyle and you probably live in an apartment building alongside hundreds of neighbours. I live in a great apartment, overlooking the water, but I also have several hundred balconies that face mine, and on a warm summer day, when I want to lounge around in my outdoor space, I’d rather not have a million pairs of eyes bearing down on me! So being an avid gardener, I decided that this summer it was high time to create a little privacy for myself, using mother nature’s finest ingredients!

You need to do a little planning first before you start your privacy screen project. Just as an interior designer would, it’s a good idea to sketch out the outdoor space you’re working with and what you want to accomplish. Next, you’ll want to do some measurements:

1) Measure the height of your space. If you’re like me, your neighbours balcony sits just above yours. You want to make sure that your space still feels open and not claustrophobic, so accurate measurements will help you decide what to plant.

2) Next, it’s time to access how much sunlight your balcony gets. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, before you plant anything,  if you know how much light you’ll have, you can then determine what to plant. Not only that, but if your privacy screen is in the wrong place, or too eye, you’ll have no sunshine for yourself!

3) There are several different structures that you can grow your plants on, like a lattice. But using a planter is a much easier and more versatile option. There is always the concern of putting extra weight on a balcony, so planters are a great option, plus, you can rotate plants in and out.

4) Now the question is, what do you plant? I’m a major fan of bamboo. I love how it looks, and it reminds me of my travels through the vast bamboo forests of China. Unfortunately, it gets a bit of bad wrap because it can be quite and iinvasive plant in a regular garden, but in a balcony garden, you’ve got nothing to worry about, it won’t have the opportunity to run rampant! I also adore Gardenias, they’re hearty, the flowers are fragrant and they grow anywhere from two to eight feet, which is perfect for a balcony. Plant your Gardenias in the early Spring, and by October, the roots will be immune to Winter’s unforgiving bite.

When my better half steps into the kitchen, mere moments later, there are any number of aromas that come wafting out, over the dining room and throughout the house. There is nothing more I love than coming home to my house smelling like basil, garlic and rosemary. In our house, all of our fruits and vegetables are organic, and when we can, we try to make most of meals from our little balcony garden.  For the last couple of years, we’ve had a small herb garden on the window sill in our modest kitchen. But this season, we decided to expand a little, and see how much we could cram into a window box.

The first thing you need to know about growing an herb garden, is that they need plenty of light and sunshine (and plenty of TLC!), and after that, it’s a piece of cake. You can plant your herbs in just about any time of container, provided you’ve cut some holes in the bottom of it. Get creative and have fun with it! I’ve planted my basic in cut up milk jugs. When you buy your soil, regular potting soil will do, and you only need as much soil as the size of the container.

I generally keep it a rule not to mix my herbs together. When I’m cooking, I need organization, so one herb per pot works best. You can, however, mix herbs together. A word of advice, planting either mint or rosemary in the same pot as another herb isn’t a great idea because both of those plants are rather aggressive, and will most likely take over the pot. It’s best to plant them separately.

To give your herb garden a little more character, and to help you remember which herbs are what, it’s a good idea to label your herbs. Until I figure out how to become a chef, and learn to discern all my herbs by sight, without obvious photo markers or labels, I am going to forever mix up coriander with parsley!

Make sure your herbs get plenty of water, at least once a week. In the dry months, you will probably have to water them a couple of times a week. I live on the rainy West Coast, but even in the summer months, my herbs get watered twice a week, and never in direct sunlight, as the soil will burn.

If you follow the above steps, you will surely have yourself a beautiful and bountiful herb garden, and if you start now, you will have a plethora of choice for those delicious summer salads.