If you’ve recently downsized your home to a retirement apartment and now have either have a patio garden or a balcony garden, maybe you’re thinking about how you miss your garden? There are many ways to continue doing what you love doing, but on a smaller scale. This can avoid or reduce the back-breaking work that gardening can sometimes bring.
Gardening and being outside in the fresh air can bring much enjoyment as well as bringing many health benefits such as lower blood pressure, increased levels of vitamin D and a good sense of well-being. Such moderate cardiovascular exercises achieved whilst digging, raking or weeding* can raise oxygen in the body, increase flexibility, strengthen joints and reduce blood pressure.
If you have downsized to a small patio garden, some of these great health benefits can still be achieved but on a smaller scale. Here are our five top tips to alternative gardening:
1. Vertical Gardening
Vertical Gardening is when you have plants or shrubs that grow vertically up a wall, either by themselves with the help of a trellis or chicken wire or by securing pots or boxes to the wall.
Vertical gardens can easily be maintained by frequently watering and feeding the plants.
Using this method of gardening dramatically increases the amount of space in the garden because you are going up and not across the floor – using up precious floor space. This is perfect if you have a small patio garden or courtyard garden. Find out more tips and tricks of vertical gardening.
2. Air Plants
Air Plants are a tropical American plant that are becoming increasingly popular for people to grown in their own homes. They’re easy to grow and maintain and only need a spray of water once or twice a week, depending on the humidity of the room.
Air Plants are attractive in the home and come in a variety of different colours such as green, silver, white and red.
In the wild they attach themselves to trees as an epiphyte which means they need no soil to grow. If you want to grow them in your home, you can grow them in a glass globe and hang them from the ceiling or grow them in an old glass vase and place them on a windowsill or shelf. Find out more about Air Plants and how to look after them.
3. Indoor Trees
If you no longer have a garden but love growing fruit trees, there are a variety of trees that you can be grown in your home such as your kitchen or lounge. These types of trees don’t take much looking after, they just need watering and feeding, and they need a big pot to live in.
Fruit trees such as Fig, Lemon, Lime, Olive, Avocado, Banana and Mulberry trees all work well in a tub, placed in the lounge or in the corner of the kitchen. Find out more about growing fruit trees indoors and how to look after them.
4. Patio Plants
If you don’t want to have large plants or trees in your main living areas, you could place tubs outside on the patio or have plant pots or hanging baskets on a balcony. There are a variety of different herbs, fruit and veg that can be grown in these types of containers such as strawberries or tomatoes.
There’s no need to go out and purchase expensive pots, you can get creative and upcycle by using items that might be ordinarily thrown away. For example - old wellies, jam jars, old watering cans or old water jugs. They all look attractive and add a touch of colour and charm to a balcony or patio during grey winter months.
5. Windowsill Garden
If you don’t have a patio or balcony to grow your own plants, there’s a variety of vegetables that grow very well on a windowsill such as lettuce, spinach, green onions, tomatoes, chillies, bean sprouts and even cress. These plants grow in all sorts of containers, you could even use an old piece of drain pipe to sow your seeds or even a plastic cup.
In addition, herbs such as mint, basil, parsley, oregano and chives all grow well on a window sill. If you’re out for most of the day or you forget to water your herbs, you could purchase a self-watering herb keeper kit – so you can enjoy fresh herbs all year round with minimum effort!
Many retirement developments run weekly gardening clubs where residents can get involved in gardening, meet new people with a shared interest and even learn new skills.
Huntcliff Court in Saltburn-By-the-Sea, Cleveland, North Yorkshire runs a successful gardening club and the development has been lucky to win several "In Bloom" awards.
In addition, Martello Court in Eastbourne, East Sussex also runs a weekly gardening club for residents who enjoy planting a variety of plants, herbs and vegetables. They enjoy sharing their experience, learning new gardening skills and enjoying the fruits of their labour.
If the retirement development you live in doesn’t have a gardening club, why not try and set one up, so other residents can experience the joy of gardening and all of the benefits it can bring. If you’re thinking of downsizing and moving to a retirement development, why not see what’s available in the area you are planning to retire in and find out if they have a gardening club.
*always consult your doctor before doing anything strenuous.