What to do if you have no Soil

Everyone has a spot where it seems an impossibility that anything will grow, tiled balconies, paved courtyards even spots down the side of your house simply don’t have the soil to support plant growth.  So how do you add a bit of greenery to your life without soil?

Well, start with pots and they will quickly become your best friends.  The larger the body of soil you can create with a pot the slower it will dry out, the cooler it will stay and larger the root run will be, all of which will lead to a healthier and wider variety of plants you can grow.   I always suggest getting the highest quality potting mix you can afford, and this should always be accredited with a red tick on the side of the bag.  This red tick on the packet means the potting mix inside reaches the Australian standard for quality.  It will have a blended mix of composted ingredients that promote growth and good plant health as well as having add nutrients whilst maintaining a good PH.

When potting up I like to use a layer of blue metal or gravel in the bottom of the pot and cover this with some filter fabric or geotextile.  This layer ensures the holes in the bottom of your pot don’t get clogged up over time and good drainage is ensured.  The amount of gravel or blue metal used depends on the size of the pot you are using but you want at least an inch for small to medium pots and two to three inches for larger pots.

Getting the right plants for your pots is imperative too.  Life in a pot is stressful, they are often dry and up on balconies and roof tops they are exposed to harsh sun and wind.  Succulent plants are a great place to start however there are lots of other plants you can use to create your green oasis.  As a rule of thumb plants with hairy, silver, coarse, small or shiny leaves all do well in hot and exposed sites so look for those.

If you are wanting to grow some vegetables in a courtyard but the whole thing is paved or tiled look at installing a wicking bed system.  It is a closed system with a reservoir of water in the bottom for the plants to take from when most needed.  It will keep your paving clean and dry beneath with the overflow being able to be directed to a drain or watering can for use later – a great solution If you have no soil and limited water!

If you are pushed for space Vertical gardens or Green walls are a great way to add impact and a sense of lushness to a space.  You should always consider an irrigation system with one of these systems as they are made up of hundreds of small pots that like there larger ground dwelling cousins dry out quickly.  I find vertical gardens do and look best in a shaded spot as this lessens the evaporation and water requirements.  Having a shaded spot will also allow you to have success with a more foliage based tropical theme for your space.

If you don’t want the cost of a vertical garden simple wires on the vertical surfaces will also work for climbing plants to be grown out of pots giving a green outlook to a courtyard or side of house walkway.

In small spaces the addition of a dramatic splash of paint will create interest and a spectacular backdrop to some foliage plants and feature pots.  Paint is cheap and relatively easy to apply so you can change the colour with ease helping you transition between the trendy colour of the moment.