Do you have any suggestions for a concrete yard garden ?
April 21, 2006 7:02 AM   Subscribe

Do you have any suggestions for a concrete yard garden ?

I recently bought an appartment that have a 35 square meters concrete yard. It is surrounded by some 2- and 3-meters walls (sorry guys for I use the metric system, I'm from France). I'd like to lay-out a small garden out there.

I was thinking about planting Ivy or any other climbing plant that would hide the not-so-beautiful walls. Do you have any suggestions (warning : there's no earth on the ground, the sun's exposure is moderate, and I don't want to destroy the wall).

I'd also like to cover the ground with something else (concrete is too ugly) : wood (deck slabs), artifical grass, ... Do you have ideas or suggestions ?

If you have web resources to share it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
posted by vincentm to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
There are bajillions of vines, both perennials and annuals, as well as lots of flooring options. It'd be easier to recommend something if I had a bit more info -- how much do you know about gardening? How much time and money do you want to spend? What do you want out of the plant -- fast growth? Low maintenance? Fragrance? Fall color? Evergreen?

You probably won't be able to plant the same thing on all three walls, since the sun exposure will be different. Pick a sunny day and keep track of when the sun hits each wall and for how long. Does the sun also hit the yard, where the containers would be? If not, mark its lowest point. If there's no direct sun anywhere, make note of when the light is brightest. The amount of DIRECT sun will dictate your choice of plants, before you even start on your preferences.

There really aren't any good online guides for container gardening. Try one of the forums at Dave's Garden (free to sign up, and they don't spam). DG also has lots of resources for general gardening and plant info.

Here's what I've learned in several years of roof gardening:

The major pain in the ass with container gardening is keeping everything watered. In the hottest part of the summer, a planter can dry out in just a few hours. Definitely get self-watering containers, which will let you skip at least a day or two. I've used Earthboxes, without the covering, as well as several containers from Gardeners Supply. Much spendier than regular planters but well worth it, if you don't want to lug watering cans all summer.

With regular planters, use water-holding polymer crystals, like these. You don't need a lot -- maybe a handful per large pot.

As far as flooring: Ikea has decking, $7.00 for a 45cm x 45cm square. I've also seen these at Home Depot, Lowes, etc., as well as online garden suppliers. You can use rush matting -- cheap, though it'll only last one season -- or indoor/outdoor rugs -- expensive but durable.

So, lots of choices. Probably more than you wanted...

Good luck --- my email's in my profile, if you want more info.
posted by vetiver at 8:03 AM on April 21, 2006

Have you considered staining the concrete?
posted by Sara Anne at 8:55 AM on April 21, 2006

An alternative to climbing plants are narrow planters placed against the walls. Think about plants like decorative grasses that will be hardy and grow quickly and tall. (Be aware that some kinds of ivy will damage those walls by sucking away at the concrete and the grout.)

You can create raised beds pretty easily, either against a wall or as an island. Look for resources for wooden raised beds, tub gardening, container gardening, urban gardening...

If you get have some lush growth against/up the walls, some trees in large pots, and a raised bed, it'll break up the monotony and that concrete floor won't look so ugly. (Please, no artificial grass. But you can paint the concrete using masonry paint.)

But the most important thing is to select plants that are appropriate for your little micro-habitat. Otherwise you'll waste a lot of money on plants that die. Do you have any neighbors with enviable gardens? Ask them for help.
posted by desuetude at 9:32 AM on April 21, 2006

I've always thought that, with a similar space, I'd like to use this decking from Ikea.
posted by CiaoMela at 9:39 AM on April 21, 2006

Be careful with the ivy. It has a tendency to destroy brick and concrete over time. A good alternative would be a trellis in front of the wall, as long as you keep the ivy off the wall itself.
posted by electroboy at 9:54 AM on April 21, 2006

get have? Pick either for that sentence to make sense.
posted by desuetude at 11:37 AM on April 21, 2006

For covering the walls, maybe you could place pots of trailing plants (Burro's Tail, Ivy, Sedum Morrocco, etc.) on top of the walls, spaced every few feet.

A good option for groundcover is decomposed granite (sometimes called crushed granite). It's most commonly available in a reddish-tan color, but also can be found in silvery-gray. You just spread it evenly on the ground an inch or so thick and you are done; normal walking and rainfall will compress it over time. Also nice would be a grid of large stone tiles (18-24" square) spaced an inch or two apart, with granite filling the gaps.

A google search for "hardscape" or "xeriscape" should also yield lots of ideas.
posted by conquistador at 12:48 PM on April 21, 2006

Thank you all for your answers (especial Vetiver whose answer is long).
posted by vincentm at 12:09 AM on April 22, 2006

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