While there are a lot of events crammed into our summer, sometimes the best way to enjoy the season is to just sit in your backyard with a few friends, a few beverages and a few big slabs of meat on the grill.
That’s exactly the situation Avenue’s Backyard Guide is designed to help you make the most of. With tips and tricks for everything from furnishing a backyard to attracting some feathered friends, it’s got everything you need to make this summer spectacular.
While gardens are often associated with sprawling spaces and open air, a backyard is not a requirement for growing beautiful plants. In fact, according to Deborah Sirman, co-owner of Sherwood Park’s Greenland Garden Centre, the options for those who want to create container gardens on apartment or condominium balconies are similar to those with backyards.
Right now, people are mixing vegetables and herbs alongside flowers to create beautiful visual pots with edible purposes. The added bonus is that vegetables tend to be able to withstand the wind and heat often found on balconies, while working in combination with some of the more delicate plants.
But there are plenty of hardy flowers that thrive in pots as well. Sirman recommends pairing tropical broadleaf plants such as the Canna — it has showy blooms and is quite hardy — with vines that would flow down the pot, adding texture.
While many plants can thrive on a balcony, this will only happen with the right treatment, says Sirman. The best soil is a container mix with really good organic matter that can retain moisture while providing nutrients. Sirman uses one that contains organic forest and fish matter. And ensuring that the pots are the correct size is also important — the bigger, the better. “The more space there is for the soil, the less watering you have to do,” Sirman says. “And always have good drainage. You want to put something at the bottom of your pot, like gravel, so the water goes beneath the soil level and it doesn’t rot any roots.”
When deciding on a barbecue or grill for your balcony space, you’ll want to consider its size, its practicality and its safety. For the right space, there’s a small size of a Big Green Egg (found at Barbecue Country) that is 13 inches in diameter, and it can still cook a 12-pound turkey. But it uses charcoal and, according to Alberta’s Fire Code, solid-fuel fired barbecues can’t be used “on the balcony of a building containing more than two dwelling units.” So, in those cases, you’d want to look at propane, gas or electric barbecues, including portable varieties like a Coleman FyreGeneral 2-Burner Propane Stove ($274.98) from Campers Village, or a compact grill made specifically for small spaces, like the Jackson Grill Lux 400 ($895), available at the Wood & Energy Store.
Outdoor spaces can be extensions of the inside — with decor designed for wear and tear. Henry’s Purveyor of Fine Things carries an iron bistro set ($399) that’s not only durable, but also compact and visually appealing.
Planters from Henry’s (starting at $17) can decorate any outdoor space, and the bonus is that they have a built-in system that waters the plants automatically. The Marset Santorini lanterns ($631 each) from Dwell Modern can hang above your space, creating atmosphere through a romantic yellow glow. If you would like something custom-made to your own specifications, Hammer and Forge can create outdoor furniture or add iron design elements to create unique outdoor spaces.