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The Invisible Garden continued

Mobile homes

Some sites allocate a small amount of garden per unit, but if the site owner or local authority prefers the public open-plan approach to the overall landscaping, there is usually still enough space around the home – on the paths, sitting-out areas, etc., to grow a wide range of plants in containers. Some mobile home manufacturers actually incorporate window boxes or other planting areas into their designs. The walls of mobile homes are not suitable for supporting climbing plants.

Town properties and village cottages

Many small, older houses in towns, and some cottages in rural areas, have virtually no land attached to them. At the front you step straight out on to the street, at the back there is often just a tiny concreted yard, frequently heavily shaded with your own or neighbouring buildings all around it. The concrete * area is generally too small to be worth digging up and replacing with a conventional garden, but it can be made quite attractive with an assortment of pots, tubs, troughs and other containers standing on it, window boxes and baskets, and it may be possible to pick out some of the concrete where it adjoins the walls in order to grow climbers in the soil beneath (it may be necessary to improve or replace the soil for this purpose). If it is practical, the existing concrete may be taken up and decorative paving laid instead, or the paving could be laid on top of the concrete if it is level and reasonably sound, but many such areas have no rear or side access and the hassle of carting everything through the house to the front door may not be worth the bother, especially if plenty of containers are used to cover it up.

A further consideration is that paving should not cover up an existing damp course, or it will be totally useless and you will start to get all kinds of damp problems.

You must be sure that the walls are sound before containers are attached to them. There are few sorrier sights than a large basket smashed to pieces on the ground beneath because its weight was just too much for the crumbling brick-work or defective mortar it was screwed to.

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Window Basket

Non-existent front gardens can be dealt with in much the same way, but it may be wiser not to use free-standing tubs because of the risk of vandalism, theft or of causing an obstruction to the public highway, and, as in the case of flat-dwellers, wall containers have to be more than firmly anchored – it might not be just the contents that get damaged if they fall off. Just how much gardening you can do at the front of a property which adjoins the highway (including the footpath) depends largely on the attitude of the highways department of the relevant local authority.

Flat roofs

Many properties have a flat roof even if they do not have a garden. Roofs can make quite good areas on which to place containers of plants, but bear in mind the following:

Unless you have an easy access on to the roof from inside the property, it can be quite a nuisance getting out ladders to heave containers and compost up there, and plant, water and maintain your elevated garden, and there is also the risk of your falling!

Do not put anything heavier on the roof than the timbers are capable of supporting. The containers themselves have to be fairly weighty, otherwise they can blow right off in a strong wind, and when they are full of moist compost they are even heavier. If in doubt about how much load the timbers can bear, place them towards the edge of the flat roof, where the walls can take some of the stress.

Choose plants which will not object to strong winds. Those all right for the window boxes of flats would be suitable.

 

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