Nowadays, concrete and glass are overtaking nature, and skyscrapers are defining the skylines of our cities. Yet renting in a big city shouldn’t stop you from having a personal green oasis to relax in. You don’t need a homestead to keep in touch with nature; you can create a small garden right on your balcony.

Depending on what you want to have in your garden, you can grow decorative plants, herbs, vegetables, and spices. Granted, there are plenty of considerations, from the square footage of your balcony to its positioning and your lifestyle. With that in mind, here are four tips to create the ideal balcony garden.

1. Define Its Purpose

Before you do anything else, decide whether you want a decorative garden or one to grow produce. If you’re simply looking to create a green spot and relax, without harvesting plants, then choose a combination of perennials, bulbs and bedding plants. For a lower-maintenance option, go for cacti and succulents.

A garden full of spices, herbs, fruits and veggies can be just as decorative as a flower garden. If you do decide to go for the double-purpose garden, consider options such as tomatoes, strawberries and combinations of herbs, such as basil, thyme, rosemary, mint and sage. Just make sure to do your research and find out which ones go together; this will help prevent them from competing for the same nutrients if you plant them together.

2. Choose a Layout

Even if you have a small balcony, you can still incorporate a lot of greenery if you utilize a good layout. First, think of ways to use all of the available space. For example, consider using vertical space and creating a green wall for a spice garden or hanging plants. Be sure to reserve one corner for a table and chairs and fill the rest with plants. You can also use hanging pots to create more space and establish levels for your garden.

But don’t lose sight of practicality. Remember that you’ll have to be able to reach all of your plants in order to water and trim them regularly, so create paths for easy access. Similarly, to reduce the risks of accidents, don’t crowd the entrance of the balcony. And don’t overdo it with the plants, either. They all need to get plenty of sunlight.

3. Decide on the Design

To create cohesion in your garden and avoid a disruptive transition, select a design style that will complement that of your apartment. Then, try extending the garden into your apartment by adding a couple of houseplants next to the exit.

Next, bring in as many natural elements as possible with terra cotta pots and dark, rich potting soil. Along the same lines, add gray and white stones and pebbles, and even moss to some of your pots. If possible, find a rug with artificial moss, which will be easy to maintain and feel amazing on your feet.

For the table and chairs, choose dark plastics and metals, which are easier to clean and maintain. Or, find upcycled wooden pallets for a more-affordable alternative. Alternatively, to complete the natural look, add wooden furniture, dark green pillows and blankets. If you go this route, just keep in mind that it may be more demanding in terms of maintenance.

4. Learn to Maintain It

Even if you choose a low-maintenance garden with cacti and succulents, you still have to learn to care for your plants. Start by researching how to maintain each type of plant you grow, because they all have different needs.

Creating a balcony garden requires constant, hands-on involvement. However, even if you don’t have a green thumb, taking it one step at a time and learning about the entire process will help you create an oasis.