Balcony gardening, also known as a terrace or patio gardening, is great for urban apartments or condo living. I started my balcony garden about 8 years ago while living in Chicago in my 13th floor condo. It soon turned into a voluptuous garden that not only produced some great veggies and fruits for meals, but provided a lush sanctuary for me to have my morning coffee. Balcony gardens are a great decorating technique that won’t drain the budget. I should pre-warn you that balcony gardening can become very addicting, soon enough your neighbors may be calling you Martha.
A well planned balcony garden allows apartment or condo owners to make the most of a small space. You are also able to control a lot of factors that can be difficult to control in a normal garden on the ground. Considering all of your plants will be in containers and mobile, thus the name container gardening, you have a lot of control over the factors that influence plant growth like sunlight, wind, and water. Managing water is much easier than plants on the ground as you can simply cover your plants if it’s raining allowing you to constantly control the amount of water they get. You also tend to have less problems with garden pests like slugs.
The wide array of things you can grow on a balcony garden include fruits, vegetables, herbs, or flowers. Some of the most common fruits and vegetables people will grow on a patio are cucumbers, beans, tomatoes, strawberries, spinach, lettuce and peppers. However, even things like carrots are easy to grow in pots. I personally tend to stick toward the things that can be thrown on the grill like peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, and beans.
Before you run off to your local gardening store you should take some time to plan out your balcony garden. Consider the following things to get the most out of your new garden.
How big is your space? Don’t worry, even the smallest balcony or terrace can have a garden. However, plants grow in all different sizes. To make sure you make the most of the space you have you should map out a diagram of your balcony. Do a little research on how large the container plants you go with will grow and see how they will all fit on your balcony. You don’t want to wake up and have to go out out on your balcony for coffee with a machete.
Vegetables and fruits or flowers? You should determine what your goal is with your balcony garden. If it’s purely for visual aesthetics then skip the fruits and vegetables. I have to tell you though, growing fruits and vegetables has been the most enjoyable part of my balcony garden. You can create a lush paradise when you add in tomatoes plants and hanging strawberry containers.
What things grow best in your climate? Although balcony gardening is much more versatile than a regular garden, some things will still grow better than others in your area. Do a little research based on your climate to see what grows best.
What is the microclimate on your patio? Believe it or not your patio has its own little microclimate. Parts of your patio will have more direct sunlight than others or be more prone to be hit by wind. Having a microclimate is great as it allows you to grow a larger variety of plants. Observe your patio and see what parts tend to be more shaded or susceptible to wind.
You may want to consider some hanging plants. The variety of hanging plants is endless but I have grown some hanging tomatoes before that were delicious and really easy.
Head to your local nursery. Usually the people at the garden shop or nursery will have a good idea of whats going to grow best in your climate. I suggest you start with a minimum of 4″ plants if you’re a first time gardener. Starting from a seedling can be more difficult for beginners. As plants mature they become a little more hardy and can take a little more abuse.
Pick out some decorative containers. You can find some cool clay pots for planting at your local hardware store like Home Depot. Usually can plant a variety of different plants in the same pot. Make sure the pots have a spill plate to prevent your neighbors below you from getting mad if you over water your plants.
Place some rocks at the bottom of your containers. This will help to improve drainage in your plants.
Fill the container with some compost. I suggest you use a slow release fertilizer that will release new nutrients into the soil over time. Mix the compost in with a nutrient rich planting soil. Make sure to not go all the way up to the rim of the container. This will make it easier when watering your plants.
Plant your plants into the pots. Thats how simple it was to get your balcony garden started.
Balcony Gardening Tips
- Make sure to visually maintain and water your garden. Everyday you need to water your garden and give it a visual inspection. If some plants look like they are struggling try rearranging where they are located. Maybe they are getting too much or too little sun.
- Start small and let your garden grow. Over doing it with too many plants at first may turn your balcony garden into a chore rather than a fun project. Start with a few plants and add as you see fit.
- Talk with other local gardeners and see what is working best for them. Usually the cute little old lady at the gardening shop will have some great advice. Talking about gardening and sharing ideas will help you think of some new creative ideas.
- Take pictures or blog about your garden. It’s a fun release from the daily stress of life, share with people what you’re doing. Who knows, you may be the next president of your local gardening club.
- Check out some of the industry experts. Fern Richardson runs a awesome blog about balcony gardening call Life on the Balcony. Pretty sweet name, check out her balcony gardening site.