How To Create Your Perfect Balcony Garden
Written by Matt W (Greenhousestores) on 7th Feb 2019.
Have you ever wondered if you can grow food on your apartment balcony? The answer is yes! If you have a balcony, you have the space to grow plants and vegetables. Balconies are a great place for a mini garden. It can be just a few favourite plants or a wide variety. Many plants and vegetables will grow quite well in a small area. Don't let lack of space be the reason you don't have fresh vegetables this year!
Basic Needs for a Balcony Garden
Before you start a balcony vegetable garden, there are a few things you should double-check to make sure it is the right choice for you.
- Make sure the landlord or housing association allows it.
- Inspect the balcony to make sure it can support potentially heavy soil-filled pots. Find the best places to place the heaviest containers, like over support joists.
- Figure out how much wind your balcony gets. Balconies higher up will get more wind. If it is extreme, you may want to invest in some windbreak screens or netting. Or, choose plants that can thrive in a windy environment.
- How much direct sun does your balcony get? Choose your plants accordingly. There are some that need a lot of direct sun and others that do well in shady locations.
Making the Most of Your Space
A balcony garden can be as simple as a few planted pots sitting directly on the balcony floor. However, if you want to have a wider variety of plants, there are options for increasing the amount of space available. The main way to do this is by increasing the vertical space. There are many ways to do this, and you don't have to use just one. In fact, consider using a variety of the options below to truly maximise the space you have available. Draw a map of your balcony and plan out space before you plant anything for the best results.
A trellis is great for vegetables with climbing vines, like cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, melons, peas, and beans. There are many styles of trellis' available through garden stores, and it shouldn't be too difficult to find one or adapt one, to fit your space. Make sure to secure the trellis securely to your wall or railings, so it doesn't fall over when it is heavy with the harvest. This is especially important with larger vegetables like pumpkins and melons.
Shelves are a simple and easy option for increasing the space on your balcony. They come in a wide variety of sizes and with a variable number of shelves. This is a preferred choice for increasing space because shelving isn't expensive and it can expand your space exponentially. If your balcony is large enough, you could set up several shelves and have quite a big garden. Again, make sure the shelves are secured firmly to your wall or railings, so they don't tip over in high winds or from the weight of the full garden pots.
Balcony railings can be a great place to attach some window boxes. There are window boxes of all different lengths and widths. Even a small window box can add a whole new opportunity in the balcony garden.
A modular planter is a planting box designed to fit into an unconventional spot. They are segmented boxes that are often curved or rounded to fit in a variety of spaces. They can be used individually or combined together to create a specific design. These are especially wonderful if your balcony is odd-shaped or some spaces would be unusable otherwise because of their uncommon shape.
Greenhouses come in many shapes and sizes, and there are even ones designed specifically for balconies. A balcony greenhouses is great because it provides more vertical space to grow vegetables. It also can extend the growing season by protecting your plants during the beginning and end of the season. A mini-greenhouse can be used to start seedlings and protect them until they are hardy enough to be fully exposed to the elements.
Baskets can be hung from railings and walls. If you have good wall space, consider installing several hooks to hang baskets from. This will turn previously unusable space into a great place to grow plants.
Best Plant Options For Balcony Gardens
Herbs are great because, in general, they are hardy and can withstand a variety of conditions. They also don't require a lot of space which is perfect. Many herbs are perennial and will grow all year-round in the right conditions.
Mint, Rosemary, Thyme, Catnip, Dill, Basil, and Parsley are all good choices. Mint and Catnip grow quickly and readily and will take over any space you plant them. Be sure to give them their own containers. They prefer a slightly shady space but will also grow in full sun. Mint and Catnip are perennials that will die back in cold weather and re-emerge in the spring when the conditions are favourable. Parsley, Dill, and Basil all like full sun. Dill is a bit more versatile and can tolerate shadier conditions as well. Rosemary and Thyme like lots of sun and will grow as big as the container allows.
Tomatoes grow wonderfully in containers. Make sure to get a determinate variety since they are smaller and easier to control. This type will grow to a specific height and then stop. The other choice, an indeterminate variety, will grow wildly and often quite tall and wide which is not great for a balcony garden. Tomatoes need full sun.
Lettuce and Salad Greens like shadier locations so if you have a shady area, plant some greens. A half-sun, half-shade area is best. When it gets too hot out, most greens will wilt and die.
Peas and Pole Beans will grow well on a balcony with the help of a trellis. When the vines start to grow, train them to climb up the trellis. This also makes it easier to pick them when they are ready. Both these vegetables like full sun.
Cucumbers can also be trained to grow on a trellis. They are quite prolific so make sure you have a trellis hardy enough to hold up once they start fruiting.
Petunias are great because they grow quickly, bloom abundantly, and don't need a lot of space. There are many options for flower colors and having a few different colored Petunia plants will really light up your garden space.
Begonias are a good choice for a shaded part of your balcony. They come in a variety of colors and have heart-shaped foliage that adds beauty to your garden even when they are not in bloom.
Geraniums are simple to grow as long as they get plenty of sun and water. They smell nice and their blooms are bright and multi-colored. They are a beautiful addition to a balcony garden.
What To Grow In A Balcony Greenhouse
Use the greenhouse in the Spring to start your seedlings. The enclosed greenhouse will keep the warmth from the sun contained and provide the ideal conditions for your seedlings to prosper. Make sure to water them daily so they don't dry out. When they get big enough, transplant them to their own pots and move them out of the greenhouse.
In the Summer, the greenhouse can be opened up and used as regular shelving for growing vegetables. It can also be used to start fall flowers and vegetables, just like you did in the Spring.
In Winter, the greenhouse makes a great, protected, environment to grow cold-happy vegetables like lettuce and kale.
Tips For A Successful Balcony Garden
- Use a good quality potting soil mix. This cannot be emphasized enough. The success of your plants will greatly depend on what they are growing in. Choose an organic mix and supplement it with compost.
- Use potting containers with good drainage and with plates underneath them. Water can pool at the bottom of a pot without drainage and cause roots to rot and mold to grow. Make sure there are holes in the bottom of the containers. The plates underneath are there to catch the water so it doesn't drip all over your balcony. And, depending on the style and set up of your balcony, to stop any water from dripping down to the neighbors' balcony below you.
- Study your balcony and map which areas get the most sun. Then, cluster your plants accordingly. The plants that need the most sun should be in the spot on the balcony which gets the most throughout the day. Arrange the more tolerant plants in the shadier parts of your balcony.
- Don't forget to water! It can be easy to forget to check on the plants since they are out on the balcony. Create a way to remember, like attaching a reminder to the refrigerator or something similar. Pots can dry out quickly, especially if your balcony gets full sun. They will likely need to be watered every day.
The options for balcony gardens are as boundless as your imagination. With a small bit of effort, you can create a unique, bountiful garden space filled abundantly with fresh vegetables and beautiful flowers. Get started today planning it out and you'll be enjoying home-grown vegetables in no time!