Urban balcony gardens are a growing trend for apartment dwellers that want to grow their own fresh, organic vegetables but don’t have the yard space. Start to build your urban balcony garden today with these tips from the experts!
1. Plan for Optimal Growth in Tight Conditions
The challenges of a balcony garden are the same as any container garden. Here are a few things to keep in mind: Put great soil in your containers; good plants need great soil. If you’re growing veggies, pick plants specifically bred for this “tight” situation (bush cucumbers, for example) and use your vertical space effectively; string or bamboo gives you extra space to run climbing vines like morning glories or beans. And last, but not least, feed your plants every time you water; not a huge dousing, just a bit. Water soluble fertilizers are fabulous.
It’s helpful to focus on some robust plants that work as good groundcover. Thyme and mint can both double as fantastic groundcover as well as herbs you can use in the kitchen. They might take a bit of time to get going, but once they take off, they really take over. They’re great overflowing from pots of their own or used as groundcover in a pot that also holds something larger like a tree.
2. Use Your Vertical Space
Don’t have a lot of space? Grow up instead of out with a vertical garden. You can create a colourful garden in a small space or harvest vegetables and herbs by taking advantage of fence and wall space. Vertical gardens work indoor and out. The criteria for plants really depends on the space and the climate. Some plants love shade and can thrive in a dark, cool environment. Others, like succulents, need lots of sunlight and thrive outdoors. The criteria is the same for large and small walls. There are plants for every climate.
Wisteria is a great choice for a small balcony if you have some vertical space for it to grow. Wisteria works well in a small space because it does not actually need much on-the-ground space. You can put it in a small or medium pot and let it grow vertically up a trellis or another structure that you can lean against one wall, so you wind up getting a lot of greenery while conserving your limited floor space.
Growing vertical is a great option to consider when working in a small space. There are many climbing plants that will fit perfectly on your balcony. Consider growing plants on the wall, railings, and even the ceiling. They can also act as windbreakers to protect your other plants.
Consider a flowerpot hanging system or plant stand to make full use of your limited space such as balconies and small patios. A hanging system is a great option for balconies, railings, trees, gates, fences, etc. Plant stands allow you to plant multiple varieties vertically, optimizing your space.
3. Plan Based on Exposure to the Elements
You must understand the sunlight your balcony receives throughout the day. Make sure you also pay attention to indirect sunlight. Most balconies only get light from one direction, so be sure to align your plants accordingly.
For sunny exposures, consider:
- Flowers: Morning glory vines, calibrachoa, petunia
- Vegetables: Lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers
- Herbs: Oregano, sage, mint and basil
- Plants: Succulents, coleus, elephant ears
For partial sun/shade exposures, consider:
- Flowers: Begonias, fuchsia, astilbe
- Vegetables: Lettuce, spinach, beets
- Herbs: Chives, Parsley, rosemary
- Plants: Ferns, coleus, caladium, hostas
Also, don’t forget to consider how much wind your balcony gets. If you are on a higher floor, you might have to shelter your plants from the wind.
4. Pick the Right Containers
Take care with your container selection and make sure your containers have adequate drainage. Large pots retain more water, which makes for less watering. It is also good to cluster your pots. When you do this it will make it easy to water your plants. This will help your plants from drying out, which can happen when temperatures are higher. There are also fabric grow bags you can use as containers. They are great if you ever need to bring a plant indoors and for growing annual edibles. If you travel a lot, you might want to consider self-watering containers which make watering easy. And, in your containers, make sure you use potting soil. These soils are lighter weight. Add mulch, moss or shredded cedar to containers to keep the moisture in.
Balcony gardening is suitable for either container gardening or upside-down growing (like tomatoes, for example). Situate the containers appropriately and keep in mind that one day there will be plants growing from them, so place strategically. In both situations, you’d want to drill little holes (pinky diameter) in the pots for extra soil aeration!
5. Water Plants Effectively
First, watering is key. The main obstacle I’ve seen people run into with their balcony gardening efforts is that potted plants dry out so quickly. Even missing one day of watering can destroy your balcony garden. Installing some basic irrigation system or just making watering a solid part of your daily routine is essential and can save you a headache down the line of trying to rehabilitate a damaged garden.
You must figure out a watering schedule. Containers dry out really fast in summer heat and that will stunt your harvest. There are drip feeders that attach to large soda bottles that will continually water for you, if you don’t think it can become a staple in your daily routine. You could even leave for the weekend and you would be ok!
6. Plan Your Garden Harvest
If you’re growing vegetables, succession planting is what you’re after, ultimately. If you chose to have a home grown food garden you need to plant right after you’ve harvested. Plan ahead and save yourself confusion and frustration. Take under consideration the harvesting periods of the plants as well.
7. Think About Balcony Design and Décor
A backless bench on your balcony offers you a seating option that doesn’t impede on your natural eye line; this with the use of some planters around the bench will create the illusion of more space. The planters also create a lovely fragrant seating area if plants such as Evening Primrose and Sweet Rocket are planted. Teak is also an ideal wood for those who do not have hours of spare time to spend maintaining the wood; it will just naturally grey and mature over time.
You can use your plants to design a beautiful balcony area. Consider easy-care majesty palms to help screen the balcony’s back wall. Because they’re relatively inexpensive and have a tall, narrow footprint, you can also use majesty palms along your balcony’s railing to add more privacy. Incorporate easy-care flowers with the palms; bright blue lobelia to spill over the side of a planter; purple-and-white Rhythm and Blues petunias to add a splash of mystery; hot pink snapdragons to add sweet fragrance and a burst of bold colour. You could repeat these flowers along the balcony’s edge and add the blousy, cottage look of no-fuss cosmos, an easy-care wildflower that attracts butterflies for nice balcony ambiance.
Are you looking for a rental apartment in Ottawa, Hamilton, or Burlington? CLV Group offers a wide variety of newly renovated, beautiful apartments for rent throughout Ontario and parts of Quebec.
NOTE: Please speak with your Property Manager before creating your balcony garden as some restrictions may apply.