No yard? No problem. Apartment and condo dwellers needn’t miss out on the pleasure of growing their own flowers, fruits and veggies. Just about anything that can be grown in a traditional yard can thrive as part of a balcony garden.
Rules and regulations
Before starting, check with building management for legal, safety, and especially weight considerations. Lightweight alternatives to traditional materials, such as potting mix and containers, will likely be necessary.
Make a plan
Learn about growing conditions like temperature, hours of sunlight, and growing your zone. “Once you understand the growing environment on your balcony it’s easier to design your garden and select the right plants,” says Kim Spink of balconygardener.ca. “Get inspired and try different combinations for your growing conditions.”
If you don’t get things exactly right the first year you garden, one of the advantages of balcony gardens is that they are easy to change from year to year, making experimentation a breeze.
What to grow
Your balcony’s conditions will determine the best vegetation for your garden, but fruits and veggies, like lettuce, strawberries, herbs and tomatoes, are great for container gardening because they don’t require very much space. Plants that require the structural support of trellises or cages to grow properly (cucumbers, beans and other vine plants) can make use of the fixtures and beams of a balcony.
What not to grow
“Don’t grow plants that are not suited to your growing conditions,” cautions Spink. “You’ll be disappointed.” When starting out “don’t assume that any of your plants will winter-over on a balcony.” Stick with annuals. Do your research and be honest about how much time and effort you’re willing to put into it. “Your growing conditions, commitment to watering/fertilizing, and your budget are the three biggest factors that help you decide what not to grow.”
The same design principles apply on a balcony as they do in a yard.
- Use different combinations of container and plant sizes to create visual interest.
- Reduce visual clutter by choosing containers that blend in with the surroundings.
- Layer plants, with taller plants in the back and smaller ones in the front.
- Repeat plant types and colours throughout the garden.
- Try vertical gardening. Hanging baskets and trellises can be used to maximize space.
- If your building allows it, shelves, hooks, brackets and wall-mounted urns are great balcony space savers.
- Consider incorporating a seating and/or entertaining area.
- Leave breathing room for people and furniture and don’t overcrowd the space.