All green thumbed city dwellers know the struggle of having minimal areas of outdoor space, let alone areas that have direct sun light. Balcony gardens can provide the satisfaction of growing, maintaining, and harvesting your own vegetables and herbs, even with minimal space.
The first thing to be decided about a balcony garden is what type of plants you want to grow. Flower gardens are visually pleasing and bring a lot of colour, herb gardens are practical and can be maintained and harvested all year, and vegetables designed for pots are super rewarding and fun to watch grow.
We have a combination of all three of these types right now, and started planting seeds around mid-May (in Vancouver), but it’s not too late to start a balcony garden later in the spring.
Once you’ve decided on the type of plants you want to grow, choosing the specific seeds/plants is the next step. We have a selection of herbs that include basil, thyme, rosemary, oregano, mint, parsley, and dill.
I bought small inexpensive metal troughs for the herbs, with one or two in each depending on the size. The mobility of multiple troughs instead of one large crate or container is extremely handy when a big storms rolls through and you want to bring your garden inside, or when you want to shift around the lay out of your garden for a new look.
The vegetables we bought were a combination of seeds and small plants that are meant to be grown in large pots.
We have beans, zucchinis, and carrots that grew from seeds and a cherry tomato and hot pepper plant that we bought as small plants and transferred to their own large pots. This is the second year for our hot pepper plant, we just kept it indoors over the winter.
My flowers are in small pots, one type per pot and arranged on small wooden stands and structures we got at garage sales or from the back alley when a neighbour moved out. The mobility is great for pruning and rearranging, and the stands double as a BBQ or beverage stand when needed.
I bought all of my flowers as plants this year, instead of planting them as seeds, but purchased them pre-flower so that I could still get the excitement of waking up to a new flower one day.
The key to keeping your garden fresh and green all summer, other than lots of sun and the right amount of water, is to maintain the dead heads on your flowers and trim/eat your herbs.
After a flower has died and the petals have fallen off, cut or pinch the dead flower off at the stem where it connects with a main stem. This allows the flower to focus its energy on making new flowers, instead of supplying a stem with no flower energy.
When you pick your herbs to cook with take larger leaves and take one or two from every plant so that each plant still has enough leaves to get sunlight and produce the energy to make more delicious herbs.
Watering needs will depend on the plant and the size of the pot, smaller pots dry out quicker, but most gardens will need to be watered twice daily in the hottest part of the year. Be careful not to over water plants that are in troughs without drain holes, the top inch or so of the soil should be dry between watering.