Growing on A Balcony
Transform Your Porch into a Fresh Veggie Market
Imagine this. Dinner time! What to eat? Just step out onto your porch or balcony and see what is ripe. Think you have too small of a space? Think it can’t be done? There are a whole lot of people who have joined in the balcony growing community who would disagree.
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Plan, Plan, Plan
The first step you need to do with this limited space is plan. You need to make use of every square inch that you have. But, you also need to allow room for friends to visit and to harvest your crops as well. Don’t start too big and burn yourself out. Start small and experiment with different crops seeing how they perform in your actual climate. It is still a good idea to have a final plan drawn with your ultimate garden laid out.
Check your restrictions and consider your neighbors
If you are in a home and growing on your porch you should not have as much of an issue regarding this. But, if you are growing on a balcony with neighbors below be sure to consider them as well. The first thing you should do is check with your landlord and make sure there are no restrictions regarding balcony gardening. Also consider your neighbors below and any water runoff you may have.
Pick Your Crops
Not all crops are going to thrive under balcony conditions. Depending on what floor you are on you need to consider the wind level. Small seedlings must be protected in heavy winds. Also, some crops just don’t do well in container gardens. Pick plants that you know you like to start with. Here is a list of some plants that do well in containers. Please keep in mind your sun/ shade conditions as well. Plants like tomatoes will want full sun for at least 6 hours a day. Root crops such as carrots and radishes, as well as lettuce, will tolerate shade. Also, pick varieties that are sized for containers. Remember that if you get plants that will vine you will need to build a trellis or some other type of support.
Nasturtium – edible flower
Planting Your Crops
Most people will start their own seeds indoors. For bushes, strawberries, etc you will be buying plants or bare root stock.
Once you are ready to plant make sure that you choose a good quality container soil. You want a mix that is light and fluffy and drains well.
Also, make sure that you choose the proper pot. A lot of people will choose to use recycled materials, and I am all for that. Just make sure that the containers are not too heavy. Plastic and fiberglass pots will be lighter than terra cotta pots. The new fabric pots are super light weight. Also, plants in terra cotta will dry out faster. Make sure that you have a large enough container for the roots to grow and be happy.
Make sure that you plant taller crops to the back of your porch as they will throw shade and may prevent shorter plants from growing.
Make sure to plant sun loving crops such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants in a sunny area that gets at least 6 hours of sun per day. Shade loving plants such as green leafy plants, lettuce, spinach, onions, radishes and carrots will tolerate the shade better.
Caring For Your Crops
As mentioned above, you want to consider your neighbors below when watering. Make sure that your containers have holes to drain. Most people will opt for saucers under the pots to catch the excess water. You should never leave your plants sitting in water. Also, if you are clever enough you may be able to set up some kind of recycling system.
Check water levels daily. Plants in containers will dry out faster than plants in the ground.
You will need to fertilize more often than you would in the ground. There just is not as much natural activity in a pot versus the soil in the ground. If you have room for a small composter or worm farm consider drawing one of them into your plans.
Don’t forget to utilize vertical space as well. For vining plants you will add trellises. Don’t forget your wall space. You can place plants against the wall if there is enough sunlight there. Have a gutter with a downspout? Consider placing brackets along the downspout and putting pots in them. There are also wall pouches that you can fill and hang from your wall. Just be sure that moisture is not a problem when you place these.
Don’t forget hanging baskets. There are upside down tomato planters . You plant the tomatoes facing down to the ground and then hang this from your porch. I have used these and found that they produced comparably to my tomatoes in the dirt. They really do work! Strawberries will do well in a hanging basket. Nasturtiums are edible flowers and they would do well in a basket also.
It was once thought impossible to grow your own garden unless you had a big plot of land. That is just not true anymore. Containers are the rage. People want to be able to grow their own food…anywhere. And, you can. So, start small, but just start. No more excuses.
Please let us know (in the comments below) what you are currently growing on your balcony or porch and what kind of success you are having.