How to Start a Balcony Garden

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The psychological benefits of gardens and gardening have long been lauded. There’s something about a direct connection with the earth that feeds our souls, and when it feeds our bellies, that’s even better.

Many of us who relied exclusively on public space for our greenery intake were caught short this year. For the foreseeable future, we’ll likely be spending more time at home. Thus, it’s more important than ever to bring some element of nature into our personal spaces. Put on those gloves and keep reading for tips to get started.

I Live in an Apartment – Can I Still Have a Garden?

Absolutely! Whether you’re after aesthetics or nourishment, living in an apartment shouldn’t prevent you from gardening. Much can be achieved in a small space, and for beginner gardeners, a manageable area is an excellent starting point.

Step #1 – Understand Your Limitations

Balcony gardening has some challenges that are not experienced with traditional gardens. Understanding your particular circumstances is essential, so consider the following:

Balcony garden space

Weight restrictions – The weight of plant containers and soil can be significant. Check your balcony’s weight limits before buying containers or equipment that will place the structure at risk.

Water run-off – Pooled water can also weaken building structures, rotting wood, and even concrete over time. Ensure your balcony has a way for water to flow off safely.

The danger of falling containers – Anything dropped from a decent height can cause terrible harm if it falls on someone below. If your apartment overlooks a walkway, choose planters that will not be knocked or blown off your balcony.

Sunlight – Balconies can have restricted sunlight depending on which way they face. Before choosing what plants to purchase, ensure that you know what sunlight your balcony receives during different parts of the day.

Step #2 – Plan to Maximize Your Space

Most people automatically think of container gardening when they contemplate balcony gardening, but vertical gardening and hanging or railing baskets can increase your capacity enormously. They will add a three-dimensional aspect to your efforts that will help replicate the feel of a conventional garden.

Balcony garden with flowers

These different planting methods are suitable for different plants:

Vertical planters – These come in various forms, including trellises to attach containers to, hanging pockets, and shelf systems. Trailing or hanging plants look particularly attractive when grown vertically, and they impart a sense of lush greenness.

In terms of edibles, think of pole beans, peas, tomatoes, and other vine crops like cucumbers, squashes, and even melons. Honeysuckle and jasmine will fill your apartment with a beautiful scent, and ferns will provide year-round, dense greenery.

Hanging and Railing Baskets – Railing baskets are perfectly positioned for easy access to vegetables and herbs. Consider lettuce, spinach, basil, cilantro, parsley, and thyme. Growing marigolds between vegetables helps keep pests at bay and will add a touch of color, as will geraniums and petunias. For your hanging baskets, choose colorful trailing annuals like trailing petunias and lobelias, begonias, and impatiens.

Planters – These are almost limitless with their possibilities. For edibles, you can consider dwarf fruit trees like lemons. Conifers, Japanese maples, and bay laurels make attractive tree options, and bamboo and grasses can provide extensive coverage. Succulents like aloe and cacti can be strikingly architectural and low maintenance.

Step #3 – Soil, Feeding, and Watering

Soil is the source of moisture and oxygen for your plants’ root systems. Most potting mixtures are peat-based and use lime to adjust their pH. They will often have added fertilizer and some water-retention material.

Watering balcony garden

Getting your soil mixture correct at the start will set your plants up to thrive, so consult your local nursery or landscaper to get the right mix for your chosen plants. Edibles like fruit and vegetables need rich soil with water-retaining compost and good drainage. Herbs generally do well with a drier, sandier soil mix.

Step #4 – Tools

A significant advantage of balcony gardening is that you won’t have to fork out a fortune on mowers, chain saws, and other expensive equipment. Tools that you will need are simple and relatively inexpensive.

Balcony Garden Tools

Gloves – These will keep your hands and nails clean, and they will also protect you from thorns and plant sap which can cause skin irritation.

Watering can – Most plants prefer a rain-like trickle rather than a deluge of water. A good watering can also make it more comfortable to carry water out to your balcony.

Trowels – These are useful for planting but also to turn the soil from time to time.

Pruners – These are essential for pruning and trimming dead foliage (better than ruining your kitchen scissors).

String and sticks – These are used to support vines and young trees, as well as to fasten trellis growers.

Summary

Balcony gardening can be an enduring reward, but knowing how to start a balcony garden is an important first step. With the large variety of planters available, you’re able to make maximum use of limited space. Take safety into account when planning, and you’ll be enjoying your private greenery for years to come.

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