Growing your own balcony garden this spring
With Earth Day upon us, you might be wondering how can you can make a difference for the planet. No matter how small the action or initiative, everything counts – including being more conscious of your everyday consumption of products and resources. Something you may want to consider, especially while you’re staying put at home, is starting a balcony garden to grow your own vegetables.
Not only is this a fun project for you to work on in the spring and summer months, it also allows you to be self-sustaining while making the planet a little greener. Check out these tips on how to grow the best balcony veggie garden in your apartment.
Balconies come in all different shapes, sizes and orientations. It’s important to find the right spot for your soon-to-be balcony garden that will allow your plants to grow and thrive. Before you run to the store to buy the first planter you see, make sure you do the following:
• Watch for the sunniest spot on your balcony: Most fruit and vegetable plants love the sun! If one side of your balcony is sunnier than the other, that’s probably where you’re going to want to place your containers, so they have sun when they need it and a little shade later in the day.
• Measure your space: Nothing is worse than getting excited about something in-store, and then bringing it home to realize it doesn’t fit in your space. Make sure that whatever you’re buying or building will fit well into your space before you head to the store.
• Check for dripping: Your neighbours below don’t necessarily want to be dripped on every time your plants are thirsty, so check to be sure your containers have a tray to catch excess water and where you place them doesn’t run off and down the side.
• Not too windy of a spot: If you’re on a higher floor, it’s very possible the winds could be too strong and will upset your plant or cause damage. Wherever you decide to place your seedlings, make sure it has at least a little bit of protection from the wind.
Note: You may be dealing with a trial and error period for a little bit if your plants don’t take to their original location – but don’t get discouraged! Plants are living things and can be a bit finicky when it comes to their growing locations. Make slight adjustments as necessary to see what works best for your balcony garden.
Picking your containers or planters
There are so many different types of containers and planters out there, you’re sure to find you love. From modern to traditional, rustic to recycled, find what best suits you and your plants with these great options:
• Recycled containers: There are so many different vessels that you can repurpose into the cutest little planters:
o Hummus or yogurt containers
o Tin cans
o Cut in half soda bottles
o Old tires
Note: ensure you poke holes throughout the vessel in order to create airflow to help prevent root rot.
• Plastic planters: These can be found at any home goods store, dollar store, garden centre, etc., and are often very reasonably priced. They’re easy to stack and store for the winter so reused the following year. Try painting or decorating them to better fit your aesthetic and when you’re done with them, make sure you recycle them!
• Wooden planters: One of the more popular styles. They look rustic and authentic, are large and can hold quite a few different plants if you get one that’s big enough. Repurposed palettes make a perfect place for plants to thrive, are very trendy and easy to find.
• Ceramic planters: These come in a variety of colours, styles and sizes. Not as practical if you’re looking to plant a lot of plants, as they can be heavy without holding many plants, tend to be expensive and break, but this all depends on what you’re trying to grow and how much space you have to work with.
• Terracotta planters: These planters have excellent drainage, are very affordable and are an outdoor planter classic. They come in all different sizes are will bring a very “Spanish” feel to your space.
• Metal planters: Similar to plastic planters, metal planters are easy to find and are reasonably priced, ensure it has proper drainage though.
Best veggies and fruit for a balcony
When you’re working with a small space like a balcony, it’s important to remember that growing conditions are not the same as growing a plant in the ground. Some plants actually take well to containers and therefore these will be your ideal balcony growers. Vegetables are easy to grow from seeds, and seed packets can be found at grocery stores, garden centres and even dollar stores. The best veggies to grow on your balcony are:
Keep in mind that while you may love things like cucumber and zucchini, these types of plants spread like crazy and need much more than a balcony space to spread out.
If you’re looking to grow something a little more exotic that will flower and produce some fruit, try some of these trees specifically sized for balconies and patios:
Note: Some of these trees will thrive outside in the summer time, but will need to be brought in for the cold winters. If you’re looking at growing a fruit tree, make sure you have a good spot for it to come inside. For more information on growing fruit trees on your balcony, check out this article.
Caring for your living project
Now that you’ve picked the best spot, planter and plants for your balcony, it’s time to plant and care for them. Most seed packets and seeding plants will come with basic care instructions, so be sure to keep note of them or put the instructions in a safe spot so you can go back and refer to them in case you forget. It may also be helpful if you learn a few tips on how to “read” a plant:
• Wilted leaves: Dehydration, it’s thirsty!
• Brown tips: Lack of humidity, try spraying the leaves more frequently, or adding a pebble tray below the planter with some water in it to evaporate upward.
• Leaf drop: Plant is in shock, this sometimes happens after replanting – give it some time, it will come back.
• Yellowing leaves/brown spots: Your plant may be sunburnt, try moving it to a location that gets a little less direct sun daily.
• Yellowing leaves at the bottom: This may mean your plant is “dying back.” Simply snip off the yellowing foliage and see if it helps, if not, consider a plant fertilizer.
• Yellowing leaves in general: You’re either overwatering or under-watering. Do some quick research on the plant patient at hand so compare what the instructions are to what you’re currently practicing.
Take a deep breath
Take some time to enjoy the fruits of your labour! You’ve created a happy little space to nurture that will be a welcome and delicious distraction – and will also remind you of how fortunate we are to live on this great planet that allows us to grow our own food.
Once you’re able to reap the benefits of your harvest and gather with friends and family again, cook something fun up to share right out there on your balcony where it all began.