Small Space Gardens- The Balcony

the balcony garden

My Terra Edibles seed catalogue arrived in the mail yesterday. Terra Edibles is a Canadian company that sells heritage seeds. Their tomato seeds are what I buy when I plan to start tomatoes from seed. The varieties available are impressive.

This year I will not be starting my tomatoes from seed, but rather purchasing plants from a local nursery. Rose’s Landscaping is within walking distance from home and when they open, in mid-May I will pay my first regular visit. Tomato seedlings are inexpensive and I get a serious return on my money.

This year I am returning to balcony gardening. The space I have available is on two levels. The top level has a great view but little sunlight. Calculating how much sun the balcony gets is crucial to deciding what will grow there. Greens can get by a four to six hours but tomatoes, green peppers and cucumbers, for example, need eight. I will probably hang a window box over a railing where the sun is most prominent and grow salad greens. This area is right off my kitchen so very handy for a cut-and- come again garden.

The second floor balcony is much larger and gets a minimum of eight hours of sunlight per day. It can also be quite windy and hot so it will be necessary to pay close attention to the plants’ watering needs. Wind and heat can dry out containers fast.

On this level I will place my tomatoes, likely six plants in five gallon containers with holes in the bottom. There is only grass below this level and where the containers will be placed is an area not used so the drippings from the containers will simply water the lawn and weeds growing below. It is important to give thought to what is beneath your balcony when designing your garden, and be sure to have something under the container to catch excess water. You may water properly and not cause excess to overflow but rain is not as careful.

After you know where you are going to place your containers or whatever vessels you are using to grow they garden; the most important question is to ask yourself, how much time do you have to spend taking care of the garden? Balcony gardens usually take the form of plants in containers and may actually require more attention than a backyard garden does.

So take the time to consider your schedule and all you do in addition to tending the garden, and plan accordingly.

Match the container to the plant, five gallon pails are great for tomatoes and cucumbers, you could probably grow zucchini as long as you provide a trellis for the plants to climb. In fact, you can grow whatever you want in a container as long as the size of the container matches the plant. Weight can become an issue; especially in larger pots once they are filled with an organic potting soil mix they will be heavy. This means they may be hard to move and will put added weight on the balcony.

Even a small balcony garden needs a plan, something you put down on paper so when it comes time to plant you can refer to it. A journal can help you keep track of what you have planted, how they grew, what worked and what did not.

The plants will attract pollinators such as butterflies but also bees; give this careful thought if someone in your family is allergic to bees. Bees and butterflies will not be your only visitors, so if you use the balcony for recreational space, think about where the chairs are in relationship to the garden. Mark this on your plan, not everyone appreciates the many garden helpers who will visit an organic garden.

A small balcony garden can produce flowers, herbs and vegetables throughout the growing season. A little thought and planning before you begin goes a long way.

Thunder Bay Balcony

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Comments 19 comments

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

Thank you for the advice. I'm planning to set up plant containers on my balcony this year. I'm looking at different sources of information as I make my plans. Your suggestions will be useful.

Bob Ewing profile image

Bob Ewing 5 years ago from New Brunswick Author

Thanks for the comment and happy growing.

rpalulis profile image

rpalulis 5 years ago from NY

I started my tomatoes from seed and started cleaning out the greenhouse today, it hit nearly 60 degrees, and was 96 in the greenhouse, I will soon be transporting all my seedlings from my apartment to the greenhouse that my parents let me put up at their place. I plan on doing more with containers this year. Great hub on small space gardening, I agree that a plan is always necessary and keeping notes helps out tremendously.

ainehannah profile image

ainehannah 5 years ago from Dublin

Your hubs on gardening are always reader-friendly: informative without blinding with science; and encouraging to enthusiastic novices and trial-weary seasonal gardeners alike. It's a pleasure to read your stuff.

Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

A wonderful hub with good tips.

Bob Ewing profile image

Bob Ewing 5 years ago from New Brunswick Author

ainehannah, thanks for the kind words and happy gardening.

rpaulis, a greenhouse, I want one, but not this year. thanks for keeping us update on your gardening and happy growing.

Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

Hi Bob,

I loved this one so , we only have a small patio out the back but we grow everything from Potatoes to Gooseberries.

Useful/up here.

Thanks for sharing this one and take care.


Bob Ewing profile image

Bob Ewing 5 years ago from New Brunswick Author

Small spaces can be very productive, happy growing and thanks for your comments.

Genna East profile image

Genna East 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

Ahhh...I wish I had this info when I had my apartment and balconey; wonderful ideas and thank you for sharing.

Bob Ewing profile image

Bob Ewing 5 years ago from New Brunswick Author

You are welcome, thanks for taking time to visit.

CARIBQUEEN profile image

CARIBQUEEN 5 years ago

Bob: I read your article on balcony gardening and it sounds quite good. However, I plant tomatoes and cucumbers in the ground and get so much trouble with pests. I do not like to use pesticides as I try to do organic gardening but the tomatoes get spots and the birds eat the flowers on the cucumber vine. As I have read your hub - I want to try planting in pots but it means I will have to put a lot of support for the plants to climb. Do pests and birds bother you?

Bob Ewing profile image

Bob Ewing 5 years ago from New Brunswick Author

I have not experienced any trouble with birds and very little with pests. You will need good support for the cucumbers and most tomatoes which is why I usually stick to cherry tomatoes, besides liking their flavour and the fact I can pop them in my mouth like candy.

Om Paramapoonya profile image

Om Paramapoonya 5 years ago

Thanks for the tips. I've been trying to figure out what to do with my empty balcony. :)

BrightMeadow profile image

BrightMeadow 5 years ago from a room of one's own

This is a great article with great info. I have a back yard, but I have some friends living in an apt that might appreciate this as they plan to do some small scale gardening and are just trying to figure out how.

Bob Ewing profile image

Bob Ewing 5 years ago from New Brunswick Author

i wish your friends well and Om, a garden is a great way to use a balcony, happy growing to you both.

profile image

Gigi Thibodeau 5 years ago

This is a great hub. I love balcony gardens and have had a few myself over the years. You make a good point about the fact that container gardens can take a lot of attention. They need consistent and frequent watering, but the rewards are definitely worth it! Thanks for this informative hub!

Bob Ewing profile image

Bob Ewing 5 years ago from New Brunswick Author

You are welcome and thanks for adding your experience, happy growing.

GetSmart profile image

GetSmart 5 years ago

You have really great hubs. I have been wanting to start a small garden and now I know where to go for help! Thanks!!!

Bob Ewing profile image

Bob Ewing 5 years ago from New Brunswick Author

Happy Growing and thanks for the comment.

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