ow would you like to turn your dull, cluttered and abandoned balcony into a kitchen garden? Imagine getting fresh harvests of aromatic herbs, juicy plump fruits, fresh and organic vegetable from your balcony.
Instead of keeping trash and old items, vacuum cleaner or brooms, and old chairs in your balcony, you can learn how to cultivate almost any store bought edibles right from the comfort of your home. I have put together a guide to help you make the most out of your patio.
Invest In Time Effort, Time and Planning
To succeed, you will have to dedicate a lot in terms of time, effort and planning. This can prove a challenge if you are living in an urban center. I have mentioned time but dealing with a patio garden may not take you more than 15 minutes a day.
Creating 15 minutes daily, especially for a busy homeowner can be difficult. You need this time to prune, water, pinch, and deadhead the fading flowers.
The greatest thing with a balcony garden is that you can minimize the effort you invest but maximize the return thereof.
The most important thing is to be consistent. It requires a lot of consistency to water your plants, apply fertilizer, prune overgrown plants, and transplant as per schedule.
Most crucially, you must plan very well since you have only so much space to work with. You will need a certain level of ingenuity to make use of every inch of patio space and optimize the productivity of your plants.
It also means you must choose the right kind of plants that can grow on a balcony.
Maximize Balcony Space for Enhanced Productivity
The limited size of balconies makes it crucial for you to device methods to maximize that space and boost productivity. Most apartments or condos with have balconies not bigger than 4 by 8 feet. That’s not much space.
With proper gardening technique, you can double or even triple that space. Imagine the number of edibles you can get from the enhanced area.
Vertical gardening is the best technique to help you maximize space. Besides using simple decorative pots, you can also install wall planters, railing planters, and stack planters. Furthermore, you can hang a few baskets (as appropriate) to create even more space.
Opt for vines, climbers and other plants that usually grow vertically.
If you have an imaginative mind, you can come up with a beautiful ladder or shelve planter. These will provide you with a way to arrange even more pots or other containers.
Requirements before You Start Planting
The requirements I’m talking about here are, and many people already know them. That’s not to mean everyone. So, I will not take any chances.
- Pots, containers, and planter: These can range in size from just a small one – the size of a gallon – to huge pots or buckets. The choice is yours to make. Be wise in your options as this will determine how much plants you can grow. Use large pots for plants like tomatoes, lemon tree, and peppers.
- Potting medium: This can either be soil or a soilless medium. Very fertile soil can be excellent, but you’d have to deal with too much weight, unreliable drainage, and sometimes poor permeability. Soilless medium, on the other hand, is light, well-draining and highly permeable.
- Sunlight reception: For you to succeed in balcony gardening, your apartment or condo should be oriented in a way that the balcony receives optimal sunlight much of the morning. 6 to 7 hours of sunlight each day is perfect for most herbs, vegetables, and fruits that do well in home gardens. The sun requirement will tremendously reduce if you are living in the tropics.
- Guarantee soil or soilless medium fertility: plants require nutrients to thrive. Before you start planting, you should use organic fertilizer to improve soil fertility. The nutrient application should depend on the results of a soil test if you are using a soil based potting medium.
Types of Plants to Grow In a Balcony Garden
If you prepare your balcony well for planting, nothing can stop you from planting your favorite herbs, fruits, and vegetables. I recommend that you begin with herbs and then fruits before you can plant vegetables.
- Planting Herbs
A good idea is to start your garden with plants if you are new to home gardening. Herbs are easiest to grow and are capable of doing well anywhere. The exception is if the area does not receive enough hours of sunlight per day. Another limiting factor is the growing conditions and characteristics of the herbs.
You will have to choose among your favorite herbs depending on the climatic conditions in your geographical area. You can plant from seeds those herbs that do well when planted in that manner. Alternatively, you can buy a few plants from your local nursery. Examples of herbs you can plant in a patio garden are basil, chime, mint, oregano, cilantro, thyme, parsley and more. The choice is yours.
- Planting Vegetables
A wide variety of vegetables can grow well in balcony gardens. In fact, you can grow almost any edible vegetables if conditions are suitable. Bigger plants such as tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, eggplant will do well in bigger pots or containers. Other fruit vegetables such as beans, okras, peppers also need larger pots measuring 30 to 40cm in depth.
On the contrary, leafy vegetables, herbs, salad greens, carrots will easily grow in smaller 15 to 20 cm deep pots. Others like bulb onions, cherry tomatoes, lettuces, spinach, collards, and even green onions may not use too much space but still produce maximally. The choices are limitless, but you must ensure the vegetables you choose to grow get the optimal condition for their growth.
If your balcony is situated in an area that receives only 4-6 hours of sunlight on a good day, then you should grow low sun vegetables. Examples in this category are celery, spinach, lettuce, parsley, mint, green onions, bulb onions, peas, ginger, Asian greens, radishes, and carrots.
In case your balcony receives more than 6 hours of sunlight most of the days, then you can confidently plant the sunny vegetables. Examples of sun-loving vegetables include basil, sage, dill, thyme, tomatoes, chives, eggplant, chilies and peppers, cucumber, okra, gourds, and melons.
- Growing Fruit Trees
Certain fruit trees can also do well in balcony kitchen gardens. You could be asking yourself how this is possible given you have to use containers. Well, such fruit trees have extensive root systems that spread shallowly beneath the soil surface.
And since you will be providing the plants with enough nutrients and water, roots will not have to go too deep in search of these supplies. However, you have to ensure you grow them in large and deep pots to encourage root growth and therefore productivity.
The fruit trees that should come to your mind are strawberries, lemon tree, pomegranate, apple and watermelon among others.
Starting a balcony garden is a considerable step to affordable and healthy living. If you do it right, nothing will make you visit your local grocery store to buy vegetable, Bok Choy, herbs, spices, and fruits. Even more rewarding is that you can choose what to plant. It may take you some time, effort and planning, but starting a balcony kitchen garden is a worthwhile investment.
The size of your patio or balcony should not be a limiting factor. With the right technique, you can double the space to boost your productivity.