You’re flipping through your favorite home design magazine and notice a balcony garden. The fruit trees, lush vegetable beds, and potted herbs look beautiful and impressive. Before you have time to reconsider, you run out to your local garden center to buy a few beginner plants for your own balcony. After hauling them up three flights of stairs to your flat you realize you don’t know a thing about gardening…and just spent your latte budget for the month.
Don’t fret! Instead, read on to find out how to create your own balcony garden without hassle. You’ll be bringing homemade salsa with your own tomatoes and cilantro to the next summer potluck in no time.
Plant Handy Herbs
If you’re beginning your first balcony garden, you may want to start with herbs. Herbs are easy to grow and can be placed in pots on your balcony. For starters, pick a few herbs that you use a lot in your cooking at home. Do you prepare a lot of Mexican dishes that could use some cilantro? Are you a basil lover? It may also serve you well to plant some of the more expensive herbs that you hate coughing up cash for. Once you’ve chosen your spices, you can visit your local garden store to purchase plants. We suggest beginning with plants instead of seeds. Even though this is more expensive, it will help you forgo the process of planting and caring for seeds.
Once you have your favorite herbs picked, you can combine them in a large free-standing pot on your balcony. Like in the image pictured, herbs will add greenery to your outdoor oasis and also perform a function. Herbs like basil, oregano, thyme, and cilantro are perfect for growing on your own. These specific herbs need at least eight hours of sun everyday.
Clump them together in a stylish large pot and plant them with soil-less potting mix. The popular magazine explains that this will “provide excellent drainage and space for roots to grow.” You’ll be able to tell when your DIY balcony garden needs watered because the soil will look dried out or it will be shrinking away from the sides of the pot. Make sure to keep your herbs moist, but don’t drown them.
If you find that you’re excelling at growing a few herbs, go bigger! Continue to add herbs until you have a large selection of planters. Now when you need to add some cilantro to your guacamole recipe, all you’ll have to do is walk outside.
Grow a Garden with Vegetables
Do you have a friend that brags about their tomatoes? Do you long to bite into a fresh red pepper? Well, even with a balcony in an urban (or not-so-urban) setting you can grow your own vegetables. The key is building an elevated garden box. On this balcony you can see that there is a box that runs the length of its side. Now, I’m not sure if they have vegetables planted in it, but they most certainly could!
If you’re a DIYer, you can easily look up plans to build your own elevated garden box. If you’re like me, you can still do-it-yourself but avoid picking up a hammer. Elevated garden beds can be purchased online or at a local home improvement store. They run about $100. For only an investment of about $100, you can have a garden bed all ready to plant in! Depending on your gardening ambition, you can order it all different sizes.
Once you have your own elevated box, you can choose what vegetables to grow. Tomatoes are a good option if you’re starting out. According to plantnatural.com they’re the most popular home-grown vegetable in the country! Tomatoes need a lot of sunshine and enjoy compost or manure to grow healthy and strong. You can easily read the instructions on the plants you pick out from a local grower, or you can Google tutorials. All tomatoes aren’t created equal and have different needs. Plan on planting two plants for every tomato-eater in your family.
As your tomato plants grow, you may need to add stakes for them to climb and/or for support. These can be purchased at any Lowes, Home Depot or your favorite garden center. If you’d like to get more creative, look on Pinterest for fun alternatives to the traditional tomato cages.
Don’t Forget the Fruit
Let’s say you aren’t crazy about herbs and could do without veggies. Your DIY balcony garden may be filled with fruit trees. Apples and other fruits are really expensive but are necessary to living an energy-filled life in the city. Wouldn’t it be a fun thing to be able to walk out on your own private balcony and pull an apple off a tree?
To grow fruit trees on your balcony, all you need are the trees and some large pots. There are plenty of resources online and in books about cultivating your own fruit garden. To begin, it may be in your favor to pick up a copy of the book The Edible Balcony by Alex Mitchell.
The very best fruits to grow in pots include columnar apples, blueberries, and kumquats. If you don’t have a lot of space, consider purchasing trees that are dwarfed in size. This will make it easier to grow fruit and will take up less space. The more sun you allow your trees to receive, the sweeter the fruit. When picking out crops, ask if you’re OK growing a tree on its own. Some trees will need a friend to help them pollinate properly. When planting your trees, place them in a large container, at least a foot deep, with rich soil. It’s also necessary to have the trees tied to a support, like a balcony railing. Rodale’s Organic Life explains that the very best container to plant balcony fruit trees in are galvanized dustbins. Before planting your trees, drill holes in the bottom of all containers so that the water can drain.
As in this picture, adding a few trees in the corner of your balcony will add a lush feel to your outdoor area and delicious fruit to enjoy. I would suggest beginning with one tree and expanding your urban balcony garden from there once you get the hang of it. Remember that growing a garden is a process and may take some time. Enjoy the journey of growing your own food and you’ll find it more fulfilling.
Just Make It Look Pretty
Sometimes you don’t need to produce any type of edible plant to create a balcony garden. Just the beauty of the greenery and ornamentation is enough to begin growing one. If you don’t want to bother with fruits, herbs, or vegetables, that’s OK. Instead, try growing plants and flowers that are simply pretty. Tropicanna canna is an exotic foliage that is perfect for an urban balcony. You can purchase bulbs and grow them from the beginning or invest in plants that have already begun to blossom. Many love the bright colors that Tropicanna canna offers like bright pinks, reds, and oranges. These take full sun so you will need to place them in an area that isn’t shaded. Along with lots of sun, as with most container plants, this bright summer plant needs lots of water to keep it thriving.
If you’d like your DIY balcony garden to have some height, try a hanging basket. Plants that spill out from a hanging basket create beautiful blossoms on your balcony. Try Fuchsia, Bonfire begonias, Creeping Jenny, Diacia, or even Thyme.
For more design ideas and inspiration, head to Modernize.com.
Meet our Guest Blogger . . .
Jane Blanchard is a blogger, home design geek, and graphic designer from Savannah, GA. She currently writes for Modernize.com.