Posted on April 20, 2015

How to Grow a Vegetable Garden on your Balcony

You might think you need a backyard to grow vegetables, but many species do quite well on a condo balcony. As long as you do a little research and use your space wisely, you’ll be able to make fresh salads from your garden all summer long. Here are some tips for how to get started:

Sunlight: The first step is to determine how much sunlight hits your balcony. This will narrow down the list of which plants you can grow. Gardeners have four main categories of sunlight: full sun (6+ hours of direct light), partial sun (4-5 hours), partial shade (2-4 hours) and shade (less than one hour). Seedlings or seed packets will be labeled with the light conditions under which they grow best, but the general rule is: the darker the leaves, the less sun the plant needs.

Go vertical: To save valuable space, arrange pots on shelving or hang baskets from your balcony railing. You can also plant a climbing vegetable, like sweet peas, by a wall. You can even use an old shoe organizer to grow herbs and lettuce. If only one side of your balcony gets the sun you need, this is a great way to take advantage of it.

Add interest
: On a small balcony, unconventional planters can add visual interest. Liquor crates make great containers for growing vegetables. Just make sure to drill holes in the bottom for drainage and add a moisture barrier to the inside.

Soil: Potted plants grow best in synthetic, potting soil. Regular garden soil is too heavy and could cause drainage problems if used in a pot. If you’re using large pots, it’s not necessary to fill the entire container with soil since vegetable roots only run about 25 cm deep. It’s also important to change your soil every year.

Drainage: Vegetables need water, but they don’t do well in soil that is continually wet. If your pots don’t have drain holes, you can drill some yourself. Placing them on the sides near the bottom is best, but if you prefer them on the bottom for aesthetics, prop up your pot to ensure water can run out freely. Be sure the water is caught in a container, lest you upset your neighbour below.

Water: If you’re away for days at a time, or just don’t want to water daily, you can buy watering globes that you can fill with water and they’ll do the work for you.

Plant what you eat: In small gardens, herbs are a good choice because they don’t take up much room and small amounts can be regularly harvested. Lettuce is another good one since it grows quickly, allowing you to cut a head for a salad and have another in a few days.

Choose “patio” plants: When buying seeds or seedlings for plants like tomatoes, look for “patio” varieties. These stay compact while providing maximum yield in a small space. Many vegetables have a “mini” variety – baby bell peppers and Fairy Tale eggplant for example.

Start small: If you’re new to gardening, try growing just one or two plants at first and add more as you gain confidence.