How To Start A Balcony Vegetable Garden

With a balcony vegetable garden, you can produce fresh vegetables like tomatoes or peppers, or enjoy a steady stream of fragrant, exotic herbs. You can grow a lot of food in very little space. Even those who live in apartments can now create a leafy, flourishing escape on their balconies right outside their doors. Balcony gardens are a great way to add joy and life to your living space. With the pointers in this article, you'll be well positioned to produce great crops.

You want to grow both vegetables as well as pretty plants? Certain types of veggies, such as rainbow chard or scarlet kale, are both aesthetically pleasing and edible. You can even blend both food gardening and flower gardening together planting edible flowers.

Whatever your objective, choosing the right plants for balcony gardening takes more consideration than a standard yard garden would. The space occupied by the plants as well as the amount of sunlight they need are both taken into account when choosing variety.

How much sunlight does your balcony get?

The first thing you must do when creating your balcony gardening plan is to determine just how much direct sunlight your balcony receives. Note that the sun may position itself in a different manner throughout the year (in the southern hemisphere, it is lower to the south in the winter rather than directly overhead).

Even if your balcony has a lot of space, the veggies you can grow may be limited by the amount of light. No matter how much sunshine certain types of veggies require, some will still flourish in partial or even full shade. Find out how much sunlight your variety requires by looking at the label or seed packet.

Which vegetables can you grow on your balcony?

Many vegetables, such as tomatoes, strawberries, squash, melons, cucumbers, and okra, can be grown in a variety of locations if they are exposed to six to eight hours of direct sunlight. Although some people classify them as partial sun vegetables, potatoes really require at least six hours of light to grow optimally.

Direct sun

Direct, or full sun means you’ve got a good 6-8 hours shining down on your balcony. With full sun, the main challenge might actually be receiving too much sun. This might be a comfortable problem to have, as there are ways to shade your vegetables to prevent them from being scorched. You might want to also take a look at the plants listed in the partial shade section.

That said, the following plants thrive in outright full sun:

  • Okra
  • Cucumbers
  • Squash
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Watermelon
  • Cantaloupe
  • Eggplant
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Herbs, like basil, tarragon, dill, lavender, chives, echinacea and stevia

Partial shade

Partial shade means sun expose for 3-6 hours. Areas that receive filtered sunlight for most of the day are also considered to be in partial shade. With this level of sun exposure, you can still grow a decent amount of vegetables.

  • Salad greens, like arugula, endive, lettuce, sorrel and spinach
  • Leafy greens, like collards, kale, mustard greens and swiss chard
  • Root vegetables, like beets, carrots, potatoes, radishes, rutabaga and turnips
  • Brassica vegetables, like broccoli and cauliflower, brussels sprouts and cabbage
  • Peas and beans.
  • Leeks and onions
  • Herbs, like mint, chervil, chives, coriander/cilantro, oregano and parsley

Similarly, plants that typically thrive in shade, can also work in partial shade conditions; again with the precaution that they may get too much sun and might need to be protected.

Full shade

“Full shade” refers to less than three hours of sunshine. Even if your balcony receives mostly shade, a kitchen garden is still possible if you select the right vegetables.

  • Beets
  • Leafy greens like bok choy
  • Herbs like cilantro and mint
  • Salad greens like lettuce
  • Swiss chard
  • Broccoli
  • Celery
  • Green onions
  • Spring onions
  • Radishes
  • Kale
  • Garlic

Choosing varieties and pots for your balcony

To keep your container garden smaller and less overwhelming, choose smaller vegetable varieties. Check for information on the labels or seed packets to determine how big the plants will get. Many seed packets have a symbol or note to indicate if they are suitable for pots.

For tomatoes, squashes, and corn, the most common offenders are the biggest. Choose determinate tomato varieties, which are smaller than average. Even mini tomato plants are available!

If floor space is limited, you can choose plants that take up wall space instead—simply use a trellis to let them grow vertically. Pole beans, peas, or cucumbers grow well on a vertical trellis (or on the balcony railing!). I grow pretty purple-podded pole beans in my own garden both for looks and to eat. Don't be surprised if they grow more than 4-5 feet tall!

Vegetable plants need good drainage

To keep your plants healthy and content, good drainage is critical in any garden. You must provide drain holes or create them yourself in any container you choose. Of course, I've learned that it's good to contemplate whether any water that drains out of your pots might land on pedestrians or balconies below. Setting your pots on trays or using self-watering containers can help if this occurs.

Self-watering containers are a terrific option for container gardening in climates with low humidity. This type of container holds water below the dirt in a little water reservoir, so you don't have to water the plant as frequently. Water is absorbed by the roots or wicking through the soil as it is drawn up to the plant.

You can also find boxes that sit directly on your balcony railing, but keep in mind that they may be in danger if you live in a windy area!

Choosing pots for your vegetables

Terra cotta pots are the most affordable and most commonly utilized. Unfortunately, though, terra cotta pots may wither quickly in low-humidity areas. In order to promote healthy roots and air circulation in the earth in a cloth or felt grow bag, a variety of sizes and shapes are available for balcony vegetables.

A wide range of shapes, sizes, and colors are possible with plastic containers. Tupperware bins and other plastic containers may be transformed into potting containers by recycling them. It is a good idea to consider whether the plastic containers you choose to experiment with are food-safe before getting creative. The recycling symbol on the container can provide you with the number 1, 3, 6, or 7. These numbers refer to leachables in the soil. They are considered food safe for a vegetable garden if they have a 2, 4, or 5.

Also, be on the lookout for garage sales and local gardening or sale sites if you're looking for more economical options!

When choosing containers for your vegetable plants, remember the full-grown size of the plants. Pots that are much smaller than the adult plants are not advisable. Herb plants that have shallow roots are normally fine in shallower containers. For healthy root systems, a pot that is at least 10" wide and 12" deep is required.

Be careful when growing smaller containers that live in a dry area. If you live in a dry area, they will dry out faster and need to be watered more frequently than larger containers. When growing tomato plants in my first balcony garden, my plastic containers would easily topple over as the season progressed. Make sure your beds are large and hefty enough to keep steady if you are growing tomatoes.

Larger plants like tomatoes need at least a 5-10 gallon pot, but larger is better. Squash and large pepper plants (18" to 24" wide) are best maintained in large pots (18" to 24" wide). Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, eggplants, and small peppers may be maintained in medium pots (15" to 18" wide).

Place multiple plants of the same variety in the same pot according to the seed packet or label's recommendation. You can also look into companion planting, which involves growing herbs together as long as they still receive enough sunlight.

When planting heavy vines like squash or zucchini, choose containers with thick or curved edges so that the plant can hang without being damaged. If necessary, you can use a small piece of trellis to support them at an angle as they hang towards the ground.

Choosing soil for a balcony vegetable garden

Avoid going to the dollar store for inexpensive potting soil! Whether you are growing containers or vegetables, the sort of soil you choose might be the number one factor in determining whether your garden is successful. Choosing the correct planting ground is especially critical for potted plants.

To keep their plants healthy and happy, potting mix for container plants needs to be different from the sort used for standard backyard gardens. It's lighter to carry and contains perlite or vermiculite to aid root growth. Besides, it doesn't need as heavy a soil mix as a normal backyard garden would.

Fertilizing a balcony vegetable garden

Even if you plant in a container, many of the soils for containers may already supply plant food (such as compost or other organic materials). Alternatively, slow-release fertilizer pellets might be used.

Hopefully, you won't have to fertilize your plants for several months if you use a potting mix that contains plant food. Even if the plants aren't growing as well as they used to, try adding a little plant food if you re-use your potting soil the next year or if they are not thriving.

Using water-soluble fertilizer to make a diluted nutrient solution in your watering can about once a month can help plants in pots. Follow label instructions and avoid overfertilizing your plants, as too much fertilizer can harm them. Some find fertilizing their plants at half the recommended dose twice as often works well.

It's critical to keep the potting soil moisture levels constant rather than letting it get completely dried out and then saturating the pots. When soil moisture levels change dramatically, tomatoes, squash, and pepper plant blossoms can shrivel, pepper plants might bolt (produce flowering stems) or become bitter, and lettuce and herbs may either bolt or become bitter.

In addition to a watering can, many balcony gardeners prefer to water their plants in a slow and methodical manner. However, you will likely have to water your plants regularly if you are using self-watering containers, so you may as well enjoy your balcony space in the meantime! The soil in pots dries out more quickly than in an ordinary garden or raised beds, so you'll have to water your plants more frequently.

Using a hose spigot on your balcony allows for time-saving drip irrigation to help prevent water stress. With a variety of dripper heads, you may choose how much water each plant receives.

With that, you've successfully learned the essentials required to cultivate your own balcony kitchen garden, from which you can harvest fresh, delicious fruits and vegetables. Enjoy!

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