City living has its drawbacks for gardening enthusiasts. With ever-soaring apartment prices, interior living space is often cramped and outdoor space is seriously limited.
But life in the concrete jungle need not be completely devoid of greenery. Before you give apartment living the (green) thumbs down, dig into these 6 tips for cultivating the ultimate urban balcony garden.
1. Look On The Bright Side
Sunlight is a crucial factor for most plants – some will thrive with lots of direct sun, while others prefer shade. Most balconies only get light from one direction so, before you get started, spend some time outside, on your balcony, observing the climatic conditions that your plants will be subjected to.
If your balcony is north or north-east facing, you will receive a generous dose of sun each day and most plants will grow quite easily. Balconies with an east or south-facing aspect, on the other hand, may require shade tolerant plants. A west-facing balcony will typically need tough heat and sun-tolerant plants, such as rosemary and pumpkins.
2. The Only Way Is Up
The average inner city balcony doesn’t have a whole lot of space – so the discerning balcony gardener needs to find creative ways to optimise the available space.
Rather than simply covering all of your available outdoor floor space with potted plants, try solutions that make the most of your vertical space:
- Grow climbers up a trellis or on your balcony fence
- Benches (position shade-loving plants underneath and sun-lovers on top)
- Hanging pots and baskets
- Plant stands
- Mountable hanging gardens
- Raised planters
- Vertical gardens
Even if your apartment is only on the first or second floor, your balcony will no doubt be windy from time to time. Those breezes won’t hurt your plants but they will dry out the soil in your balcony garden.
To slow down the evaporation, coat the soil in all of your potted plants with a healthy layer of mulch – it will help keep the all-important moisture and nutrients in the soil.
You can also plant climbers to cover your balcony rails, walls and even the ceiling. They act as a windbreaker and also turn your balcony into a leafy sanctuary.
4. Thirsty Plants Are Unhappy Plants
Most plants need regular watering in the warmer months. At the very least, water your herb patch every second day.
As a rule of thumb, it’s time to water when the dirt is dry an inch below the surface. But be careful not to drench your plants – waterlogged soil can cause root rot. It’s better to give your garden less water, more often.
Make sure that your pots have holes for drainage. This allows oxygen to pass through the soil and give the roots important nutrients. To allow pots to drain properly, place ‘pot feet’ under pots or inside saucers.
5. Good Enough To Eat
If you are going to dedicate time and love to your balcony garden, you might as well receive something delicious in return. Many herbs and vegetables grow well in pots so be sure to incorporate a few edible plants in your little green haven.
Get started with some of the hardier herbs – basil, parsley, sage and rosemary are easy to grow. Nothing beats a sprinkle of garden fresh herbs on your favourite recipe.
If you really want your little green plot to smile, give it plenty of love, attention and tenderness. Insects may try to make a meal out of your garden. Protect your patch with organic pesticides and oil sprays.
Don’t cut corners on cheap potting mix. If you want to see healthy growth, invest in good quality soil. And ‘feed’ your plants regularly. Liquid seaweed and fish emulsion fertilisers provide easy-to-absorb nutrients. Straw mulch is great for herbs and vegetables because it decomposes and adds organic matter.