I’m by no means a gardening expert, but I’ve learned a thing or two over the last few years of my urban gardening adventures. Today I thought I would share some of my top tips for balcony gardening, and I’d love to hear your advice as well!
1. Map out the sunlight
Before embarking on your small-space gardening adventures the first thing to do is map out the sunlight your space receives. This includes knowing which way your space faces, how much direct sunlight different areas receive, and at what time of the day. Then you can plan your plants to suit the conditions – including those that are shade tolerant or alternatively can cope with harsh sunshine.
2. Use high quality potting mix
Given you are likely to be introducing soil into your garden in pots, rather than from the ground, start with the highest quality potting mix you can find. Choose an organic mix and add compost and nutrients to ensure your plants get the best possible start. You can always mix in your own compost as well of course!
3. Water consistently
Given balcony gardening usually involves a series of smaller pots it’s important to water consistently. You don’t want to drown them by giving them an extra large drink every so often, but you also don’t want to dry them out, so a consistent watering regime is key. Of course, the amount of water required will also depend on what it is you’re growing! The general rule of thumb is provide less water, more often.
4. Feed your plants
Kicking things off with top-notch potting mix is an excellent start, but you need to keep up the nutrients while the plants are growing as well. The plants will pull all the nutrients out of the soil as they grow and produce, so they will need to be replaced over time. Nothing like some good tree services in my city offering free mulch to enthusiastic gardeners & encourage them. What you need to add to the soil will depend on what plants you are growing, but liquid fertilisers are a good place to start.
5. Start small & hardy
Even in small spaces gardening can become a time consuming (but worthwhile!) hobby, so it’s best to start small and with hardy plants. A few pots of hard to kill herbs like rosemary, mint, oregano and sage are an excellent place to start, and will provide instant flavour to your cooking as well. Small tomato varieties like cherry tomatoes are another excellent option, as are greens like spinach and lettuces. By building up your garden over time you get the chance to learn what works for you and your space, and it’s a lot less overwhelming too. Don’t be disheartened if things don’t work out as planned though (or you get an attack of the caterpillars like has happened to me before!) – just try again with something else!
6. Sort out your drainage
The water in your pots needs to be able to freely move through the soil and not clog the roots, as that can result in root-rot, and restrict oxygen flowing through the soil. This can be resolved by popping some small pebbles in the base of your pots to allow the water to filter through, and lift the pots up using ‘pot feet’ onto saucers to catch excess water.
7. Get creative with space
No matter how small your space is you can find spots to grow plants – you might just have to get a little creative! Don’t restrict yourself to just pots on the ground, you can also grow things in hanging pots, vertical planters, trellises, plant stands, windowsills – you name it! Raising some of your plants up through the use of vertical planters, or even putting them on small tables can also help them get more sunlight as well – plus you can pop the shade loving plants underneath!