As most of you probably know I’ve been growing things on my little balcony for a few years now. I’m by no means a gardening expert, but I have learned a few things about small space gardening over that time. I thought I’d share some of those lessons with you all today, and I’d love to hear your thoughts as well!
Choose high yielding plants
The thing about small space gardening is you’re unlikely to be able to grow enough to feed yourself. Instead, think about ways to get the most out of your space, and high yielding plants are key to this. Herbs are excellent for this – not only can you grow lots of them in small pots, but you generally only need a small amount when you’re cooking. They’re also one of the biggest culprits for food waste as well, so it’s an extra win there too.
I also find that spinach and lettuce are great year round high yielders, as are tomatoes and chillies in the warmer weather. Even within plant types there can be higher yielding varieties that are perfect for small spaces. Talk to the experts at your local nursery and get their advice on which varieties best suit your needs.
Soil quality is vital
If you’re planting in containers – which is always the case for balcony gardens – then soil quality is absolutely vital. The plants can’t get any nutrients unless they are already in the soil or are added through feeding, so if you want a successful garden you’ve got to help it out. This means starting with the best quality you can source, then feeding it whatever is needed for the plants you want to grow. Organic fertiliser is a good place to start!
Pests are still a thing
Even though I’m three storeys up, some sneaky pests still manage to get into my plants! I hadn’t really thought about the fact some kinds of bugs could easily still access my garden when I first started balcony gardening! Sure, I might not have to deal with rabbits eating my lettuce, or even that many snails, but it’s not all smooth sailing. Caterpillars and aphids are my biggest challenge and whilst I try and just pick off the caterpillars I use an eco-oil on the aphids.
Flowers have a place as well
When I first started my balcony gardening adventures I was all about herbs and veggies. These days, whilst the majority of my pots are still filled with edibles, I’ve definitely become more aware of the value of planting flowers as well. Not only do they add some excellent colour into the mix, but if you choose well then they will bring bees into your garden. This can help pollinate your plants, and more broadly helps keep our population strong. You can even get edible flowers, which is a double win!
It won’t all work out, and that’s ok
I’ve had some great successes in my balcony gardening adventures, but I’ve had some giant fails as well. Last summer, I planted a cucumber which yielded a grand total of zero fruits, one year I got just the solitary capsicum off a plant – I could go on! I quickly learned that the act of gardening is a huge part of why I’m doing this, so if sometimes it doesn’t work out, well that’s just the way it goes. It also means that now when I do have successes I’m all the more excited!
Start small, but use all your space
If you’re just getting started on a small space gardening adventure, then start off super small. Pick a few plants to try, and build over time as you learn more about what you like to grow and how much time you can commit to it. If you go all gung-ho and it doesn’t work out you may well get discouraged from trying again, and that would be a shame!
As you do build up over time get creative about how you use your space. I have a few different types of vertical planting systems – two attached to a wall and one freestanding – which are great space savers. Think about whether you can hang things from the ceiling, off the railing, or on tables. Before you know it you’ll have plants everywhere!