Maybe you live in an apartment or condo like I do, and your gardening space is slim. My balcony is a little bit bigger than a twin-size bed.
Anyone can place a couple of pots next to the door, but if you want to grow a lot of plants in a small space, you need a strategy and a plan.
Even in my small space, I’ve been able to successfully grow citrus trees, flowers, shrubs, herbs, vegetables, and vines. It just takes planning and special arranging to make it all fit together, much like packing everything in the trunk of your car for a road trip, or making everything fit inside your closet.
Designing Your Garden Arrangement
This is how I’ve layered the plants on my balcony garden to take advantage of the sun, with shade plants nestled behind the bigger plants, and flower boxes hanging from the railing.
Even though we do have a lot of plants, we still want room so we can sit and spend time out there, and do fun things like city camping.
Helpful Stuff to Have
1. Pots that are bigger than you think you need. At the store they look huge, but when you get them home they’re just right. Anything can be a pot, as long as it has a drainage hole in the bottom. Don’t wind up with a lot of small pots; it’s a pain to water them frequently enough to keep them from drying out. You can combine a couple of small plants in one big pot.
2. Potting soil. Do not go and dig up some dirt from the ground by your apartment building. It won’t work. Potting soil is designed for drainage. You can also add some compost from the bin.
3. I don’t own any gardening tools. Since I mainly use potting soil, I just use a spoon for digging. One time I borrowed some clippers.
4. Watering cans. You can reuse juice or milk jugs.
5. Trellis or pole. You want to maximize the vertical space. Since we couldn’t drill hooks into the exterior wall, we positioned a tall garden pole on each side of the balcony to support a hanging basket. We attached it to the railing using stainless steel hose clamps, as pictured.
6. Hanging baskets. Suspend them from hooks or you can hang flower boxes over the railing.
7. Twine. Top-heavy plants can easily be knocked over by the wind, so we have our biggest plants tied securely to the balcony railing. Twine can be used to support vegetables and train climbing vines (grocery twist ties are good for that too).
Challenges of a Container Garden
* Water. If you don’t have access to a hose, you’ll be carrying all the water in jugs yourself, and you’ll probably be doing it every day during the summer.
* Pests. Weeds aren’t much of a problem, but you do need to be on the lookout for pests, so you can stop them before they become a problem.
* Choosing plants. It’s hard to go to the garden store and limit yourself when all of the plants and flowers are blooming and gorgeous. We’ll talk about choosing plants for your container garden next time.