Create an edible balcony with a container garden

Container gardening is not for the faint-hearted. It requires time and a little more patience but if you have a small space, it is the solution! When I became pregnant with my son I decided I wanted to live near the beach  so I could go enjoy beach walks. My apartment had a very small balcony (1.5m x 2.5m). For me it was the ultimate permie challenge.

IMG_0670Permie Checklist: Why grow food on my balcony?

  • Produce organic herbs and veggies,
  • Improves the environment and creates habitat for insects,
  • Reduces food kilometres (transport),
  • Keeps my balcony cool,
  • Reduces air and noise pollution,

After observing the sun I noticed that my balcony only received a minimum of  3-4 hours of sunshine a day and being by the beach it got quite windy at times. I did a bit of researched and decided I would start with herbs. I chose to buy seedlings as I thought it would be easier than to tackle the elements.

Within months I had all my favourite herbs (parsley rosemary, basil, lemon grass, curry plant, chives, coriander), cherry tomatoes, comfrey, plenty of aloe vera, chillies, lavender, radishes and carrots.

DSCN3223At first, I had this romantic idea of using only recycled containers from the kitchen, however over time I realised that the soil dried out quickly and the plants didn’t have enough space for their roots making it difficult to do companion planting. So I went to the local tip shop and found several large plastic pots and transplanted all my plants. The herbs started growing nicely and I was hooked. I wanted to  plant more. I went to garage sales looking for tables and chairs, anything that would create different levels of height on my balcony garden, allowing the sun to reach all my new plants.

IMG_0668Balcony Checklist:

  • Water regularly.  Place trays under each pot, making sure that water doesn’t drip on the  neighbour below.
  •  Add nutrients to the soil to keep plants happy. Use mulch and natural fertiliser.
  • Big containers are best for companion planting.
  • Position plants for maximum sun and think vertical gardening!
  • Use the right soil, lightweight potting mix.

Plants that live in pots need aerated soil and regular watering. As there is a limited amounts of moisture that soil can hold, container gardens in very hot climates can benefit from some shade during the hottest part of the day.

Step-by-step: For your balcony garden you will need pots of various sizes, good compost or potting mix, seedlings or plants.

IMG_06601.  Fill container with moistened compost or potting mix, not garden soil, which is too heavy for balcony gardens and contains weed seeds.

2. Carefully transplant your seedlings from their original pot to the new container. Loosen the root ball by gently tickling the bottom of the of the plant. Plant the seedling in the new container. Don’t bury them too deep, or you’ll smother them with mulch or drown them with water. Gently firm the soil in around the plants.

3. Put the container in a spot where it can drain, such as in a sink or on the ground outside.  Use a watering can with a sprinkler head, and water the soil very gently to settle it around the plants’ roots.  If this creates pockets where soil settles, add moistened potting mix to fill in the gaps.

For fun: Create colourful plant labels or find interesting bric-a-brac to place in and around your balcony garden.

Important: You need to find out whether your balcony or roof is strong enough for your edible garden. I had a builder friend look at mine 😉

Author: Laila Helena

Untitled Infographic