Container gardening is not for the faint-hearted. It requires time and more patience, but it is the solution if you have a small space! When I became pregnant with my son, I decided to live near the beach to enjoy beach walks. My apartment had a small balcony (1.5m x 2.5m). For me, this was the ultimate permie challenge!
Permie Checklist: Why grow food on my balcony?
- Produce organic herbs and veggies
- It improves the environment and creates a habitat for insects
- Reduces food kilometres (transport)
- It 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 pretty windy at times. I did a bit of research and decided to start with herbs. I chose to buy seedlings as 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.
At 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 needed more space for their roots, making it challenging to do companion planting. So I went to the local tip shop, 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 height levels on my balcony garden, allowing the sun to reach all my new plants – read 5 tips for healthy plants.
- Water regularly. Place trays under each pot, ensuring 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! Read more about vertical growing ideas for small gardens here.
- Use suitable soil and lightweight potting mix. One part soil, one part coconut coir, one part builders sand and one part compost.
Plants that live in pots need aerated soil and regular watering. As soil can hold a limited amount of moisture, container gardens in scorching climates can benefit from shade during the hottest day.
For your balcony garden, you will need pots of various sizes, good compost or potting mix, seedlings, and plants.
1. Fill the 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 plant. Plant the seedlings in the new container. Don’t bury them too deep; you’ll smother them with mulch or drown them with water. Gently firm the soil around the plants.
3. Put the container where it can drain, such as in a sink or outside the ground. Use a watering can with a sprinkler head and gently water the soil to settle it around the plant’s roots. If this creates pockets where soil settles, add moistened potting mix to fill the gaps.
For fun: Create colourful plant labels or find interesting bric-a-brac to place in and around your balcony garden.
Important: You must determine whether your balcony or roof is strong enough for your edible garden.
Author: Laila Helena
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