Starting a balcony kitchen garden gives you a small space to experiment with that can enrich your daily life. It is also a great way to have easy access to perishables such as leafy greens.
Gardening on a balcony poses some interesting hurdles that are good to know before embarking on your spring planting. Here, we touch on some top tips and tricks to make your experience rosier this season.
A slight breeze keeps diseases at bay, but a lot of windbreaks stalks. Unfortunately, the wind is a bigger problem for apartments than in-ground gardening. If you know this going in, work around it by planting different plants or becoming a trellis master.
Select low growing veg like:
Avoid climbing/trellis plants like:
If your heart is set on growing a plant on the “not recommended” list, try to build an enclosure. If they are sturdy enough to withstand the winds, you should be able to grow your favourites without having too many problems.
For tips on selecting one see:
Tip | Always remember to open greenhouses early in the mornings to avoid scorching the plants as the temperature increases.
Tip | Greenhouses are warmer and ideal for tropical species like chillies that prefer a warmer environment.
Where are the bees?
Well now, it is possible to be too high up. Not all veggies are insect-pollinated, but the ones that are might require your helping hand. Think about choosing wind or self-pollinated veggies if you are unsure of how to self pollinate.
Water, water, water
One thing we do not realise when planting a balcony garden is the increase in wind evaporation. Balcony/container gardens have a limit on the amount of water they can hold. It, therefore, dries out far quicker than in-ground beds. Many first time gardeners struggle to keep up with the watering schedule as a result. Dehydrated veggies will bolt or, in other words, want to go to seed/flower. This means no produce for you.
How to keep moisture in for longer:
- Use moisture retentive soil
- Use self-watering containers
- Line wooden planters will hydrophobic material
- Use mesh instead of pebbles as drainage in the bottom
- Water grow bags/ terra cotta twice as much as plastic
- Use water crystals/vermiculite to retain more moisture
Try and maximise your space as much as possible. You can use steel racks or build shelves. You can even try planting up hanging flower boxes. The latter may attract more pollinators if you are not too high. Make sure to leave space for a composting bin and a basket or utensil storage nearby.
For a comprehensive discussion on balcony garden design see:
Make the most of the space you have as you will never have enough.