The Best Ways to Grow Vegetables in Your Balcony Garden
Everywhere around the world, COVID-19 has forced people to retreat to the safety of their homes, halting economic and social activities. Businesses and establishments with essential goods and services continue to operate, but fear of getting sick has made simple chores such as doing grocery runs and buying medicine a daily gamble. Life, in a way, has ground to an unsettling halt, but it has also prompted everyone to do what they can to endure and survive.
Because of the limitations to the availability of services these days, self-sufficiency is a most valued trait. If you can do things on your own all at the comfort of your home or with minimal need for going out, you keep yourself safe. This is true especially when it comes to your food supply. When you know the entire farm-to-fork cycle of the food you eat, you have one less thing to worry about.
Obviously, people have different living conditions. While some have acres and acres of land for food production, others live in highly urbanized cities and may not have the space to grow an entire farm’s worth of produce. If you live in an apartment and you have a balcony, however, you still can grow vegetables. Here’s how.
Consider the Climate in Your State and the Microclimate in Your Location
If you plan to grow perennials, use the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to determine which plants thrive in the climate of your region. It’s important to know how much rainfall your plants will receive or if they will survive extreme temperatures.
Sunlight is essential to the growth of your vegetable garden, so you should consider the aspect and the lighting of your location. Aspect refers to the direction where your desired planting area (in this case, the balcony) is facing. You can get the average number of hours of lighting by timing it yourself or by making a sun map. Vegetable gardens require 8 to 10 hours of sunlight, and other plants may need less than that:
- Plants that need full sunlight: at least 6 hours (examples: eggplants, tomatoes, and squash)
- Plants that tolerate partial shade: less than 6 hours of sunlight (examples: carrots, beans, and onions)
- Plants that tolerate light shade: less than 3 hours of sunlight (examples: beets, chives, and garlic)
Wind is also a crucial consideration. Although the wind is important in facilitating pollination, it can knock over small pots and cause the stems and leaves of certain plants to break. It will get windier if your balcony is higher up the building, so you can install or create windbreakers to regulate the flow of air. Plants like honeysuckle can thrive in a windy area as it is good for warding off mildew, so you can go for wind-resilient plants too.
As for snow, you will need to winterproof your pots. Ceramic pots dry out easily, so during winter, you can empty them to prevent them from freezing and cracking. You can use burlap cloth to wrap terra-cotta pots, thereby helping in insulating the roots of the plants.
Use the Right Kind of Pots and Soil
Pots and other planters need to be compatible with how your desired plants grow and must have sufficient drainage. Preferably, the holes should be put 0.25 to 0.5 inches from the bottom of the container. There may be weight restrictions on your balcony, so you will have to ask the builder or building manager first before starting anything.
Planters are made from different materials, usually steel, plastic, or wood. For certain varieties of garden vegetables and small shrubs, you may use large pots. Meanwhile, small pots are perfect for perennials, kitchen herbs, and annuals, and you can use such pots if you want to try vertical gardening, which is a more efficient way of maximizing your balcony’s gardening space. Vertical gardening involves growing plants upward, instead of planting them on the ground. You can use the following planters:
- A trellis
- Garden nets
- Wall packets
- Pots, hanging baskets, and window boxes filled with soil, stacked vertically, and attached to the wall
Another important consideration is the soil you use. Plants grown in containers need sufficient water, nutrients, and air to thrive, and garden soil can’t provide that. A potting mix is ideal for such kinds of plants because this soil is light, keeps moisture, and avoids leaching. This soil is usually a combination of vermiculite, perlite, and peat moss. You can also add compost to your soil.
Also, pay attention to details like how to keep birds and other animals from attacking your plants or roosting on your pots. Use chicken wire to cover the soil.
Make Sure the Water Supply Is Easily Accessible and Ample
There are several ways to water your plants, and you should group them according to their water needs. The old-school way is to use watering cans or a hose. With this, you need to water your plants slowly so the roots don’t rot, but you also need to be thorough enough such that the plant gets enough moisture. You can also use drip irrigation, especially if you have vertical gardening and you want the water to be efficiently distributed. If you don’t want to or you can’t spend a lot of time looking after your plants, you can try self-watering systems instead.
Take note too that you need diversion and catchment systems so that the water doesn’t spill over to your neighbor’s property. If you live in an arid area, you can grow drought-resistant plants.
Other Things to Remember
Everything that’s important takes time and patience, and you can’t rush the results of your creation. If you work diligently and consistently, your vegetable garden may even yield enough so that you can sell organic vegetables online or in other platforms.
Growing vegetables in your balcony garden requires the perfect combination of a number of elements: heat, moisture, wind, humidity, and soil. At the same time, this task depends on the effort and resources you are willing to put in. You may have grand visions of lush greenery and an abundant garden, but you should only grow a garden that you can easily and realistically manage.