Having moved out almost a year ago, I have been staring at an empty balcony long enough. With the weather getting nicer and actually some outdoor space, my love for food easily translated into growing my own food. Unclear on where to start, I spoke to an avid gardener friend of mine about starting a balcony garden and he was eager to impart his advice to me. There is something very satisfying in knowing that you grew something from the start and are able to harvest it for consumption.
Here are some tips and ideas on how to get your small space garden started.
The bigger the better but basically anythingcan house your plants – empty peanut butter jars, empty laundry detergent containers, old lunchboxes, etc. It also depends on how much space you have. Most of my containers came from my parents’ place since they haven’t been planting much over the last couple of years. Take a look around you and be creative, advice I was given that I’m passing onto you. As most of my containers are on the smaller side, I’ve chosen to plant foods that don’t require deep containers. This Apartment Therapy article has some interesting ideas.
Also, since I don’t have a lot of space, I opted to get a small shelf where all the containers can sit in a compact area. This VINRUTA Plant Shelf from IKEA was inexpensive, easy to assemble, and fits my space perfectly.
I’m putting it out there now, I know nothing about potting soil. However, this article from Proven Winners gives a great explanation. My friend said get potting soil so that’s what I did, a huge 60L bag. He said I would need it all but that was a lie – for all my pots, I used maybe a quarter of it. Depending on the number and size of your pots, it might be better to get a smaller bag. Potting soil can be found at your local garden centres.
When planting, fill up the pot to almost the edge since when water, the soil will compact a little.
What do you want to grow? Flowers, herbs, vegetables, fruit, there are many choices. For my balcony garden, I decided to grow radishes, chives, chard, cucumber, spring mix, green onions and nasturtiums. One thing I’m missing is a tomato plant – looking to get one this week. I also wanted to grow garlic but apparently it’s supposed to be planted in the fall, so that’s what my plan will be. My best resource for the types of food to grow comes from the Old Farmer’s Almanac.
When you’ve decided on what you want, visit your local garden centre and talk to the people there. They are experts and can also give you advice on what’s best for your space. If you’re in Toronto, a great place to visit would be the Evergreen Brick Works, there is a great garden centre there and plenty of plants and seeds to choose from. I got my cucumber and salad spring mix seeds there.
I do realize that some people may not want to start plants from seeds, there’s nothing wrong with buying already grown plants. I was skeptical of growing from seeds because it was already late in the planting season but it’s worked out well so far.
Water and Sunlight
Depending on the type of plants you choose, it may require more or less sun, shaded or full sunlight, everyday watering or more intermittent. Consult with the Almanac or refer to the seed packaging as there are usually instructions on what your plant needs. My balcony faces west so the plants get the most sunlight in the afternoon – there is no shade whatsoever, the plants get full sunlight, which seems to be working out. As for watering the plants, I do it first thing in the morning when I have time and the soil stays moist for the most part until the next day.
Most importantly, have patience. I was starting to fret a little because it had been a couple of days and nothing had sprouted yet. But, it all works out in the end. Here’s the difference between Day 1 of planting and Day 10.
Day 1 of planting
Day 10 of planting
Follow me on Instagram @gt20 for more gardening progress. Hope this helps in getting your little garden started 🙂