Archive

Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

6 Tips for Planning a Successful Balcony Garden

A green ombre background with the words in a handwritten style script written in black over it - 6 Tips for Planning a Successful Balcony Garden. Under the words is a photo of a variety of green plants growing in red containers on a balcony.

Balcony gardens both enhance your own living space and are good for the planet, since they feed the bees. To have a successful balcony garden, it’s important to plan it to fit the space you have. Here are some tips to help you end up with a lush balcony.

1. Know the sun exposure your balcony gets.

Exposure in this case refers to both the amount of sun it gets each day, and how windy it is. Just like yards, some balconies are shady. Others are partial sun or full sun. It’s important to look at your balcony on a sunny day about once an hour and see how much sun it gets. Be aware that some areas of your balcony may have different exposure than others. Consider the exposure in the areas you want to put your containers when selecting plants.

2. Identify wind solutions.

Even if the ground level of your home isn’t windy, it’s likely your balcony is. The further from the ground you are, the more windy it will be. Other factors like how close tall buildings are to your own can also impact the amount of wind.

Once you’ve established how windy your balcony is, consider which solutions to windiness you want to use. You have options.

  • Select wind tolerant plants like zinnias.
  • Erect wind barriers, such as screens attached to the railing.
  • Install support structures for your plants, for example grow cages or trellises.

3. Select containers for your space.

Consider what type you will use. Rail hangers? Vertical planters? Planter boxes? It’s important to know what containers will fit in your space and how before you select your plants. Once you’ve determined the type of containers you’re using, measure the space to ensure you only buy what will fit.

Ideal balcony containers will both have internal water reservoirs and drainage. You want some excess water held onto for drier days at the roots of the plant. But it’s also important that any excess beyond that reservoir can drain. Otherwise it will simply sit on top of your container and potentially drown your plant or cause unsightly mold to grow.

4. Choose your plants.

Now that you know the sun exposure, windiness, and containers you will be using, it’s time to select your plants. Remember to consider your planting zone when making this selection. You can  grow a plant from outside of your zone if you are willing to move select plants inside during certain parts of the year. For example, if you are in zone 7, you can have a banana tree on your balcony if you move it indoors in the cooler months.

There is value to growing both edible and decorative plants. Flowering decorative plants help attract more pollinators to a garden that is mostly edible plants. On the other hand, decorative edibles, such as chives or ornamental peppers, can add a dash of variety to both your garden and your meals.

Be aware that many types of plants have varieties already identified as being likely to succeed in containers. For example, the Paris Market Carrot grows to be short and fat instead of long and narrow, which makes it ideal for a container garden.

The world of perennials (plants that come back on their own each year) is not cut off to you in containers. Consider making about half your container garden perennials for ease of care. Chives are perennials and are actually easier to care for in a container than in a lawn garden. Raspberries and blueberries can also do very well in containers and come back perennially. 

5. Buy the proper soil and toppers.

Research the best soil mixes for the types of plants you’ve selected. For example, a banana tree needs a different type of soil mix than a tomato plant. You can either buy pre-made mixes or the elements to mix them yourself.

Soil toppers help the balcony garden succeed. Mulch, such as coconut coir, serves two purposes. First, it prevents weeds, which can happen even on a balcony. Second, it helps the plants retain moisture. You might consider further topping the mulch with decorative rocks. Desert plants should skip the mulch and use only rocks or sand.

6. Plan for watering.

Just like lawn gardens, you will need to water your balcony container garden. Ideally you will do this in the early evening or morning. This both ensures the water is there when the plants need it during the heat of the day but also helps prevent the growth of fungi. Schedule it so you don’t forget.

The careful selections you’ve made so far in containers and soil should help minimize your watering. Keep in mind that larger containers also have a larger soil reservoir of water, and so you can water these less. If you have a variety of plants, try to place the plants with higher watering needs in the larger containers. This will help equalize your plants so you’re watering them all at a similar cadence.

A drip irrigation system is the ultimate easy way to water your balcony garden. But you do need access to an external water spigot for these to work. If you don’t have access to a water spigot from your balcony, don’t despair. There are other tools available to ease your watering efforts. You can buy and fill watering spikes or glass globes. You can also repurpose plastic and glass bottles to fill this same need. 

If you found this post helpful, please consider tipping me on ko-fi, checking out my digital items available in my ko-fi shop, buying one of my publications, or using one of my referral/coupon codesThank you for your support!

Gardening Is Not Elitist

April 7, 2010 4 comments

I’m sure you’ve heard the people claiming it’s elitist to backyard or container garden.  The “reasoning,” apparently, is that because other people in the world have to farm to subsist, doing so when you don’t have to is rude to them.  Or something like that.  Excuse me, but the assumption that farming is something you only do until you can afford not to is what’s elitist.  It’s looking down on farmers.  It’s looking down on people who are actually willing to get their hands dirty to sustain themselves.  It’s looking down on everyone who works along the line to make the packaged, processed foods these so-called humanitarians eat.

There is, of course, a place for production farming.  It’s a great way to produce a lot of food in a short amount of time at a relatively low price to feed a bunch of people.  It’s obviously far more logical to have a large farm of rice paddies than for me to attempt to make my own rice paddy in Boston.  I’m laughing just thinking about it.

But what about your backyard that is currently just grass?  What about your balcony that’s decorated only with chairs and a few garden gnomes?  What about the 3 feet of space in my kitchen that’s too small to fit an appliance or table in, so is currently just wasted space?  If I grow vegetables and/or fruit there, I’m:

  • Using space that would otherwise be wasted for a valuable purpose
  • Lessening my environmental impact, which is a benefit for everyone
  • Becoming more self-reliant, which is always a good thing
  • Maintaining important knowledge to help pass down to future generations

These people seem to think that big business manufacturing is The Answer to all societal problems, but it isn’t.  It isn’t too hard to imagine a future where no one knows the basics.  Where no one is in touch with the earth or with their food or with their clothing or with the animals.  We’re practically living in it now.  Just look at the obesity epidemic, the violence, the general feeling of ennui permeating modern life.  We’ve become so caught up in the power of manufacturing that we’ve forgotten even good things are bad if they aren’t in moderation.  It’s great that I can get rice and tofu in the store–those aren’t exactly things that I can grow in my backyard.  But it’s also great that I can grow a tomato in my kitchen.  Nothing teaches you where food comes from quite so well as planting the seed, nurturing the plant, and harvesting the fruit yourself.  It’s empowering.  It’s understanding on a close, personal level what we as people are capable of with our opposable thumbs and big brains.  Gardening isn’t elitist.  It’s bringing a sense of humanity back to a people whose culture continually tries to rob them of it.