It’s not true that you need a lot of free cash or a huge backyard in order to create a lovely balcony garden. City dwellers with minimal outdoor space, i.e. a balcony or even fire escape can grow their own flowers, herbs and even food. In fact, there are many things you can grow on a windowsill, with minimal investment.
The key is the containers you use. A container can be anything from a traditional flower pot to a plastic storage box or rubber boot. Ceramic pots in gardening stores can be unnecessarily expensive. Get creative and you’ll be able to save some money. Try mason jars – they’re readily available at thrift stores and perfect for planting herbs. Pallets are a perfect container for lettuce, strawberries or herbs of all kinds. They save both space and money at the same time. You can often find used pallets behind all kinds of stores that receive deliveries. Just be cautious about the kind of material used to make the pallet, as any synthetic or treated wood can be toxic for plants. Paint cans, sand buckets or any other kind of tin or plastic containers are perfect for planting. Don’t forget to drill drainage holes in the bottom and place them on some kind of catch-all for excess water, so that it doesn’t leak onto your floor or table.
There are some size considerations for containers depending on what you will be planting. With herbs, fruits or vegetables, the bigger, the better. A container that is too small will cause a plant to become root-bound and die. Most vegetables will do best in a container that holds more than five gallons. The safest and most fool-proof materials to use are clearly plastic, ceramic, stone and glass. While metal is a viable option, it tends to overheat in direct sunlight and affect the plant’s roots. They are therefore best used indoors.
The first step to growing a successful balcony garden, often overlooked by novices, is planning for weather. In order to choose the plants that will prove most successful, you must first consider the space in which you will be growing them. Is it outdoors or indoors? Is the space exposed to the elements (rain, frost, wind, etc.)? What kind of sunlight does the space receive? For example, if your balcony faces west, there will be afternoon and evening sunlight exposure. Northward and southward facing balconies have the most sunlight per day. Research which plants do best in the conditions you have.