Gardening is an incredibly popular hobby, and it has bubbled over into small garden spaces, like balconies. Gardening is no longer exclusive to those with large yards, small gardens can be grown just about anywhere, and Alberta is a great place to grow a balcony garden! Let’s talk about the benefits of gardening on your balcony, how to maximize a small garden space, and about sun and shade options for balconies.
The Benefits of Having a Garden on Your Balcony
Balconies are places of refuge where we can seize garden tranquillity by just stepping out of the busyness of life and into nature, wherever we live.
With the popularity of container gardening over the last years, growing a balcony garden has become versatile, easy, and fun. Plant breeding programs have focussed on developing compact versions of many flower and vegetable standbys.
Now you can choose to grow fresh veggies, herbs, and floral favourites in container plantings.
How to Utilize a Small Garden Space
Balcony spaces have unique concerns. Every inch counts in small garden spaces, so efficiency and creativity matter.
There are maintenance and neighbourly issues, too. Conscientious water containment is essential. Water and fertilizer can leave stains on decks and standing water can cause rotting or breed bad bugs, not to mention mosquitoes. Use water catchment systems or trays to hold water and keep it from marking decks and overflowing into other balconies nearby or below.
Here are strategies and ideas to squeeze out all you can from a small garden space:
Containers for Balcony Gardens
Growing plants in pots and containers are the drivers of balcony gardens.
- Flowers and vegetables thrive in containers. You don’t have to limit yourself to just flower or vegetable pots; flowers and vegetables can grow together in the same pot.
- Use a mix of container styles and shapes to keep things efficient and exciting. Stagger them and stairstep planters to provide more growing area.
- Planter boxes, square containers, round pots, and tiered planters help to make your balcony creative and beautiful.
Raised beds are growing beds that are longer and beefier than planter boxes. They are great for growing fresh vegetables in successive plantings. On balconies, raised bed gardens must bottoms and water catchment.
Railing planters make good use of some underused real estate in balcony spaces, namely the railings. Fasten planters securely to railings to prevent them from accidentally falling off.
Hanging baskets take advantage of the top level of balcony space. Suspend them independently or on different levels. Hanging baskets allow plants to cascade over the edges unrestricted.
Trellises, Arbors, & Lattice
These additions extend container heights by facilitating upward growth.
- Peas, cucumbers, and beans grow effortlessly on trellises.
- Climbing vines like Cobea, Thunbergia, Mandevilla, Morning Glory, and Passionflower look stunning growing on a lattice framework.
Vertical gardens/Living Walls
This is a new trend in gardening. They require intentional planning and special installation, but they are another interesting option to check out.
Plan out Your Balcony Garden
Before you get started growing anything on your balcony, be intentional and strategically plan your garden. It’s important to know what you want from your garden space.
Here’s a list to get you started:
Figure out what you want from your balcony garden. Once you’ve defined your purpose or focus, it makes the rest of the planning simple.
Here are some questions to start the dream:
- What would you like your balcony garden to be?
- Would you like your balcony to be a place to relax?
- Would you like flowers? What about fragrant flowers?
- Would you like to grow some vegetables, or kitchen herbs?
- Would you like to cultivate edible flowers?
For more details on garden planning, see my full blog called How to Plan & Design a Garden in 4 Simple Steps
Things to Know About your Balcony Gardening Space
Become a student of your balcony gardening space and get acquainted with its growing conditions. The balcony’s environment will determine which plants will grow there.
Answer these questions to narrow down the details about your unique space:
How Much Direct Sun Does Your Balcony Get?
Direct sun exposure means that the sun is shining right on your balcony or patio.
Get to know how many hours of direct sun your space gets, rather than the direction it faces, because things external to the balcony can affect sun exposure. You can match the right plants with the location when you know this.
Here’s a list of questions to ask about sun exposure:
- What time of day does the balcony get sunshine? Does it get sun in the early morning, all or part of the afternoon, or late in the day?
- How many hours of direct sun does it receive?
- How many hours of shade does it get?
- How hot does the balcony get?
- Is there anything that blocks the sun? Are there any trees, downspouts, pillars, eves, other buildings, or things that interfere with sunshine?
What is the Wind Pattern like on the Balcony?
Wind can damage plants that have large or delicate leaves. Wind tunnels can form between buildings, too.
Get to know how wind affects your balcony:
- What direction does the wind come from most days?
- How strong is the wind?
- Is the air movement continuous or intermittent?
Sun and Shade Plants for Balcony Gardens
It can be difficult to decide what kind of plants to cultivate on your balcony. Here is a chart of fantastic small plant ideas with a big impact on balconies:
Balcony Gardens are Tiny but Mighty
Small gardening spaces like balconies offer big opportunities for gardening. By utilizing your small space, you can create an oasis just outside your door. Get to know your unique growing space, match the right plants with the right place, and enjoy the beauty nature and delicious, home-grown food no matter where you live.
©Sharon Wallish Murphy ©Gardening with Sharon