balcony garden
ECO gardener

If you’ve recently bought an herb kit, anytime’s a good time to make use of bare, sunny spots in your home, like a balcony.

A balcony makes a terrific place to build an herb garden because it typically receives a lot of sunlight – something that many herbs love. Because a balcony is set outdoors, the air circulation is perfect for growing various plants. This space is set outdoors, but it’s so accessible indoors, which means gardening will be convenient.

Depending on the size of your balcony, you can set a few planter stands and fill it with pots of herbs or install several railing baskets and big pots to cover every inch of space – the design is totally up to you. But before you start with balcony gardening, here are some factors to consider:

What direction is your balcony facing?

The balcony’s direction is important because it affects the amount of sun exposure it receives in a day. Check if your balcony faces north, south, east, or west. North-facing terraces do not receive much sunlight, only about 2 hours max per day. East-facing is the best direction for growing sun-loving plants because it receives sunlight from morning to early afternoon.

Some herbs can tolerate partially shady growing environments if the balcony is not getting at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. It’s just a matter of choosing the right herb varieties to build a thriving balcony garden.

Can you convert any balcony into a garden?

balcony garden

You bet! Any bare space that receives sunlight throughout the day can be transformed into a garden, regardless of whether the space is set indoors or outdoors. The growing environment doesn’t have to be ideal because some herbs thrive on neglect.

However, the size of the space matters because you want the plants to enjoy more growing space. The herbs become susceptible to pests and diseases if the air circulation is poor. You have to think of ways to maximize the space without sacrificing the living conditions of the plants.

Factors to consider when constructing a balcony garden

If your balcony is small, you can get away with a couple of large pots to grow multiple complementing herbs and perhaps, some hanging baskets. Suppose you’re considering adding more installations, like a seating area, fixtures, planter shelves, tall plants, irrigation, or big, decorative pots. In that case, you need to check if the balcony can withstand the added weight – or if the neighborhood allows specific installations.

Be mindful of the weight restrictions of the balcony before buying pots, shelves, chairs, tables, and other furniture, equipment, or installations. If you’re unsure what the weight restrictions of the balcony are, speak with your building manager. The same thing goes for irrigation; this has to be regulated so you don’t end up flooding the patio, raining down on the neighbors, and damaging property.

Designing a Garden for Your Balcony

Assuming you have all the information you need to build a balcony garden, you must piece together all the elements to create a beautiful, cohesive design.

You can look for design inspirations online or create a focal point and build the design around it – like a seating area nestled by spillers and fillers. You can get as creative as you want as long as the space can accommodate any installations to execute the design.

One of the most popular balcony designs involves using one large pot to plant different varieties of plants. This technique is called “thriller, spiller, and filler,” and it’s an excellent strategy for small gardens like a balcony garden because it’s incredibly space-efficient. Essentially, the thrillers are the tall plants, the spillers are creeping or spilling plants, and the fillers are tiny plants in between.

Thrillers could be tomatoes, peppers, snapdragons, or rosemary, while spillers could be lobelia, bacopa, nasturtiums, or strawberries. The fillers could be parsley, carrots, basil, amaranth, or geraniums. As long as the plants grow in perfect harmony, you can plant them in one pot.

5 Tips for Creating a Balcony Garden

balcony garden

Consider Lightweight Pots and Planters

Start with lightweight pots and planters to ensure your small garden doesn’t end up affecting the integrity of the balcony itself. Terracotta is an ideal material for pots, but it’s pretty heavy. You can use lightweight alternatives like aluminum, resin, or plastic pots, especially if you’re growing herbs. Herbs do not grow too big and small; lightweight pots are perfectly sized for these petite plants. You can use big pots, but you’ll have to limit the number of big pots to use to avoid the added weight.

Go Vertical

When space is limited, go for creeping, cascading, trailing plants of all kinds. These plants do not take a lot of space and tend to creep up on a trellis. A trellis isn’t heavy at all; you can install a couple for your creeping vines and, in no time at all, create a green space right on your balcony. Watch out for splashes and water stains from watering vines though! This can be easily avoided with drip irrigation and a catchment system at the bottom of the trellis.

Use Hanging Baskets

Another strategy to maximize space in a small balcony garden is hanging baskets. You can use railing baskets, window boxes, and hanging baskets in every shape and size to spruce up the balcony and create a cozy garden you’d be proud to show off.

Again, go for lightweight options to minimize the weight, anything made from wood, steel, or plastic. Plants not requiring frequent watering are the best to grow in a hanging basket. We’re talking about succulents, annuals, and herbs!

Upcycling Household Items

Any container can be turned into a planter or pot as long as it has drainage holes. So old yogurt containers, mugs, jugs, baskets, tin cans, etc., would make a terrific pot for your herbs. Old boots, unused outdoor decors, and even a rusting wheelbarrow can be used as decors for a balcony garden.

Maintaining the Ideal Soil Structure

This is the secret to successful gardening, not just for small balcony gardens but gardening in general – the soil structure has to be ideal to support plant growth. From the get-go, use potting mixes to provide the nutrients plants need to survive.

For example, plants that bear fruits like vegetables and fruits prefer rich soils combined with compost to maintain moisture. You can do composting at home with an ECOgardener outdoor compost bin.

Herbs are flexible, but most thrive in drier or coarse, sandy soils. Generally, a ratio of 1:1:1 ratio of compost, peat, and perlite or sand is ideal for many plants. Use slow-release fertilizer for long-term feeding.

Overcoming Challenges

Growing plants on a balcony present unique challenges like high winds, irrigation issues, safety risks among surrounding structures and neighbors, pests, and cold weather.

High winds and safety issues: To avoid problems caused by high winds and pots falling off from high places, secure the pots from the get-go. All pots and planters must be fastened to a stable structure so they won’t be knocked over by strong winds and end up hurting people below. Use mulching to prevent water from evaporating too quickly from the soil due to high winds and sun exposure.

Water overflows: As for irrigation issues like excess water flowing, wood rot, or staining, these can be remedied by a proper irrigation and catchment system. Also, be mindful of the people below when watering your plants so you won’t get complaints from the neighbors.

Pests: Burrowing and nibbling animals, like birds, rodents, and insects, are unavoidable even in high-up places as long as there are plenty of plants. These can be avoided by covering exposed soil with chicken wire and filling nooks and crannies where rodents could roost. Natural deterrents like vinegar solutions help prevent insects from feasting on your perennials.

Cold weather: Protection is necessary for places that get harsh winters. Group plants closer together and wrap them with burlap to protect plants from the cold. Use mulch to insulate the plant roots. Avoid pots that are prone to cracking, like ceramic and plastic. Bring some of the plants indoors if the weather gets too cold.

Building a beautiful balcony garden is surprisingly easy, especially when you have some essentials prepared beforehand, like herb kits, trellises, and a few plants. You can get your herb kit here and transform that bare balcony into a green space you’d be proud to show off.

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