It’s a challenge gardening in small spaces. When I moved into my apartment nearly 2 years ago, I conceded to the fact that I would never have my own garden. I have no soil, no space, no proper facilities. IMPOSSIBLE, I thought.
What a defeatist attitude! (and a cry baby)
Lucky for me, my eyes were opened to the ever so fascinating world of micro-gardening when I completed an Urban Permaculture Course earlier this year. I was determined to make this happen! Like a little kid with a puffed up chest, ready to step up to the batting plate, I tossed my garden gloves over my shoulder and proceeded forward into the big wide world as a novice green-thumb.
As a minimalist (attempting), I had no desire for anything extravagant, high maintenance or expensive.
I had a dream… a dream to establish a balcony gardening system that could sustain itself. One where I didn’t need to use chemical pesticides and fertilisers. One that would basically take care of itself, other than my tending to the occasional maintenance, watering and of course, reaping the rewards of my (minimal) toil!
I wasn’t asking for much, really.
Once you have the right systems in place, it‘s really not that hard.
So chin up! You don’t need resign to a life of gardening just cacti after all!
5 Quick & Dirty Tips for Balcony Gardening:
1. The Right Pots
Pots can be used out of anything. Plants are resilient and will grow in the most obscure places. Take a look around your house and see what you can recycle; buckets, containers, boots or whatever really! Keep in mind though, whether you bought the most expensive potting containers on the shelf, or simply recycled an old bucket, plants need drainage. I can’t emphasize this point enough. Drill some holes in the bottom and place a tray of some sort underneath. This also works well if you are going away for a weekend as you can leave water in the tray and the plant will absorb the water through its roots as needed, so it can survive without you hovering around it like an overprotective parent.
2. Nutritious Potting Soil
Without healthy, nutrient rich soil, your plants will simply wilt and suffer. Keep it organic and ditch the chemical fertilizers which only kill off the good micro-organisms and creates further dependence on continual inputs of more synthetic fertilizers to maintain soil health. They are simply not needed when you have the right balance of natural ingredients. Plants thrive in the wild without them, and yours can too. It’s the foundation for a successful balcony garden.
3. A Balcony Worm Farm
This is a huge player in sustaining the healthy life of your plants in my opinion. Pot plants are susceptible to not receiving adequate nutrients. Such small spaces don’t allow for things like crop rotation, full scale composting or earth worms which help rotate nutrients through the soil. A small scale worm farm on your balcony will enable you to compost your kitchen scraps and recycle the nutrients back into the pot plant soil by catching the worm castings and watering the plants with it. I wrote a post about how I made my own recycled worm farm that’s cheap and portable.
4. Protection from the Elements
We don’t get to choose the climate nor the conditions that our poor pot plants will be exposed to on a daily basis. So if you are exposed to harsh afternoon sun which leave your plants wilting and crying, put some shade cloth up or other forms of sun protection. Hide the smaller and more vulnerable plants behind the larger, domineering and hardier ones. Take advantage of what you’ve got. Wind will dry the soil faster, so be sure to monitor the amount of water they need. Sufficient mulching around the plants can help minimise the effects of the elements as well. Think about using natural materials like straw, paperbark, or even shredded paper – matter that will slowly decompose overtime.
5. Appropriate Watering and Ongoing Nutrition
Whilst you don’t want to leave your plants to dry out and die, you also don’t want to be over watering them either. They can drown if not given enough drainage. Monitoring the dampness of the soil and learning about the needs of the plants will prevent this from occurring. Every week or 2, use the worm castings to provide some added nutrition to the soil. Other great additions are a seaweed mix you can add to water for its sea mineral content, or molasses; a great feed for the micro-organisms and it can even help in repelling pests!
I always love to hear what you have to add to this. What are your tips and tricks for a successful balcony gardening system?
Image Credit: boboroshi
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