The minor inconveniences of growing plants on a city balcony are forgotten when crops avoid attacks by slugs and other ground pests. Creating a balcony garden is a delightful activity for city dwellers.
Benefits of City Gardening
City dwellers can certainly enjoy the pleasures of growing summer vegetables, but gardeners much overcome certain obstacles not encountered by rural residents. With access to a balcony, a city gardener has space to grow potted plants, hanging baskets and plants that like to climb. Advantages include the proximity of an air conditioned apartment and shade from the sun, two troublesome aspects of gardening on the ground.
Hanging Baskets from the Balcony
The outer edge of the balcony just above the railing is an ideal location for hanging baskets. In the sun for at least part of the day, baskets can get 4-6 hours of direct light that, which is often more than adequate. Rain lands on them as well, reducing the need for watering. Each basket needs a space that is two feet wide, and the installation of hooks on the ceiling provides a place to hang them. Both strawberries and lettuce thrive in hanging baskets.
A 12-inch basket with a liner gives a gardener an opportunity to prepare the soil and gently install strawberry plants. A mix of potting soil containing vermiculite, perlite and sphagnum moss keeps the roots moist but not wet enough to rot.
Likewise many colorful varieties of lettuce are available in garden shops, and they perform well in hanging baskets. Lettuce needs to have damp soil, requiring a gardener to check the moisture level daily and add water as needed.
Preparing an Herb Garden on a Balcony
An easy start to a successful herb garden is the selection of a dozen 4-inch pots with established plants growing in them. Grouping pots in a flat tray gives a gardener a way to move them easily from sunny areas to shaded ones. Oregano and thyme are popular herbs in balcony gardens.
A gardener who enjoys Greek or Italian cuisine can add the taste of fresh oregano that is much livelier than the dried flakes. It grows well in full sun in well drained soils, and it can reach a height of up to two feet.
Soups, roasted meats and casseroles acquire a Middle Eastern flavor with the addition of fresh thyme. It prefers a sunny location and grows to a 12-inch height. The compact structure of the plant makes it perfect for use in a hanging basket.
Growing Tomatoes in Pots
The ease of growing tomatoes and the delicious taste of a ripe fruit on a fresh garden salad encourages city gardeners to include at least one potted tomato plant on a balcony. Large pots from a home improvement store provide adequate space for the roots to grow deeply into the soil. A variety of glazes and designs on the pots make them an attractive addition to a balcony, and they are even more pleasing when the green foliage of tomato plants complements them.
The best tomato plants are stocky and thick as opposed to thin and gangly. They require a good potting soil that contains perlite and vermiculite, along with enriched components that can sustain plants for months. The proper way to plant a tomato is to bury it at least half of its full height, allowing roots to form along the shaft to feed and stabilize the plant. Removing growth just above each branch strengthens the plant and makes it produce more fruit. Tomatoes grow rapidly, and city gardeners need to tie the branches to a balcony rail or a pole for support.