Just because you do not have a significant yard or a farm doesn't mean you can't provide yourself and family with fresh fruit, vegetables, and herbs. I am currently growing on my ~50 sq ft balcony, lettuce, strawberries, cilantro, cherry tomatoes, thyme, lavender, mint, rosemary, an array of oregano and sage, plus basil, a hydrangea plant, and other bright flowers. Seriously getting a secret garden vibe off of my little space this year and loving it! Last year I posted some general tips about gardening for beginners, but I have learned a lot more since then so I thought I would share a more detailed post about small space gardening.
1. Take the time before heading to your nearest nursery to observe the sun's pattern over your patio, balcony, yard basically wherever you want your garden to grow. Did you know that individual plants need certain amount and types of light? Some plants love morning sun, whereas others like shade.
2. Once you have figured out the lighting your space has, accommodate different plants needs when it comes to sunlight, layer the pots and let the sun thirst plants shade the more sun sensitive plants. Doing this has allowed me to grow plants that have different light requirements all on the same little balcony.
3. Play with vertical space. A small balcony barely has room for a table and chairs let alone a garden so add shelves, place large plants on the ground and some on table tops in decorative containers. This arrangement will also help with the layering from the tip #2
4. Rotate your plants if you are growing on a balcony or patio. I learned last summer by burning one side of my mint plant. Rotate the container so that the plant gets sun on all sides and not just one scorched side. And this isn't a high maintenance task, only every couple days see how the plant is doing and rotate/move accordingly.
5. Once you buy your little plant babies, make sure you also buy the proper soil. Check the plant tag or ask a salesperson to help you pick out the right soil. Each type has different nutrients and drainage to accommodate different root types. If you plan to grow a variety of mixed veggies, flowers, and herbs but do not want to or have space to store different bags of dirt, I suggest looking for a soil that is labeled "All Purpose."
6. After you have a plant and the soil, you will need a pot, when buying a pot/ planting container make sure there is proper water drainage. If you decide to use a vintage piece of ceramic or any other nonconventional pot, you will need to either drill them or add rocks to the bottom before adding soil. I had a full urn of plants die last summer because of root rot from not having drainage holes.
7. Water your plants daily. If you live in a hot environment like Birmingham, Alabama I would suggest not only in the morning but also checking the water levels in the evening. Many days this summer I have found my plants bone dry after sweltering afternoons.
8. Have the right tools and storage. I highly recommend the bench-storage container I picked up at HomeDepot. It works as each sitting but also has several gallons worth of room for soil, other pots, gloves and more. Most if not all apartments do not come with a hose so you will need a proper watering can to make the watering process efficient.
For balcony decorating tips and DIY projects check out this post from last summer. My balcony looks the same now but double the plants!
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