How To Start Your Own Vegetable Garden On Your Apartment Balcony
Many of us today search for ways to save some money each month on our energy bills, groceries and other things, and one way to bring those prices down is by growing our own food where possible. While this won’t necessarily save you a fortune, it will help to bring your grocery bills down slightly, providing you with regular harvests throughout the year if you are dedicated to taking care of them properly. You don’t need a garden to do this either. While you’d have a lot more space, you can make efficient use of the outdoor space you may have in your apartment by growing your small vegetable garden on your balcony. To do this, you’ll want to consider planting hardy fruit and vegetables that can withstand less-than-ideal conditions. Here are a few everyday vegetables that you can easily grow on your own balcony and some tips on making sure they thrive.
Choose Your Crops Wisely
Your first step when creating your balcony garden is to identify which crops you’ll be growing. There are a number of different vegetables that are suitable for an environment like this, and it’s important to choose ones that are easy to grow. Vegetables that might be happy to grow in a semi-shady spot if you don’t get a lot of sunshine on your balcony are ideal, as well as those that can handle the cooler weather. Although there are ways that you can grow vegetables that need more heat on your balcony, and we’ll cover that later on. For now, here are a selection of vegetables you can grow easily on your balcony.
- Mixed Beans
Some things that are often quite expensive from the vegetable aisle are beans of different varieties. Of course, some beans are more regularly used than others, and this often dictates their value. However, if you regularly purchase things like French beans, runner beans, and sugar snap peas, you might find this a great thing to grow at home. They generally don’t take up a lot of space, and beans are quite simple to grow compared to the huge yield you’ll get from them. They’ll take a bit of time to sow indoors and transfer to different pots, but once you’ve done this, they’re hardly plants, and you’ll generally be able to harvest them every day or two to encourage constant fresh growth.
- Salad Leaves
Another great thing to consider growing at home is actually something that many don’t think about. You can grow many different leaves, ranging in size, shape, colour, and, most importantly, flavour. When growing vegetables, we often think of the crops we harvest from our plants, whether it’s the fruit from tomato plants, the roots of the carrot plant, or the seed of a bean pod. But think for a moment about just how much you regularly spend on bags of baby-leaf salad, for example. These also don’t have a great lifespan once you’ve opened the bag, so having rows of fresh leafy salad to harvest as and when you need it cuts your spending and reduces waste significantly. You can also eat the leaves of certain plants that aren’t generally thought of as salads, such as beetroot leaves and mustard leaves.
Easily one of the most popular vegetables in the UK, the humble cucumber is an incredibly versatile and delicious vegetable and one that is packed with helpful nutrients with very few calories. These crisp, green veggies come in wide different varieties, too, including a vine variation which will climb a trellis or similar structure. You’ll be surprised at just how quickly the cucumbers will grow, too. Once you spot the tell-tale yellow flowers sprouting, you’ll easily get between 10 and 15 cucumbers in a three-week period. These amazing plants are very simple to grow and require very little care once they’ve got going.
A classic choice for beginner and veteran gardeners alike, tomatoes are one of the greatest things you could grow. At the same time, they can get quite large. Tomato plants, especially when fruiting, look stunning with their snaking green vines and vibrant fruit. The smell that these plants give off is also incredible, giving you visions of a traditional Mediterranean garden. You’ll also get buckets of tomatoes throughout the summertime if you take good care of the plant. These will need a fair amount of sunlight, however, and a bit of warmth, too, so you might want to consider growing them inside some form of greenhouse structure.
Protecting Your Plants
For some of your plants, as we just touched on with tomatoes, you’ll want to consider growing them inside a greenhouse. But of course, you’re not going to be able to fit a whole full-sized greenhouse on your balcony. Luckily, you can get smaller versions of greenhouses that can fit nicely on a balcony, roughly as small as two by two feet. You could also consider building your own simple greenhouse with wood and some clear polycarbonate sheets or corrapol stormproof sheets to let the light through. You can get this material from suppliers like ClearAmber Shop. Look into a corrapol PCV installation process so you can build your own. A structure like this will help to keep the chill off of your plants when in the shade and overnight and will also allow you to keep growing certain plants throughout the winter months, too. It will also help to protect them from strong winds, which can damage certain plants significantly.
When planting in a small space, you’ll want to find ways of maximising the space you use as much as possible. One way in which you can maximise this space is to plant things upwards instead of across your balcony area. At the end of the day, you’re going to need some space to move around on your balcony to reach all of your plants, and you might also want some outdoor space to sit and relax, too. If you use vertical planters attached to or leaning against your walls, then you free up a lot of floor space. You can also consider hanging plants on your balcony railings, too. Get creative with your planting and search for ways to increase the number of plants to grow in this smaller area without cluttering up the entire balcony with plants.
Consider Companion Plants
While you will be somewhat pressed for space and want to get as many vegetables planted as possible in this area, you should also remember that there are many benefits to growing certain other plants that won’t be harvested for eating. Certain flowers and plants will actually benefit nearby crops by attracting pollinators to the area, which will help certain plants to fruit. For example, lavender is great at attracting bees and other pollinators to your balcony, and these will then naturally move towards your tomato plants, too, encouraging them to fruit. Some companion plants are also used as a more attractive target for pests as well or will help to repel certain pests from the area altogether. Marigolds, for example, will help to deter white flies, which would otherwise target your tomatoes, whereas other types of marigolds, like the Calendula officinalis, will actually draw aphids to it, acting as a sacrificial plant to protect your crops.