How to Grow a Blooming Balcony Garden
We list out the dos and don’ts of creating and maintaining a happy, green balcony or terrace
For people living in apartments, a good way to introduce greenery into the home is through a garden on the balcony. It is the only open space there is and while it may not be big, it is possible to build your mini garden, lush with potted plants and blooming flowers. Before you roll up your sleeves and start digging in the dirt, read about the key dos and don’ts of gardening in a city apartment.
- Before you plan the layout for your balcony garden, observe how many hours of sunlight your balcony receives in a day. Also, find out whether the whole area receives an equal amount of sunlight throughout the day or there are some parts that are sunnier than others. This information will help you decide the placement of the pots because some plants need more sunlight to thrive while some prefer more shade.
- Visit a nursery or do some online research to find out what plants are suitable for your balcony’s conditions and city’s climate.
- While selecting the plants, factor in how big they’ll be when they are fully grown. You don’t want one plant monopolising most of the space and sunlight while the smaller ones struggle for attention.
- Place the plants that require similar amounts of light and moisture together.
- Choose pots and planters according to the plants; it is better to start with containers that will be able to hold the plants till they are full grown.
- Go for planters made of porous materials, such as terra cotta, as they provide better drainage. However, even if you use planters of other materials, make sure they have holes at the bottom for drainage. Placing a pot on a saucer will ensure water doesn’t leak on to the balcony floor.
- Besides sunlight, your plants need the right amount of water. Water your plants according to their individual requirements. If the first inch of the soil is dry, your plant needs watering. When it is windy or too sunny, water your plants daily as the soil tends to dry out quickly under such weather conditions. Keep checking the soil’s moisture to know if a plant needs watering.
- A special variety of soil called potting soil or potting mix is available for potted plants. It has a better balance of drainage and moisture retention capacity than soil straight from the ground. So this is what you should get for your balcony garden.
- It is better to start your garden with three or four each of annual and perennial plants. Plants that complete their life cycle in one growing season are called annuals. The flowers of this variety will bloom faster and remain in bloom for a longer time. So if you want a mass of flowers, get more annuals. However, you will have to plant new ones every year. Find out what species works best for your city’s climate and seasons.
- Perennials live for a few years after they’ve reached maturity. While a plant seems to die down in winter or whatever is its dormant period, it is still alive and will grow back the following spring or growing season. Unlike annuals, the flowers of perennial plants bloom for a short time.
- While annuals give you a chance to keep changing the look of your garden, perennials can form the basic structure of your balcony design.
- Include evergreens in your garden. These plants stay green and leafy throughout the year, so your balcony garden is a green getaway all year round.
- Check for the presence of pests and diseases regularly so you can catch the problem as soon as it crops up.
- If you feel you’re short of floor space, look around you: there’s lots of vertical space! Think about a vertical garden. You can hang racks on the walls and railings to fill with pots overflowing with greenery or flowers, or even use a ladder like this one. The vertical garden and its unusual props create a unique little landscape, all your own.
- You can also make use of tiered holders in different designs to fit more plants in limited small space.
- Just like rooms, your garden also needs accessories. A few colourful pieces will bring variety and a touch of quirk to your balcony. It takes just a couple of chairs and a small tea table to transform it into a restful sitting area. If you have enough space put a wicker sofa and you have a reading nook. Add a few strategically placed lights and you have a great place to sit out in the evening.
- Don’t crowd too many pots together. When put too close to each other, plants don’t grow as they should because they don’t get enough light and water. Also, it makes the balcony look cluttered.
- Don’t move a plant from its position if it is growing well. The fact that it is thriving in that spot means it is suitable for the plant.
- Don’t let the soil go dry. Putting pebbles and gravel on top can help prevent evaporation. Another good way to maintain moisture levels is to cover the soil with a layer of mulch.
- Don’t drench the plants with water. Roots tend to rot in the waterlogged soil. Instead, use less water but water twice a day – early morning and in the evening. The roots have more time to absorb the water as there is no harsh sunlight to dry out the soil.
- When watering plants, do not pour too much water too quickly. Use a small watering can instead of a pipe; water from a can spreads out, covering more area with a gentle shower, while a jet of water from a pipe washes away soil and exposes roots.
- Don’t neglect dead leaves and worn out flowers. Keep an eye out for them and remove them immediately to keep your plants looking neat. Also, leaving dead leaves on the soil heightens the risk of diseases or insect infestation.
- Don’t let your plant remain in its pot if you see that it is outgrowing the pot’s size. You know it is time to shift your plant to a bigger container when your plant stops growing, when you have to keep watering it often and when the roots start coming out of the drainage hole in the pot.
8 Challenges for the First-Time Kitchen Gardener
5 Ways to Live Large on a Small Balcony
How do you keep your potted plants healthy? Share your tips and photos of your balcony garden in the Comments section below.