Start Your Own Balcony Garden

By Emily Han Doan

Growing your own food does not mean you must have a big backyard. You can achieve that goal even with a little space like an apartment balcony. This blog post will show you where to start.

1. How much time and effort would you give to your garden?

As a student, you might have many assessments and lectures to keep up with. Hence, low-maintenance vegetables like radish, lettuce, climbing beans, and tomatoes would be ideal. Some herbs include annuals (i.e. plants that die after one season) such as basil, parsley, and coriander or perennials such as chives, thyme, and oregano. If you love flowers, then nasturtiums, pansy, viola, violets, and lavender are not only edible but will attract pollinators. Keep in mind to choose vegetables and herbs you would like to eat because you wouldn't want to waste all of your time and effort. Also, low maintenance still requires you to water, protect plants from bugs etc. Therefore, start small because you do not want to overwhelm yourself with all the work. 

2. What is your budget?

For a limited budget, planting from seed is always cheaper than buying seedlings. Reuse egg cartons for growing seedlings and utilise food containers for pots. If possible get the most nutrient-rich soil you can by mixing them with compost. You can start your own compost bin or exchange food scrap for it at your community compost. 

3. How is the space distributed? 

It should be divided into 4 parts: plant space, working space/walkway, storage, and relaxing area. One way to increase space is using shelves to utilise the vertical space. Plant pots can be on the top shelf and tools can be stored at the bottom. Hanging pots on a balcony railway or wall is also a good trick. Make sure to give yourself enough space to work such as a walkway providing access to all the plants for watering. A relaxing area is optional but a little foldable table and chair set is perfect for when you transplant seedlings or morning coffee.  

4. Understand your space

First, find out how much sunlight your balcony gets as this will affect your plant growth. Most herbs prefer shady spots while vegetables need enough sun to grow. Secondly, test how well your balcony drainage is because you wouldn't want to flood your apartment. Using pot saucers would benefit a slow drainage balcony. Finally, check the maximum weight your balcony can support. Some terracotta pots can be heavy so plastic pots or garden bags are lighter alternatives. 

5. Design your garden

An important thing to know is that some vegetables benefit from being close together whilst others do not. Therefore, make sure to check the guide (pictured below) when distributing pots in your garden. Here are examples of some common plant companions. 

This blog post is inspired by a Youtube video by Gala Studio. Hope you find this guide helpful.