Urban gardening, planning a balcony garden

by Amy Adams
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My first gardening experience as an adult with my own home was memorable. The plantings and areas surrounding the house were planned but through the years they weren’t tended to. I started piece by piece and the very first night after digging in the dirt, my dream was filled with earth and earthworms. It was beautiful.

That’s when I became obsessed with gardening and spent hours planning, digging, growing, harvesting, propagating and simply relishing in the earth for several years. In 2003, I moved to an apartment and kept a lot of house plants and I mean a lot. Several people who don’t know one another have told me separately that my apartment is like a jungle.

I wanted a garden and in 2006-2009 I kept plants on my balcony then, nine years ago, I built out a balcony garden with wooden boxes and kept a balcony gardening blog to document it. I wanted to share my love of gardening and a few friends who joked about my garden were pleasantly surprised when they ate a tomato or cucumber that was grown on it.

To me, being in touch with the earth is something to be encouraged since it reminds us of where we came from – the earth. Besides a balcony garden can bring us a peaceful space in a busy urban environment. It gives us the experience of nature. Birds, bees, butterflies and other friendly creatures all visit my balcony garden. I want to help people build their own by sharing my stories and examples.

I often change things on my balcony and am constantly experimenting. I’ve changed it a few times and it’s actually in dire need of repair and changing again this year. So, I’ve decided to share some of my articles on urban gardening and will share some videos of my gardening projects that I plan this year. To start, there are three articles to kick off this spring and summer series. If you think you want to build a balcony garden, this will help to get you started. Today we’ll cover planning your balcony garden, in a few days we’ll look at building wooden containers and by the end of the week, we’ll cover focal points and building an inexpensive mini fountain.

Let’s begin with planning your balcony garden –

So, you have a balcony now what are you going to do with it?

Lay the foundation for your space as you determine how you will use the space, think about the types of features you would incorporate in the space and narrow your focus so you can get started. We’ll go step by step here to answer a few questions, then you can use this information to lay the foundation for your balcony garden for many seasons to come.

Here are some questions worth answering before you invest your time, effort and money in creating your space –

Your Balcony

How do you use your balcony now? Who uses the balcony now? What is the size of your balcony? How much space would you like to dedicate to planting?

Your Budget

How much money would you like to invest initially? over a period of time?

Light

How does the light travel on my balcony? How many hours of direct sunlight does the balcony receive each day? Which direction does my balcony face? How does the sun change throughout the day in relation to your space?

Features

Would you like to create a focal point with a small fountain? or a small birdbath?

Furniture


Can you fit and/or do you want a small patio table and chairs to enjoy your space? or perhaps a hammock?

Containers


What types of containers will you use for your plants? fixed or movable? small or large? what shape and size will they be – rectangular window boxes, square pots, round pots, hanging baskets or hay feed baskets?

What to plant


Veggies, flowers, herbs, annuals, perennials, small shrubs –
Do you want to grow your own food? Or would you like big bunches of colourful flowers? or perhaps a combination of both? Will you buy plants that are already started or grow your own from seeds?

Attracting Aliens 🙂

Would you like to attract birds, bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects to your balcony?

Maximizing Your Space

Using your railing, overhang and/or vertical space –
Do you have a wall on your balcony that you can plant vertically with a planter that you can build or using half-round hay baskets or maybe just some inexpensive wire mesh to apply to your exterior wall? Can you use window boxes on your window ledge or with metal supports on the railing? Do you have an overhang that you can hang baskets from?

Now that you have answered these questions you are ready to begin to create the balcony garden of your dreams. Measure up your space and get out your pencil and paper and create a sketch – dream, imagine and create. The beauty of gardens is their adaptability and organic nature that can be changed easily. The point is that if you do not like something it can be changed easily as you go or season to season.

Remember, you do not have to decide everything at this moment but thinking about these things will help to guide you in the process or creating a lush useful space that you can enjoy for years to come.  Bookmark the site to come back during the week so you can read the next posts which delve further into each part of the process.

Here are some links to fountains that I think would work well. I’m considering which one to use myself.




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