When it comes to the essential items, balcony gardening isn’t drastically different from any other type of gardening. That said, you might need to prioritize certain things due to space or opt for more compact versions.
Below, we’ll cover the 11 most important must-have items for balcony gardening.
1. Gardening Tools
We’ll start with the obvious: gardening tools. Sure, you could set up a great garden with just your hands and some pots, but having a quality set of gardening tools will make the job much easier.
At the most basic levels, a gardening toolkit should contain:
- Pruning shears
These will cover most jobs in any balcony garden. However, other helpful tools include a hand rake, weeder, and transplanter. If you’re setting up your first garden, look out for a complete gardening toolkit (such as this).
You don’t have to spend a ton on gardening tools. If you’re new to gardening, get an inexpensive kit that includes all the basics and then consider upgrading once you get a feel for the type of garden you want to set up.
Planters are another universal and essential component of a balcony garden. After all, it’s unlikely that you’ve got actual ground to work with, so all your plants will need to go in pots.
On the surface, pots are pretty basic. But once you start looking at types of plants, you’ll realize that the types of planters available are almost never-ending! Some options for balcony gardens include:
- Classic plastic planters – for small shrubs, annual flowers, some veg
- Grow bags – fabric grow bags suitable for potatoes, onions, tomatoes, peppers, etc.
- Railing planters – suitable for trailing plants and flowers
- Terracotta/stone pots – natural, breathable materials for plants that prefer to dry out between waterings
Most plant guides will advise the size of pot you need, and some will even tell you the best materials. Make sure you’re aware of these factors before buying your balcony planters.
There’s not really much to say about watering cans. If you’ve got more than one plant to water, go for a 5-gallon watering can (such as this) at minimum. Obviously, you can choose whatever size you want, but larger cans mean fewer refill trips.
You’ll want a watering can with a shower/sprinkler head. They help distribute water more gently so you don’t risk damaging fragile plants.
Seed trays, also known as propagator trays, consist of individual compartments designed for germinating seeds. Ideally, choose seed trays with lids (such as these) so you have more control over temperature and humidity.
These aren’t truly essential items, at least for beginner gardeners. When setting up your first balcony garden, you’ll want to focus on more established plants because they’re more forgiving. Wait until your second or third year of gardening before moving on to germinating seeds.
- Jasmine, honeysuckle, or roses
- Some fruits and vegetables: cucumber, tomatoes, peppers, etc.
Trellises and lattices are almost universal gardening items. Climbing plants can be for show or food, so any plant that needs support while growing will benefit from a trellis.
But what’s the difference between the 2 products? Wire is more durable, meaning it can double up as a support system. For example, you could fix it to screws on a wall to create a DIY lattice.
Twine is cheaper and biodegradable, meaning it won’t matter if it ends up in a composting system. By extension, it’s less durable, so you’ll need to replace it every year or so.
What garden would be complete without soil? It’s an essential item regardless of the size or number of your plants or pots. While those with larger gardens won’t be as reliant on bagged soil, you don’t have much choice on a balcony.
For beginners, an all-purpose potting mix (such as this) is best. It’s the most cost-effective option and, as the name suggests, will suit pretty much anything you’ll plant.
As you become more experienced, you can start branching out into other soil mixes. Some plants prefer different compositions that might provide better draining or water retention, different nutrient mixes, and so on.
It takes time to learn these factors, so start with a standard potting mix to familiarize yourself.
Similarly, balcony gardens will benefit from fertilizer. Plants use soil nutrients, so you need to replace them (especially when keeping plants in pots). An all-purpose fertilizer (such as this) will be fine for all garden types.
However, if you’re focusing on a vegetable garden, switch to something like tomato fertilizer (such as this). It’s higher in nitrogen, which helps grow bigger fruit and veg.
A balcony composter isn’t necessarily an essential item, as it’ll depend on your local organic waste collection systems. But if you’re starting a garden (especially a veg garden), you can expect to produce more organic waste.
We’ve got a full guide on composting on balconies, so check that out for some tips. Helpfully, the compost you produce can be recycled back into your planters, giving you a proper cyclical garden!
Again, a greenhouse isn’t always a balcony garden must-have. There are 2 main reasons why you’d want one:
1. Wintering more fragile plants to protect them from the worst frost.
2. Germinating seeds or transitioning them more gently to outdoor conditions.
Balcony garden storage is helpful, but not necessarily essential. If you’ve got room in your apartment for your tools, you can skip this one.
But if not, make sure you find yourself a decent outdoor storage box (such as this). It doesn’t need to be massive; just make sure it has enough space for things you don’t want lying around (fertilizer, tools, spare planters, etc.).
Hopefully, this list has helped you figure out what you need for your balcony garden. Generally, the items mentioned here are universal, regardless of the type of garden you’re setting up.
Make sure you start planning your garden before buying things, as it’ll help you figure out exactly what you need.