Having a balcony vegetable garden can be a great (and fulfilling) hobby. Most vegetables are pretty easy to grow if you have enough space. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case on a balcony, so you must be selective with your choices.
In this article, we’ll cover how to grow a vegetable garden on a balcony. Importantly, we’ll also recommend the best vegetables to grow in pots.
Why Start a Balcony Vegetable Garden
So, why might you want to start a balcony vegetable garden? Perhaps for the following reasons:
- A hobby
- So you can be confident about the source of your food
- Something to do with the kids
Growing vegetables is quite a good learning experience and can help you understand more about seasonal eating and sourcing good produce. While you won’t grow enough to cover your year-round diet, it can help you make more informed choices about your grocery shopping.
Considerations Before Starting a Vegetable Garden
Growing vegetables in pots on a balcony is pretty easy, but there are some things you need to consider first.
You’ll never grow enough food on a balcony to feed yourself. As such, it’s worth being intelligent about available space. Here are some tips:
- Tomatoes are ideal for growing up walls or trailing along balcony railings.
- Potatoes can be super compact and grown in bags.
- Railing planters are ideal for creeping/trailing veg.
If space is a concern, consider starting an herb garden instead. It’s much easier, more compact, and still gives you the chance to grow things.
You can grow vegetables in almost any climate. Seed packets have hardiness or temperature ratings on them, so check your US Hardiness Zone before buying. Visiting a local store could be helpful, as they should sell seeds appropriate for your area.
Simply adjust your growing routine to your weather. If it’s warm, water more; if it’s cold, water less. Opt for easy vegetables if you’re concerned about weather or your growing ability, and move on to others as you get more experienced.
Most veg plants need at least 6 hours of light a day. Root veg often prefers shady areas, while plants like tomatoes prefer direct sun.
It’s difficult to give specific advice, as it depends on what you want to grow. The bottom line is that there’ll be appropriate vegetables for all exposure levels. If sunlight or balcony position is a problem, buy a grow light or make a balcony shade.
Best Vegetables to Grow in Pots
Designing a balcony vegetable garden means growing them in pots. As such, you need to be more selective with your plant choices. Something like a pumpkin plant would be impractical because of how much space it needs.
Options for growing vegetables in pots on a balcony include:
- Chili peppers/sweet peppers
Because you won’t be growing a ton, it’s best to focus on high yield or cut-and-come-again plants. For example, lettuce might be cheap, but you can make a few plants last a whole year by removing a few leaves each time.
The same is true for tomatoes and potatoes. They might be inexpensive at a store, but they’re easy to grow and produce massive yields.
You can grow root veg in containers, but they need a lot of space to grow down. Combine climbers (tomatoes and beans), bushy veg (lettuce), and potatoes to make the most use of your space.
Choosing Pots for a Balcony Vegetable Garden
Getting the right pots for a balcony vegetable garden entirely depends on what you’re growing. Here are some general tips to get you started.
- Potato grow bags are very useful. You continue filling them with soil for maximum yield.
- Raised planters work for climbing vegetables.
- For tomatoes and chili, normal terracotta pots are fine.
- Railing planters are ideal for lettuce, kale and other bushy veg.
- A vertical planter or hanging wall planter work for herbs or bushy veg.
If buying floor planters, choose something at least 18 inches wide and deep. You can grow tomatoes and chili in smaller pots, but larger plants need more room. Plus, larger containers need watering less.
How to Grow a Vegetable Garden on a Balcony
To get started growing vegetables in pots on a balcony, you’ll need:
- Pots (depending on the veg you’re growing)
- All-round potting compost (you can also make your own)
- Vegetable fertilizer
- Watering can
- Trowel or spade
- Vegetable seeds (or seedlings from a local store)
- Seed germination tray
The method is easy:
- Get started in early spring, although some veg grows fall to winter. Check the seed packet for information.
- Fill your seed tray with compost, poke a seed into each cell, and spray with water.
- After a week or so, your seedlings should germinate. Most shouldn’t be planted out until they’ve grown their first set of proper leaves. Following the packet’s instructions.
- Prepare your container with compost and plant the seedling out. In colder climates, you’ll need to acclimate it gradually.
- Water deeply and then continue a normal watering cycle until harvest. Most veg needs feeding once a week or so.
Maintaining Your Balcony Vegetable Garden
Harvesting time depends on the plant. For example, tomatoes can take anywhere between 60 and 100 days, whereas lettuce can be ready in as little as 20. Potatoes take between 70 and 100 days, while spinach and beans can be ready in weeks.
Maintaining your plants is simple: water regularly and fertilize at least once a week during growth. Some plants (such as tomatoes) only need fertilizing during flowering, so, again, check your instructions.
Support climbers with bamboo stakes where needed. You shouldn’t need to do much trimming, although a bit of careful pruning can lead to better yields. It really depends on what you’re growing.
Final Thoughts on a Balcony Vegetable Garden
Hopefully, you’ve now got some tips on how to grow a vegetable garden on a balcony. Start by deciding on the best vegetables to grow in pots based on your space and preferences, and go from there.
Vegetable gardens are a learning experience, so have fun with them!