Introduction: Container Gardening in Small Balcony or Space

Picture of Container Gardening in Small Balcony or Space

If you happen to live in apartment or flat and have free space in balcony, you should really fill it with vegetables. It will make you happier and healthier. I will show you how easy it is!

Step 1: Write Down What Is Currently Available

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Measure what size is your balcony. Write down and measure all the pots that you have available. Also, calculate how many liter/gallons of potting soil is already existing in pots. This year, I will be reusing soil that I used last year, so I have to calculate how much compost I need to add to refresh this soil.

Step 2: Plan Your Layout

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Once calculations are done, lay out your plan. If you have handy tool for that, great. I used Sims builder mode and Paint :)

Calculate how many pots you have and how many fits your space. Take note where is sun and how your plants will cover your windows, since it will get darker inside. I just bought bigger pots (5gallon/20 liters), so I can fit less. Then, decide what is going to be in the pots. I stick with tomatoes and cucumbers, also I have some strawberries that hopefully did not freeze during winter. This year, I also bought water container I will be keeping more water and will try to implement dripping system to help with my holiday season.

Step 3: Prepare Soil

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Once you calculated pots and how much fits in them, you can buy new soil or if you have time and want to create your own potting mix you can do that by mixing 3 parts old soil:1 part vermiculite:1 part worm compost:few scoops organic fertilizer (depends on pot size, read instructions on package!). I just made my first video covering this recipe and 2016 garden plans if you are interested. I also planted lettuces in strips to try out his potting mix.

Step 4: Grow Seedlings

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I always grow from seeds. It is very easy, just fill your containers with soil, pop in seed, water and week from that it will start to grow. Cucumbers usually germinates in few days, tomatoes in few weeks, peppers takes longer. Few tips :

  • Do not plant too early. I know how tempting it is to start early thinking that inside it should be warmer. Don't. First make sure you checked weather forecast. Calculate when you will be available to plant your seedlings outside it should be at least 10C/50F outside to plant. Also, you have to introduce your plants to colder weather few hours at a time, otherwise they will get shocked if left in cold weather straight from warm house. Also, plants need light. If you plant too early, they will be weak and "leggy" reaching for light with weak stem. You need to produce artificial light for that.
  • Plant batches few weeks apart. This will make sure that you harvest your crops each week for months, rather harvesting all at once. Super important when growing determinate tomatoes, or "bush" tomatoes. All the tomatoes from the plant ripen at approximately the same time (usually over period of 1- 2 weeks).

    Indeterminate tomatoes will grow and produce fruit until killed by frost. Indeterminates will bloom, set new fruit and ripen fruit all at the same time throughout the season.

Step 5: Growing Cucumbers

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Once weather is warm enough, replant them outside. Carefully take out whole seedling with roots and put in prepared container. I have wall that faces sun in the middle of the day and I attached netting to wall, so basically cucumbers just climb themselves I barely need to tie them. I use 6 gallon/22liters buckets for two cucumbers. They do not need a lot of root space, but you need to make sure they are watered every day. They have surface roots so make sure don't burn them with fertilizer and cover if possible with mulch if sun is hitting them. Don't forget to fertilize, pots have very limited amount of nutrition. You must add additional.

Step 6: Growing Tomatoes

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When re-potting tomatoes, bury the stem also, additional roots will shoot from their stem too. Attach rod to keep them stable when they grow large. Pinch out any suckers that tries to grow as new branches, leave one main stem for indeterminate tomatoes. Add calcium if you experience blossom end rot, witch is quite common when growing in container since calcium is easily washed out when we over water our pots. Add egg shells that are crushed to powder. Also, add NPK fertilizer. Try to find fertilizer that is rich in PK and less in N, after long research I finally found fertilizer in my country N14 P17 K28. I think of this formula as N-leaves, P- blossoms, K-fruits. If you will have a lot of N, you will have very bushy plant but no fruit.

Step 7: Walls That Have Less Light and Windowsill

Picture of Walls That Have Less Light and Windowsill

If you happen to have windowsill, add pots of herbs, lettuce, strawberries and other smaller plants that would not cover sun of plants in the back. Also, leave some spaces between them for sun to penetrate when it is rotating. If you are lucky enough, you will be able to enjoy strawberries the same season when you planted them from seeds, since they germinated late for me I was able to enjoy fresh strawberries until November, last photo was taken October 17th last year. This season of 2016 I planted FRIGO seedlings (last photo) - Clery, Florence, Sonata and ever-bearing variety.

Seedlings "Frigo" are dug at rest in winter and placed in cold storage.
Advantages and predominance of frigo seedlings over green stems from the fact that the seedlings "frigo" after planting behave like plants on beginning of vegetation , their growth and development takes place, however, much more rapidly, because it facilitates this already long day and a higher temperature than in early spring, when vegetation is progressing very slowly. In addition they do not pass the stress caused by replanting, and since most are leafless, not dries up, after planting they do not lose water by transpiration (evaporation of water from the upper part of the plant). If we plant at the same time "frigo" and "green" plants, "frigo" are ahead in the development before seedlings "green" that long even pass the stress associated with physical damage to the root system, with loss of running nutrients, with drying of these seedlings (what delays the development of plant on the grow of lateral kroons).

Frigo seedlings planted into the soil with a low moisture content usually are accepted all and grow very quickly (the strength of the growth of such plants is down right amazing). They yield fruits an average of just 8 weeks after planting. With seedlings "frigo", you can set up a plantation at any time, yielding fruit in a strictly scheduled time, for example in May or August. Controlled cultivation of fruits harvested at a time, when traditional crops have finished fruiting or have not yet begun, so achieved higher prices of fruits. During the following years the fruiting strawberries normally, in normal times, but they are achieved very high yields. The highest prices of fruit crops we get from cuttings planted in February and March.

Step 8: Enjoy Gardening

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If everything sounds too complicated, just try our own way. Just start. I started to plant seeds in empty bottles from water just to test how they grow. Now I can not wait to come back from work and spend time in my little greenhouse and enjoy fresh vegetables every morning.

Comments

lsadwdwadw (author)2016-08-29

Hi, do you use any pesticides?

UrbanGarden (author)lsadwdwadw2017-05-16

Hey, definitely not. The only thing I used so far is neem oil

lsadwdwadw (author)UrbanGarden2017-05-16

Ok thanks. I've struggle fending off aphids etc.

gabbix (author)2016-04-01

Oh boy. I just started to grow seeds from all the veggies that were laying around my veg drawer last week and was thinking how can I make a balcony garden. My balcony is huuuugeeee and we get a lot of sunshine (such a bleassing, in the middle of the city) so this post is just what I needed.

I hope I can tap the I Made It! real son. Thanks for sharing!!!

UrbanGarden (author)gabbix2016-04-04

Awesome! My seeds are sprouting too, looking forward for you update.

RichardS137 (author)2016-04-01

Another thing of interest of which I read but haven't tried. If you plant tomatoes in a garden, construct a wooden frame work, triangular in cross sectional shape and however long you might want to make it, and cover both sides if it with chicken wire fencing. You then plant tomatoes along to outer edge of the structure, ie the fencing. The tomato plant will climb the fencing and your tomatoes will be kept off of the ground.

UrbanGarden (author)RichardS1372016-04-04

It works with cucumbers too, and provides shade underneath for lettuce or radish.

huseyinsafi (author)2016-04-02

They are my dream!

RichardS137 (author)2016-03-25

I used to grow tomatoes and green Bell peppers in plastic 5 gallon buckets on our deck. I would fill the buckets starting with plastic foam packing peanuts and them potting soil on top. I drilled 1/4 inch holes in the bucket sides near the bottoms. The holes let excess water drain from the bucket while the plastic peanuts helped keep the soil from spilling out through the drilled holes. This system worked well for me. I may do it again this summer. I never had one tomato worm on my plants, and I did not use any pesticides.

UrbanGarden (author)RichardS1372016-03-26

Sounds great,but materials mentioned are not really available in my country. Or I should eat a lot of peanuts :D This year I would like to try air pruning method I might cover it on instructables or youtube too

RichardS137 (author)UrbanGarden2016-03-26

I don't recommend eating a lot of peanuts. You need some sort of container, it doesn't have to be a five gallon bucket or pail. Make sure it has drain holes in it above the bottom, preferably about 5 or 6 in the side or sides. Approximately 2 inches (5 Cm.) up from the bottom. You can fill the bottom 4 or 5 inches, (about 11.5 Cm.) of what ever you use as a container with anything that will not go through the holes. I used the plastic packaging peanuts that came in some items that had been shipped to me through the mail, just because I had them, and I believe in recycling. I think rolled up newspaper or rolled up pieces of material cut from a cardboard carton and placed in the bottom vertically, side by side, may be just as good and I think it will work fine. The idea is to not let your potting soil (I used dirt) drain out through the holes. The holes are to let the soil drain. The bottom section below the holes will hold moisture. I have put plants in a homemade wooden box lined with a piece of plastic sheet like painters use. I made some holes in the plastic at the bottom and filled it with soil. The flowers grew nicely. The main idea is to provide drainage so the container does not fill up with water from either putting too much water in the container or from rain. If it does your plants will die. If you use your imagination I'm sure you can find a suitable substitute for anything I wrote about.

RichardS137 (author)RichardS1372016-03-27

I would like to add something about tomato plants. At the end of the growing season you may have some green tomatoes still on the vines. You can pull the entire plant out of the soil, tie a string or cord around the plant where the roots end and the vines begin. Find a cool, (not freezing cold) dry place ( a basement, root cellar, etc.) to store the plants in. Tie the other end of the cord to anything that will support the weight of the plant and hang the tomato plant upside down. Don't let it touch the floor. The green tomatoes on the vines will ripen over a period of several months and you will have fresh home grown tomatoes during the colder months when you cannot grow them outside.

UrbanGarden (author)RichardS1372016-03-29

Great tip, did this last year also.Worth to mention, if green tomatoes fall off just put them in carton box with apples. It is said that apples ripens fruit faster, at least my grand mom says that :)

This is true. Apples will emit ethylene gas. This is a plant hormone that forces ripening or "climacteric" by shutting down certain genes, resulting in a cascade of biochemical events resulting in ripening.

wumpsdad (author)UrbanGarden2016-03-29

Ripe fruit gives off ethylene which is a plant hormone which in turn speeds maturation. In a paper bag with anything ripe will work.

RichardS137 (author)wumpsdad2016-03-29

Speaking of fruit, I read somewhere that tomatoes are classified as fruit, not vegetables.

RichardS137 (author)wumpsdad2016-03-29

Someplace I read that bananas are a super source for that gas. I have a problem with red tomatoes that are ripe in color only, which is what you get by putting a green tomato in a paper bag with a banana. Most store bought tomatoes have been subjected to the ethylene gas. I might add that I find store bought tomatoes rather green tasting and sometimes tasteless. The following is from Ask Dr. Gourmet (on the Internet)

Ethylene gas is produced naturally by most fruits, such as tomatoes, bananas, peaches, and avocados, and it promotes ripening. Most tomatoes today are picked green and transported unripe to protect them from bruising and spoilage. The green tomatoes are then ripened somewhat artificially by exposing them to ethylene gas. This is generally not done in the supermarket but at the produce distributors that supply local markets. The early picking, transport and rapid ripening results in the inferior, mealy tomatoes that we have in our grocery stores today.

There isn't much that can beat picking your own home grown tomato and eating it right away with some salt and lots of black pepper!

FlorinJ (author)RichardS1372016-03-27

I use walnut shells (in fact, shells from any nut) or chopped up stalks from the previous year for the same purpose.

RichardS137 (author)FlorinJ2016-03-29

Those sound like some good ideas.

UrbanGarden (author)RichardS1372016-03-27

Awesome. Thank you for the tips. I am using horticultural fleece to lay down in pots to stop soil leak but allows water drainage. Works really well too

canemaker49 (author)RichardS1372016-03-27

so is it the foam peanuts that kept the worms away? i had those large green worms one year and they ate (in a very short time) my green pepper and tomato plants. those things are eating machines!

RichardS137 (author)canemaker492016-03-27

I left a reply but apparently I didn't click on `Make Comment'. I do not have an answer to why I didn't get tomato worms. I thought maybe the worms eggs were laid in the ground and the plants being isolated from the ground was the answer. I Googled Tomato Worm and found a good description of it on Wikipedia. It is a big moth and it lays it's eggs right on the tomato plant so I guess I was just lucky. It also eats pepper plants and tobacco plants. There are also several species. Check Wikipedia and you can learn about the life cycle of the moth and worm.

canemaker49 (author)RichardS1372016-03-29

thanks, i appreciate the info. they do eat green peppers, that is one plant they tore up. all in one night.

RichardS137 (author)canemaker492016-03-27

I do not have a good answer to your question, I really do not know. I am guessing that not being planted in the ground and being isolated from it may have something to do with it. Maybe those green devils get on the plants due to contact with the soil. I am making an assumption that their eggs or whatever may be laid in the ground. Since I don't know what the life cycle of the worm is and whether or not it becomes a moth or butterfly. We should Google it and maybe we can find out.

UrbanGarden (author)RichardS1372016-03-29

So far i did not have any problem with any worms. It really helps to start container garden from newly bought soil, otherwise we are risking to transfer diseases from backyard to balcony also. One year I think I had powdery mildew on cucumbers, because it was hot and very wet and I forgot to open my windows for few days so fungi got really active. Hope this helps

Kate Russell (author)canemaker492016-03-28

Tomato hornworms can be devastating, if left unchecked, but they don't move fast and are easily removed by hand. You can learn more here: http://www.thedailygarden.us/garden-word-of-the-day/hornworm

valdarama (author)2016-03-29

SO!! After ALL this good advice and support, I've just been told, I'm Not allowed to use the windowsill s for any kind of plants! Jees,, some people just suck Big Time

wumpsdad (author)valdarama2016-03-29

You can get metal or plastic hangers to hang long plant tubs on the outside of a window sill, or if that is forbidden, put/build a table or ledge on the inside 1 pot height below the the windowsill. Then the plants will always be in the light and you won't be wasting light on your pots. Use a good reflector such as polystyrene foam to keep them well illuminated. You can also install one of those mini bay windows that allow you to take better advantage of light outside the wall. Theseare great for herbs.

Kate Russell (author)valdarama2016-03-29

Well, that stinks! What about hanging or potted plants?

I can understand a landlord's concern about water damage, but perhaps a gentle conversation about the steps you will take to eliminate that possibility might be enough to change their mind...

valdarama (author)2016-03-27

I only have a narrow window sill... any tips please? I m dying to grow some herbs and chillies.. but it can get hot in this place...

Kate Russell (author)valdarama2016-03-27

Chilies love hot! The only problem with chilies on a window sill is that the plants can get pretty bushy. You may want to try a hanging pot planted with chilies in front of your window, rather than on the sill. You can learn more here: http://www.thedailygarden.us/garden-word-of-the-day/container-gardening

valdarama (author)Kate Russell2016-03-27

Thank You Kate Russell.. spring is just starting here by me... is it the right to plant some seeds then?

Kate Russell (author)valdarama2016-03-29

Different seeds need different temperatures. Read the packets to see which varieties will do best for you.

UrbanGarden (author)valdarama2016-03-29

I just planted mine yesterday, different variety of cucumbers and tomatoes, will do video on my YouTube channel soon. I also planted basil seeds few weeks ago, they can grow inside almost any time of the year so you can start already. Of course, they will do better if there is more sun so look into weather forecast. Seeds should germinate in few weeks. I also sowed some flower seeds like pomponette and pansy to try this year, since I always planted petunia. Good luck!

Kate Russell (author)valdarama2016-03-27

Peppers, especially the hot varieties, really need heat to germinate. Here in San Jose, we Master Gardeners start seeds on seed heating pads to get plants ready for our Spring Garden Market. You can contact your local MG office or read more here: https://mastergardeners.org/peppers

Happy gardening!

valdarama (author)Kate Russell2016-03-28

Thanks once again Kate, very helpful information

I will check out the s

always curious (author)valdarama2016-03-28

hello, I think I have the instructible name - check under "vertical window planter with PVC bottles" - I am going to try this soon - as well as upside down planting. good luck- it is lovely to have fresh herbs on hand! and you can grow so many!

always curious (author)valdarama2016-03-28

Narrow Windowsill gardening:

There was a great instructible for growing plants on narrow windowsill. Used a tension curtain rod and plastic bottles with holes cut out. Looked easy and very good for smaller plants- unfortunately cannot remember where I saw it - perhaps in plastic bottle re-use?

You can get more tips on window sill gardening here: http://www.thedailygarden.us/garden-word-of-the-d...

I hope it helps you get gardening!

valdarama (author)always curious2016-03-28

Thanks, will heed all advice given here, god people!

Jo-AnneR (author)valdarama2016-03-28

HI there.... I live iin a coop apt for 27 yrs this july. Build a shelf with legs... either with inside measurements - use two knives to pry off wood piece. Try not to break off corners. Set aside. Measure pine board , cut, use 2 brackets ,measure and mark with red pencil. Screw brackets to board, insert white short plugs into marks under window. I use this system for my cat OMee to have a window sill perch. Good luck.

valdarama (author)Jo-AnneR2016-03-28

Jo Anne r, I was thinking along the same lines, So, it's doable, chee

LeonardoPimentel (author)2016-03-29

Nice!

ashleyjlong (author)2016-03-28

Great solution for the cucumbers. I hope to have a nice space for something to climb at our next place so I can try it.

UrbanGarden (author)ashleyjlong2016-03-29

Great, you should really give it a go. Really easy to look after cucumbers once they are set up like this.

FlorinJ (author)2016-03-27

One benefit not mentioned is that the plants growing on the walls keep your house cool during hot summers.

UrbanGarden (author)FlorinJ2016-03-29

On the other hand, it can cover light too and it can become quite dark inside so must consider growing smaller variety plants next to windows.

KLO12 (author)2016-03-27

Getting older, as we all do, last year I created a container
garden to make gardening easier for me. Although I have a large yard the space
I chose to use was right by my back door. Ended up with 24 containers, the
large plastic tree pots from a nursery, set them on 24 x 24 cement pavers to
keep off the ground. Since I concentrated on just setting it up last summer
crop didn't matter much to me. This year with all set up and ready to go I plan
on having a lot of produce to put up for the winter as well as fresh food all
summer. Getting things ready to go this year has been a piece of cake, love
container gardens!

UrbanGarden (author)KLO122016-03-29

Sounds fun and quite big container garden! Good luck this year

andjones2007 (author)2016-03-23

Could always try putting potatoes in a bucket.with earth.

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