There are few things in the world that are better than taking a big bite of a freshly picked home grown vegetable salad. The taste of a tomato that has been ripening on the vine up until only minutes before you eat it is worlds beyond anything that you would find in the store. This goes for basically any produce. Unfortunately, for many of us, having a garden in the backyard is simply not a possibility. Fortunately, vegetables cannot tell if the dirt that they are enjoying is part of a grassy expanse or five stories up on the balcony of an apartment. I know that many of you are currently pondering the pros and cons of filling your outdoor space with dirt, mud, worms, and plants, but before you start putting down that layer of manure based compost, consider for a moment the joys of container gardening.
Container gardening is pretty much just what it sounds like. Instead of growing vegetables in a garden, plants are grown in containers. There are several advantages to container gardening. First of all, you can have a container garden wherever the containers will fit and you can bring your garden indoors should inclement weather threaten your budding packets of nutritious deliciousness. Second, the only requirements for the containers are that they are big enough to hold adequate soil and that there is a hole in the bottom to allow for proper drainage. This means that you can recycle things from around the house, which will keep your waste production down. One thing to keep in mind is that you want to avoid using containers that previously held chemicals. Third, potting soil is less likely to contain weed seeds and pests, which means less time that must be spent weeding and grooming your garden.
One drawback to using “traditional” containers is that they will require watering about once a day. Luckily, the gardening industry has looked kindly on those of us who are too busy to let our green thumbs grow and has come up with the self-watering container. A self-watering container is a container with a water reservoir. The water reservoir supplies your plants with water for several days, which means that all you have to do is refill the reservoir.
Now that we have the dirt, one of the two most important factors to any successful garden, taken care of, we can move onto the next topic. The second, but equally important ingredient to your growing produce aisle, is the sun. Most balconies are going to be at least partially covered spaces, which means that there will be differential light distribution. To make sure that all of your growing green friends are fed and happy, the arrangement of your plants will have to conform to your light availability. While it is possible that plants as large as corn and squash can be grown in containers, it is more likely that the larger end of the spectrum will be in the range of eggplants, tomatoes, and peppers. It is very possible to grow all of the aforementioned plants in containers, but it is important that these containers are placed in full sun. For the shadier corners of your garden, try things like spinach, lettuce, bok choy, and other leafy greens.
With this new found knowledge, it is possible for even the busiest apartment dweller to scratch their green itch and grow some garden goodness. All it takes is a place to put some dirt and some sun. Container gardening is a great way to have your green space and eat it too. For more info on balcony gardening, check out this blog too. Happy gardening!