Top Tips For Balcony Gardening

For those living in apartments in towns & cities across Ireland, gardening space & options can be a little restricted. But even the smallest of spaces can provide you with a relaxing space to sit & enjoy what nature has to offer. Balconies can provide a number of challenges too, with both wind & traffic noise being an issue. So we are here to offer some top tips on how to get the most out your balcony.

Balcony Gardening

1. Know your aspect. The first thing to work out is whether your balcony is sunny or shaded. If your balcony is facing south then it will be sunny, allowing you to grow a wider range of flowers & vegetables. If your balcony is north or west facing, it will be shady, colder & limited in what you can grow.

2. For shady balconies there is still a great range of low maintenance & lush plants that you can grow in pots & containers. We can recommend the following for your balcony...

  • Ivy (Hedera Helic)
  • Ferns (Dryopteris, Polystichum & Polystichum)
  • Skimmia Japonica
  • Heucheras including Purple Palace, Caramel & Can Can
  • Euonymus Fortunei Emerald N Gold & Silver Queen
  • Boxwood plants, Buxus Sempervirens can be grown as an informal hedge or topiary
  • For colour, you can grow Liriope, Ajuga & Vinca
  • Other interesting plants we can suggest include Pinus mugo & Grasses such as Stipa tenuissima, & Carex bronze Curls

3. Choosing the right containers. Choose a pot that is lightweight but frost hardy. There are now a huge range of extremely durable plastic containers available. Troughs are generally the best options are they are long & narrow so will take up less space but offer the most growing space. If you wish to grow a large plant such as bamboo, pinus mugo, skimmia japonica, acers or small trees you will require pots that are at least 80 Litres.

4. To reduce the impact of traffic noise & wind you can position garden screening panels or artificial hedging to the boundary of your balcony, ensuring it is well secured in place. Other ways to reduce noise would include growing plants such as bamboo, nandina, bottle brush or broom & climbers. All these plants are slender yet tall meaning they are suitable to smaller spaces, provide height, privacy & protection from wind.

5. Get your soil right. One great advantage of balcony gardens & growing in container is that you get to choose the exact soil for your plants meaning you can provide the best growing conditions for your flowers, trees, shrubs & herbs. Below is a quick guide on what soil is most recommended for different plants.

  • Alpines: Shallow, gritty soil. A mixture of sand, potting grit & topsoil is ideal
  • Herbs: Well drained soil. Lavender, Rosemary & Bay like soils of low fertility
  • Conifers: Humus rich soils, dark in colour high in organic matter
  • Shrubs: John Innes 3 is best for flowering shrubs
  • Flowering perennials: John Innes 2 or 3
  • Azelea, Pieris, Camelias, Magnolia: All require ericaceous compost
  • Vegetables & Tomatoes: Start seedlings in john Innes 1. Transplant into John Innes 3

6. Best vegetables for growing on a balcony. The good news is that you can grow most vegetables on a balcony. The ones to avoid are those that just take up too much space. For that reason is is best to avoid Courgettes, Potatoes (unless you are happy to grow a small quantity in grow bags). Cabbage, brussels sprouts & broccoli are also not ideal for balconies. That leaves pretty much everything else. If you wish to grow root crops like Carrots & Parsnips, ensure your beds or containers are at least 50cm in height. If you wish to grow cucumbers, chilies or tomatoes ensure to give them the sunniest spot & provide support by late Summer.

7. A simple kitchen garden. Balconies are ideal as kitchen gardens as these require little space while offering maximum results. Herbs such as parsley, rosemary, mint, thyme & chives will grow well in shade & are perfect in pots. Lettuce, radish & beetroot can be grown & harvested all year round if grown under cover in Winter. For sunny spots, you can grow cherry tomatoes from hanging baskets.

8. Watering is key to balcony garden success. You should really take the time to plan out an automated irrigation system for your pots & planters to ensure steady & regular watering.