Thursday, October 03, 2013

How to start a Balcony Garden

I was recently asked by Chris from The Life Creative to write a guest post for his blog about how I came to set up my (sometimes) thriving Balcony Garden. I thought I'd share my tips with my readers too...and it's good timing seeing as I basically need to restart my balcony garden due to its post-holiday devastation.

Growing your own food, no matter how small your little urban “farm” may be is a great way to connect yourself with the food chain. It’s certainly got me up off the couch and into the great outdoors…of my balcony!

1.    The first thing to do is understand how much sun your plant growing spot is going to get each day. I’m lucky that my balcony faces due-North and we get hours of directly sunlight everyday.  This is the ideal situation for plants and I can grow pretty much anything (except for mushrooms as they LOVE dark).  People with shady growing areas will still be able to grow things – you’ll just be a bit limited.  Mr Google can help you out here – but as an example parsley and mint are quite partial to a bit of shade.

2.    I know this sounds kind of obvious but grow things that you like to eat and cook with. Somehow I’ve ended up with an ENORMOUS thyme bush on my balcony...and a rather large rosemary bush too. They look wonderful and smellsamazing but I really don’t have any idea of what to do with all that thyme/rosemary other than offload it onto my neighbour who loves cooking with it.

3.    You need to be aware that most herbs and veggies are seasonal - they won’t grow all year round as they either like it hot or cool or somewhere in between. After shopping in ColesWorth for most of my adult life I never really understood this properly until I started to garden.  In these big supermarkets I can lay my hot little hands on anything I want whenever I want and now, as a “gardener”, I finally understand that a lot of these herbs, fruits and veggies are imported or they sit in cold storage for months just wanting to be wheeled out to unsuspecting shoppers like moi.  This is a useful tool for the best time to plant your goodies.

4.    I grow things from seed packets rather than buying seedlings as it’s cheaper. This is entirely personal…I prefer to spend my money on eating out rather than buying pricey, half grown pots of herbs. For me half the fun is planting out my seeds and seeing what pops up and what just…fails. That said I could NOT grow rosemary from seed (or sage as I couldn't find any seeds) so I caved and bought myself a nice seedling to kick things off.

5.    Use a good quality potting mix. The stuff from the supermarket doesn’t come with a lot of “good stuff” in it so I buy my (organic) potting mix from Bunnings or a garden centre. Be careful with potting mix…it has micro-organisms in it that are harmful if you breath them in. I always wear gloves and a face mask when I’m using potting mix. It’s not sexy, but hey it’s safe.

6.    Remember to feed your plants regularly as they will quickly gobble up the nutrients that came in the potting mix.  Every week or two I add some liquid Seasol to my watering can. I also occasionally do the same thing with a bit of Dynamic Lifter as it has different “goodies” to the Seasol so I figure it cannot hurt. Ask your garden centre for their recommendations which is what I did. So far, so good.

7.    Finally just have fun. Things will die or they’ll get scoffed by caterpillars or other nasties but don’t give up – try again. Mother Nature can be a real shocker sometimes but hey, that’s gardening for you! 

Miss Piggy xox


  1. Great post! It's amazing how much you can grow in a small space if you try hard enough! I live in a sharehouse and we converted our front yard into a veggie patch as it's north facing - it's so nice to be able to pick things from our own yard even though we live in the inner city!

  2. A very informative post Mel. I enjoy the challenge/fun of planting most vegetables from seed too. Your thyme is very vigorous isn't it? I hope it survived while you were away. Have a lovely weekend!

  3. Thank you for this. I just moved to Sydney and all set to start my own balcony garden. I don't have a ton of space but hey, have to start somewhere!

  4. great article - I just rely on my mum for lots of gardening advice and help but I still end up with lots of rosemary and thyme which aren't my favourites - though they are great for a bouquet garnet and making stock or stews if I remember. I also have heaps of mint which again I often am not sure what to make with it but I have found a few dishes - am wondering about some tomatoes this year (mine is a small concrete yard rather than a balcony but probably not too much difference) - I love how you have your pots hanging off the edge though.

  5. Whoa, your thyme plant is on steroids!
    I might give gardening another go... now that I'm forewarned and experienced with the caterpillar infestation it may not bother me as much the second time round!

  6. What a great post and OMG, your thyme! It is spilling out of its pot! Like you, I totally am a buy-seeds gardener, unless I've been gifted a seedling.

    As a balcony gardener, I think it's also really important to understand the amount of space you have (or don't) and how to maximise it, like using pot hangers, so you can utilise the balcony railing as a vertical space safely. And also how much more you have to water your plants, cuz they're stuck in pots.

  7. Thanks for the inspiration Miss Piggy! I am starting with my garden right away! :)


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