Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Balcony Gardening - Back to the Beginning

I've done a little gardening before (see here and here) and have had average success. I've grown Tomatoes successfully, gotten a few cucumbers and potatoes, and had reasonable luck with herbs. But overall it's all been a bit hit and miss, and has been done with very little knowledge behind it.

Since I moved earlier this year, I no longer have an actual garden, but still want to have a go at growing myself some food again this year. So, I have decided to take a more learned approach and do some research before I start. I am also hoping to document the process here, which will hopefully give double benefit - if you know anything about gardening please pipe up with any advice/tips/suggestions you have, if you don't hopefully I'll be able to share some knowledge. Apologies if you're not interested in my gardening adventures, but there shouldn't be too many posts, I hope you stick around and just skip past them.

The first thing all the books seem to say is to evaluate the space that you've got, so I thought I'd start by talking about my gardening space. While I used to have a small courtyard garden with raised beds, since I'm now in an apartment, my new "garden" is my balcony:

It's a decent sized balcony (about 3.4x2.1m) and faces north (ie towards the sun down here in Aussie-land). It is undercover (covered by an identical balcony on the level above), so doesn't get wet in the rain, which in Melbourne with its inconsistent rain isn't necessarily a bad thing. Instead of relying on rainwater I will hopefully be able to collect enough grey water from the washing machine to use to water the plants.

As you can see above and below, part of the balcony sticks out from the building, but most of it is a slight indent, with decent depth walls. While I can't put anything on the walls themselves, I will hopefully  be able to take advantage of this vertical space by using shelving (one unit shown behind the bikes, not currently assembled, the other in the below photo).

The bikes will be finding another home to give more space, and I also plan to get a table and some chairs so that we can use the balcony in nice weather too. Below you can see the other side of the balcony - the junk will be going, and the shelves against the wall will hopefully give me some extra space.

It's hard to judge how much sun the various spots on the balcony will get. I can easily see what sun they get at the moment, but as we get into Summer the angle of the sun will become higher into the sky and thus how much of the balcony gets sun will change. So other than making an "educated guess" I'm not sure what to do.

What about you? Are you much of a gardener? Do you have any tips for me? Suggestions of things that I might have success growing? Ideas for making good use of the space? (Particularly for growing stuff from seed, I've never successfully done that before)


  1. Hello! I've been reading for the sewing goodness but here is something I can comment upon: small space gardening!
    Anyway, best tip for successful growing from seed: plant seed wherever and cover it with either cling wrap, clear plastic bag or under a plastic container: this creates a nice mini-greenhouse effect, keeping the humidity up and you should not have to water at all until the seedlings come up. The danger is watering and washing the wee seeds away :-)
    Good luck!

  2. Hi Rachel
    There is a book on balcony gardens by the gorgeous Indira Naidoo.
    I am happy to give you some lettuce seeds, pea seeds and some baby carrots seeds.

  3. Hi Rachel - looks like a promising space! re: your idea about washing machine water for the veggies, I'd avoid this as it contains salts and lots of bacteria, even if you use the 'eco' washing powder. Can you set up a little water tank somewhere connected to a downpipe? this might be harder in an apartment though. Happy to provide some seeds and seedlings to get you started!

  4. I love your balcony!!!! Looking forward to balcony-gardening progess pics!!!
    I wish I had a balcony :(


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