If you have just a small garden, or even if you live in a condo or apartment building, gardening in pots (a.k.a. container gardening) is a great bet. If you live in a house, containers can significantly expand your planting space, on porches, pavement and gravel.
With container gardening, you don’t have to match plants to your in-ground soil conditions. Simply use the type of soil that your desired plants require. If your in-ground soil is contaminated, containers are great for growing edible plants like fruits, veggies and herbs.
Special Considerations for Balcony Gardeners
Imagine lovingly planting your balcony garden, only to have it removed because you unknowingly broke your building’s rules. Frustrating at best, expensive at worst – fines and the removal of your garden could result. Before you get started, check the balcony do’s and don’ts from your condo or apartment building, about what you can plant, weight of plant pots and whether you can hang window boxes over the railing.
All gardeners must note the sun, but condo and apartment dwellers must also consider the wind. High up, strong winds can damage plants, or even blow pots right over. If you live above the 10th floor, opt for short, sturdy plants instead of tall, delicate ones. Aim to have no more than one-third of the plant higher than your balcony railing, and use heavy pots that will stay put. As high winds and heat can quickly dry out soils, choose plants that are drought tolerant, and consider using watering systems with a reservoir.
Make the most of small spaces
Check plant tags to see how tall and wide your plants will get. Resist the temptation to cram your balcony with young plants — there may be no more room for you when they grow up!
Opt for varieties that have been specifically designed for small spaces — these plants are shorter and more compact than their ground-dwelling cousins. Get creative — window boxes and small trellises can help you use all available horizontal and vertical space. You can even cover your wall with vines bearing tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, cantaloupes, and even small squashes.
For larger balconies, you could mix it up!
Choose plants of different heights, shapes, sizes and colours for visual interest. Integrate your new garden into your existing balcony design by using pots in your balcony’s colour palette.
How do you have an organic container garden?
Use organic soils and organic gardening principles such as hand weeding and attracting ladybugs to handle aphid infestations. Be vigilant to prevent pests and address pests early, with organic strategies and products if needed.
Once you’ve assessed your sun, wind and space conditions (and checked your balcony rules), head to your local garden centre to get plant advice from the experts. They can help you choose the best plants for your conditions, and advise which plants look great and grow well together. Along with the best soils (there are several on the market specifically designed for container gardening), you’re all set!
What plants can you grow?
The sky is the limit!
Grasses are low maintenance, look beautiful waving in the wind, and are drought tolerant.
Combining different plants in the same pot is an efficient way to have more varieties on your balcony. A tomato, herb and chive snack could all come from one large pot, and can be sheltered against the wall. Add flowers for colour – check which are edible (or toxic!)
Have you heard of the spiller, thriller and filler container planting technique? Use plants with different colours, shapes and sizes in the same container. Plant something tall and dramatic at the back of the pot (the thriller), something beautiful and bushy in the middle (the filler) and something that flows down like a vine (the spiller).
- North Carolina Extension Gardener Handbook. Ch. 17 Organic Gardening
- Master Gardeners of Ontario Resources
- Master Gardeners Association of B.C. Resources
- Full Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade: Understanding the Terms. The Spruce.
- Four Easy Do-It-Yourself Soil Tests. The Spruce.
- Plant a Thyme Lawn. Planet Natural Research Centre.