Turn your balcony/patio into an edible garden


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Improvements in container gardening equipment and techniques have cleared the way for even the most “brown thumb” city dwellers, and anyone without a yard, to grow their own groceries. “There’s nothing to stop anyone who wants a garden from having one,” says Roy Joulus, the CEO of Greenbo (greenbo.co), a company that designs innovative products for urban gardening, including the new Greenbo XL flowerbox. While hydroponic and vertical gardening systems have been developed to maximize the yield in small spaces, Joulus says starting a balcony garden needn’t cost much. Start with the right materials and choose plants that are right for your conditions, and you’ll soon be eating from the pots on your porch.

He offers these tips especially for balcony gardeners:

1. Plant the right plants for the amount of sunlight you have: Most herbs and vegetables require six to eight hours of direct sunlight a day. So what do you do if you have just one balcony and it doesn’t get that much sun? Choose edibles that can take partial sun/shade (three to six hours of sun in the morning or early afternoon) or light shade (two to three hours of direct sun or lightly shaded all day).

  • Some partial shade herbs: cilantro and parsley (both prefer cooler weather); dill, bee balm, spearmint, chamomile

  • Some light shade herbs: garlic chives, peppermint, rosemary

  • Some partial or light shade veggies: lettuce, broccoli, green onion, collards, cabbage, peas, carrots, strawberries, beans, sweet potatoes

2. Choose the right pots: Bigger pots require less water and are less likely to blow over on high-rise balconies where winds can be fierce. Terra cotta allows moisture to escape fairly quickly, which is helpful for people who like to water a lot. Nonporous plastic or glazed pots hold water longer and are better for windy balconies, where soil dries out quickly. Use brightly colored containers to add style and visual interest to your garden.

3. Use the right dirt:  It’s important to use dirt that allows for good drainage. Most edible plants don’t like to sit in wet dirt, and soil without good drainage tends to become compacted — a difficult medium for plants that like to stretch their roots. You can buy a sterile soil-less potting mix, a soil-based potting mix, or mix your own batch using 1 part compost, 1 part perlite and 1 part potting soil.

4. Rely on self-pollinating plants or plants that don’t need pollination by insects, unless you’re willing to hand-pollinate. “You likely won’t see many bees buzzing around the 40th story,” says Joulus. Don’t worry about pollination for root vegetables like carrots and potatoes. Some self-pollinators include beans, peas, tomatoes and peppers.

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