I live in an apartment, but it doesn’t keep me from having my own garden. This spring I’ve decided to transform my balcony into a relaxation area with flowers, herbs, and vegetables. My small garden can be viewed through the windows of my room, so I can have an eye-catching display without leaving the flat.
To make a balcony garden, you need only 3 things: pots or containers, soil, and seedlings.
My balcony faces south and it gets a lot of sunshine during the morning hours the air is relatively dry, so I’ve chosen summer bedding plants tolerating drought and direct sunshine.
Containers or pots
I began to grow plants in April and used plastic pots because they usually need little space and are easily maintained and movable. To tell you the truth, using pots is not always a good decision. Herbs and vegetables generally need more space, so I recommend you apply containers if you want to have enough yield.
I made another mistake too. I hadn’t filled the bottom of the container with gravel before potting soil in it. Gravel usually improves the drainage of plants.
Growing seedlings from seeds
I germinated some plants from seeds (morning glories, balcony tomatoes, basil, and pot marigold). If you don’t want to toil over germinating seeds, you can buy seedlings at the florist’s shops, at the market place or even in supermarkets.
I planted the seeds in empty yogurt boxes and covered them with glass or plastic so that the seedlings would have constant temperature and moisture. I put the boxes close to the windows so that the seedlings could get as much light as possible. I regularly checked the soil moisture.
In fact, some of the seeds failed to germinate (for example basil seeds). They might have needed higher temperatures or maybe I should have soaked them before planting.
Planting the seedlings
When the seedlings are mature enough and the weather is warm, you can transplant them into pots or containers and put them on your balcony. As they are used to a constant room temperature, it’s not advisable to leave them outside overnight or if you do so, cover them with plastic or glass for some days or even weeks, especially if the plant is very sensitive.
It’s recommended to water your plants once or twice a day on hot summer days.
Soil doesn’t provide enough nutrients for plants, so you should use a slow-release fertilizer once a week.
Matching color combinations
Choose matching combinations of color spots to create colorful flower patches providing harmonious views such as purple and yellow or pink and white.
Here comes a list of popular and easy-to-keep balcony plants with their main features.
This is an annual, low-growing plant with yellow and red flowers and a distinctively pungent smell. The plants are in flower till late autumn.
Its essential oil is used to produce ’genda attar’ by blending it with sandalwood oil. In India ’genda attar’ is used during meditation. It’s usually planted in the companion of vegetables because it keeps away pests.
Petunia is a popular summer bedding plant with colorful tubular flowers.
Morning glories are annual plants used to create summer shade. They are in full bloom in the early morning hours. They like full solar exposure and humid soil (when keeping them in pots). With their long creeping stems, they can easily climb fences.
Due to the fast growth of the roots, the pots are too small for my plants, that’s why I have to water my morning glories quite frequently. The leaves are relatively small and some of them yellow, maybe because of the lack of nutrients.
Pot marigold (Calendula officinalis )
It’s widely cultivated as an aromatic herb with bright yellow, gold, and orange flowers. It’s recommended to remove the dying flower heads on regular basis to maintain even blossom production. Pot marigold is a food plants for the larvae of some moths and butterflies, so they must be checked regularly.
It’s used as a coloring in meals. Home-made Calendula cream is good for skin disorders because it has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic effects.
Pelargonium or scented geranium
They are extremely popular garden plants, as they are drought and heat-tolerant perennials.
Mentha or Mint
Mentha is an aromatic, perennial herb and it prefers moist soils. I don’t need much care. The leaves can be harvested at any time. Fresh leaves are used in teas, beverages, syrups, ice creams, etc. Mint tea is good for stomach aches. Mint is also popular in aromatherapy as an essential oil.
This is a perennial herb with evergreen, needle-like leaves. It’s pest-resistant and tolerates drought. It’s a common ingredient in Mediterranean meals. Rosemary cream is excellent for muscle strains.
Marjoram (Organum majorana)
This herb is cultivated for culinary purposes. If you liked to use your own herbs in winter, cut the top of the plants before they begin to flower and dry them slowly in the shade. Majoram is a common herb in Hungary. It works well with chicken dishes and it’s also used in potato soups and liverwurst.
Balcony tomatoes are relatively small plants and produce small fruit. I think it’s no use growing this plant for fruit, but it can be interesting for children to observe them as they grow.
Besides plants, you can apply other decorative elements such as tables and chairs. Lampions and lamps can create a relaxed atmosphere.
Combine flowers with herbs and put them at different heights because of this way the balcony gives the feeling of sitting in a garden. Use fragrant flowers such as petunias, mainly purple ones. Your balcony can become a multifunctional place where you can relax or just pick some herb leaves to make your meals more delicious.
Flowers can be edible too. You can garnish your dishes with them. Flower cookery used to be popular in ancient times and today this art seems to be reviving.
Some edible flowers:
Pansy, begonia, pot marigold.