Grow Some Veggies on Your Balcony
Do you ever think about growing your own vegetables, but think it might be too difficult? Growing your own fresh produce may not be as hard as you think, and it can be done on a very small scale. You can grow an abundance of food on even a small apartment balcony or patio, and it will increase the fresh produce your family has on their plate.
Many people think growing a garden of vegetables has to involve a tiller and a large chunk of land out in the back yard. While that can be a great option for some families, it’s not the only way to grow food. Containers can be a fabulous way to grow food in a small space, and it is an option that won’t tear up your landlord’s property. Any container can serve for growing, including those purchased at hardware stores for plants, old colanders, hanging baskets, or even a straw bale! As long as the container you choose can drain and will fit enough room for the plants you are growing, then your imagination is the biggest limiting factor. Just be sure to have a drip pan underneath your containers so that the water runoff doesn’t stain concrete or wooden areas.
Sunlight is perhaps the trickiest part for a new gardener to figure out. Our food crops typically need at least eight hours of direct sunlight to produce well. South facing patios and balconies without too much tree cover can typically offer enough light for plants to thrive in the summer. If you have an area that gets a little less light than that, leafy greens (lettuce, kale, spinach, etc) and root vegetables (carrots, rutabagas, radishes, etc) are a little more forgiving when it comes to light. Choose plants to fit the growing conditions that you have for the greatest success.
If you’ve picked a container and a spot to keep it, choosing the plants you’re going to grow is the fun part! You can start your plants from seed or choose small plants from the hardware store as they become available this spring. Choose foods your family will enjoy and can use in a variety of meals. If you are low on space, consider lettuce, kale, spinach, carrots, and radishes, as they offer large harvests without needing to stake or trellis the plants as some crops require. Also remember to only move plants outdoors that are cold hardy (leafy greens, broccoli, spinach, kale, collards, etc.) or after the weather has warmed, later in April or May. Many of our favorite food crops (tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, melons, peppers, etc.) can’t handle frost, so you will need to wait until a little later in the year to move them outdoors.
Growing your own food at home is not only rewarding, but it can be a lot of fun! It’s a great way to get children involved and incorporate more fresh produce into your diet. Even if you have a tiny space, you can still grow some produce at home with a little innovation. If you are ready to get growing but have more questions on which plants to grow, what time to start your plants, or just need some encouragement, join me for a beginner class on Balcony Herb Gardens at the Ridgeview Library on April 25, 2019, at 6 p.m. or give me a call at the office (828-465-8240).