Balcony Gardening – Raised Cold Frame or Mini Greenhouse use?

(Question)

I am considering a small herb/vegetable garden on a large south facing condo balcony (8th floor.)  There is a portion of the balcony that seems to get about 4-6 hours of sunlight per day.  Mostly protected from wind.

My main concern with vegetables is the grimey dust in the downtown air that covers everything outside that is not protected.  Is there a reason to worry about this getting into soil and being a health issue ?

I am considering a raised cold frame or small lean to green house to protect the plants from the elements and keep the dust off, but am struggling to find where I can buy one in Toronto.  Could you recommend a good shop for me to find something like this?

 

(Answer)

It’s always heartening to hear of people wanting to ‘sky’ garden.  Your concern regarding grime in the air and soil is commendable.  There are many restaurants and hotels growing herbs and vegetables on their rooftops to be served to the public.  The Royal York in downtown Toronto being a prime example.  A well washed vegetable will be edible.

As long as your soil starts out as a good quality mix of soil and compost then you’ve given your plants a good start.  This growing meduim will be light enough for use on a balcony.  Your location seems ideal with 4 to 6 hours of daily sunlight.  The best choices to start with would be lettuce, peas, and tomatoes.  Tomatoes need about 6 hours of full sun, so the larger varieties may not produce as well, but you may have better luck with cherry tomatoes.  Make sure plants that need support to grow, are well staked or use cages for the tomatoes, as the wind on higher floor balconies can be quite strong and you don’t want your plants damaged.  Easy access to a water source is also something to consider as your containers will dry out fairly quickly.

Once you’ve mastered the art of growing food on the balcony, there are so many different types of veggies you can try.  For more information about balcony gardening, I have attached the link below:

https://www.canadianliving.com/home-and-garden/gardening/article/7-secrets-to-successful-container-gardening

I do not think a coldframe is necessary for you right now.  A coldframe is used to start seedlings outdoors early, as it protects them from the cold and keeps the soil warm though the glass to encourage growth.  They are not designed to protect plants from dust.  Since the weather is now fine for planting outdoors without a risk of frost, coldframes are usually removed so plants inside don’t burn.  If you want to have a coldframe to grow seeds next year, most good quality garden centres will carry small ones and on-line sources can provide larger ones.