Condo Balcony Garden.

(Question)

Hello Master Gardener.

I attempted to plant a balcony garden last year and I failed.
Below is the link to the planter I bought and I attached two pictures.

https://www.lowes.ca/planters/leisure-season-rpb6107-raised-planter-box_g1477612.html

Planter (2)

I completely overestimated how many plants I could put in the box and I was barely able to harvest some lettuce.

I face east and get 4-6 hours of direct sun.

What would you recommend I plant? What is the best spacing rules I should use for plants? Any tips in general?

I absolutely appreciate any help!

Thanks,

Joseph Napoleone

(Answer)

Hello container gardener! Container gardening can be productive but challenging at the same time. Your main challenges at your location is that you have a limited amount of direct sun (not full sun) as well as limited space. Some of the best things that both grow in partial sun that don’t take up a lot of space are things like beets, turnips, kale, leaf lettuce, swiss chard, and spinach.

You can also try some full sun crops like tomatoes, but I would only recommend planting 1 or 2, and only the cherry varieties since they grow the fastest and easiest. I would not expect the same yields as in a full sun garden but it might be enough that you would be happy with. Your best option would be buying plant starts from a nursery or garden centre rather than planting from seed, with the exception of lettuce, spinach, chard, kale and beets which you should have little problems starting from seed.

The best spacing rules are to follow the Square Foot Gardening method. This really helps you organize and plan ahead of time how much of each plant that you will be able to grow and how to lay things out in an efficient way. You can find more information on Square Foot Gardening at this link:

https://squarefootgardening.org/square-foot-gardening-method

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Square_foot_gardening

There’s also a number of books and websites that expand on this style of gardening. I highly recommend this method for both containers and regular garden beds.

Based on your pictures your soil mix looks like it might not have had sufficient water holding capacity and microbial activity which improves plant growth. If this is the case I would recommend adding more organic material to your soil before planting. Mixing in a bag or two of composted manure, compost, or triple mix, all sold in bags at garden centres will all work for this. Every spring this is a good practice to follow in improving your soil. That should cover what you need to get you on your way to a successful container garden this year. Best of luck!