Grow Fruit and Veggies on Condo Balcony

(Question)

Hi,

My condo balcony is facing northeast and I know i’m limited to certain fruits and vegetables to grow.

I want to know what I can grow in my situation

thanks

(Answer)

Welcome to the rewarding world of container gardening on your balcony!  Now is a good time to plan for next spring, and incidentally, to check out containers which are often on sale at nurseries and other garden centre retailers at this time of year.

The Toronto Master Gardeners answer many questions about container and balcony gardening of all kinds.  If you have some time, here is a link that will take you to all of our previous queries, which include advice about fruit, vegetables and flower gardening in containers: http://www.torontomastergardeners.ca/askcategories/container-balcony-gardening/

You can grow many vegetables on your balcony as long as you have 5 to 6 hours of sunlight during the day.  Fruits are a little more challenging, because most plants are perennials and need protection over the winter.  However, strawberries can be grown very successfully in containers and with a sheltered location have a good chance of overwintering on your balcony.  There are also container varieties of blueberry available at the larger nurseries.

Here are a few general considerations:

  • Drainage and weight: containers need drainage holes so your plants do not become waterlogged; they can sit in saucers to contain any water that flows through. Container weight is also a consideration on a balcony – you will want to look for something lighter and there are plenty of stylish lightweight resin containers available that are best for balconies. Your condo board may have some rules or guidelines in place that you should check;
  • Use deeper containers for vegetables such as beets and carrots; shallower containers will work well for radishes and leafy green vegetables like lettuces, many varieties of bush beans, zucchini and eggplant will do well in a balcony garden – look for varieties that specifically indicate that they can be grown in containers;
  • Your containers will dry out faster due to higher winds. You may receive minimal rain due to the balcony overhead so watering will always be necessary;
  • Use growing media specifically formulated for containers as it is lightweight and contains the right mix of nutrients; fertilizers designed for vegetables and containers are also available;
  • You may experience wind damage on delicate leaves: try to group and shelter your containers while maximizing the amount of sunshine they receive; stake taller vegetable plants such as tomatoes, to keep them stable and upright;
  • Look for vegetables that are described as “cool weather” vegetables, such as lettuces, spinach, Swiss chard and kale – these will grow on shadier balconies;
  • Don’t overlook your vertical space: vegetables such as cucumbers and zucchini grow well on a small trellis or obelisk;
  • Culinary herbs do very well in containers on balconies, from basil and parsley to rosemary, thyme to oregano, you can simply step outside your door to harvest them.   In a sheltered spot herbs like rosemary can be picked into the cold weather, and thyme and chives will likely overwinter for you in their pots.

We are fortunate to have an active balcony/container growing/urban farming movement in Toronto right now, and there are plenty of good local resources available either on line, for example via the links below, or at the library, with authors like Gayla Trail, Frankie Flowers (his Food to Grow has a small section on container fruit and vegetable gardening with suggestions).

Here are a couple of websites with all kinds of good ideas:

http://torontourbangrowers.org/container-gardening-1

https://www.torontobalconiesbloom.ca/index.php/inspiration/articles/79-edibles-for-the-lazy-balcony-gardener

There are also many blogs out there for your inspiration.  Here is one example, but if you search for balcony or container fruits and vegetables, you will be amazed at the ideas that creative balcony growers have come up with:  https://www.thespruce.com/container-vegetable-gardening-1403396

Very best of luck planning for a 2019 summer harvest!