I am a gardener who has given up her garden! We are now in a condo on the 9th floor in the beach area of Toronto, Kington Road and Victoria Park – overlooking the lake (maybe 8 blocks away) We have a south facing terrace that gets steady light from dawn until about 2 pm. I have four planters – 18″ by 18″ by 18″ lined with landscaping fabric (and on wheels!). and would like to plant shrubs that will overwinter – is this possible? Can I plant bulbs too? If it is possible to grow shrubs – what would you suggest and what soil mix would be appropriate. In my garden just a few blocks from here I grew plants up to zone 6a – I am assuming up where we are it would be around zone 5? Thank you for your help – I look forward to your reply.
Thanks for contacting Toronto Master Gardeners. It’s great that you are continuing to garden at your condominium. The first step in planning your garden is to find out the regulations for balcony gardens at your condominium.
The higher the balcony the colder the conditions will be. If you want to overwinter the shrubs it would be safer to select shrubs that are hardy to zone 4. Some of the evergreen shrubs you might try include: Picea glauca ‘Conica’ (Dwarf Alberta spruce), various species of euonymus and Thuja occidentalis ‘Danica’ (‘Danica’ cedar). Smaller species of hydrangea and lilacs, Potentilla fruticosa (shrubby cinquefoil) and various species of Spiraeas (spirea) are possibilities for flowering shrubs.
You can certainly plant bulbs in containers. Gardening authority Marjorie Harris suggests that narcissus, muscari, crocuses and scilla are great bulbs for containers.
It is best to use a light soilless mix with a mixture of vermiculite and perlite with some compost mixed in. The benefit of a soiless mix is that it holds water more efficiently.
For more information on balcony gardens please refer to these previous Toronto Master Gardener posts.
Also there is an excellent chapter on balcony gardening in the following book: Harris, Marjorie (1998). Pocket Gardening: A guide to gardening in impossible places. Toronto: Harper Collins.
Good luck with your balcony garden!