How do I start a balcony garden?

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My daughter and her partner have just purchased a unit in Western Sydney.

Got the call a few days ago “I am putting you in charge of “Designing the balcony” Mum, we would like to be able to pick fresh salad greens and veg every day and then have some luxury foods like lemons and limes (both Tahitian and kaffir) and lots of herbs. We love to cook Asian food so lots of corriander, mints and lemon grass please”

I got them to make a list.

Big problem- the balcony is only 1.2m wide and 3.5 long with a hot water and air condition system taking up room as well. So space is going to be very limited- best to concentrate on high value production per cubic meter, rather than what is easy to grow. Learn more about why we should grow our own food here.

So where to begin:

Do a bit of a site analysis.
You can ask these same questions of the site where you are wanting to install a garden on your balcony, and these are good questions to ask for any garden site!

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What about pollution?
The Unit is on the second floor so do we need to think about air pollution– it does not face a main road so probably OK.

What is your sunlight situation?
The balcony faces nearly due west- plenty of afternoon sun, no problem with the 6 hours light for good food production. Its going to be really hot in summer, imagine those days when the hot north westerlies are blowing, it’s going to be tricky keeping things alive, may need to consider shade cloth blind for really hot days. Northern end will be shaded, southern end will get the most sun.

What about wind?
It will get westerlies but will be protected from strong cold southerlies. Need some kind of wind protection. Lattice would cut out too much light; maybe the strong wind can also be tempered by shade cloth blind. One installation, Dual purpose. I love it.

What is your water access like?
There is a tap in northern corner- time poor couple-so need to install irrigation system with timer mechanism on the tap.

Is there drainage?
Yes drainage hole that goes into storm water not onto down stairs balcony-will maintain good neighbourly relations.

 

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Is the structure able to hold the weight of the garden?
The building inspection noted structurally sound balcony, not a lot of area for large pots so this will limited the weight we will be putting on it. I will use plastic containers and lightweight potting mix to minimise weight.

Are we allowed to fix things to the outside walls?

Are birds going to be a problem – look at viability of erecting bird netting over entire open face of the balcony?

Any of these key questions can be applied to most balcony gardens, and the results will be similar in most cases, depending on the building and facing of the unit.

Join us next week where we will start looking at the types of plants that work best on a balcony, and the rest of the month where we look at all the supplies you will need.

 Watch our video showing the construction and the finished result on the balcony!

Happy Growing!

Kathy.