Grow your own food from garden planters on a balcony
Posted: September 07, 2012
Categories: Grow Your Own
These days, we all want to grow our own food at home in order to reduce our grocery bills or to reduce the distance from soil to table, reducing your carbon foot print. But what if you live in a flat and don't have the a garden? Well, there is a growing community of balcony growers who happily grow all their vegetables ona balcony or myriad of window sills.
With limited space you need to be cleaver about how you use it and it's best to use planting containers, like our range of planters. Some planters even feature trellis back so as you can really maximise your use of verticals pace.
However, when growing food on your balcony, don't forget that all that soil can be quite weighty so try not to overload.
So what can you actually hope to grow?
Well, your options are quite vast. Most smaller plants such as herbs, chillies, peppers, strawberries or leafy salad crops are ideally suited to be grown in our garden planters. The best performers tend to be tomatoes and runner beans, which also make use of your vertical space, as well as most salad leaves and courgettes. In the case of tomatoes these can either grow up a trellis or there are trailing variates which can hang down from a window sill.
It is possible to grow carrots, potatoes or aubergines, but these can be very difficult and need a good depth of soil, at least 30 cm. These tend to be good crops to move onto once you have got the hang of utilising your space efficiently. But not every vegetable is suitable, sweetcorn is far easier to buy in a supermarket than to grow on your balcony.
What are the advantages of growing food in planters on your balcony?
Depending on the amount of space andhow efficiently you use, from late-April to mid-October you can expect to make 70-90 & of all your fruit, vegetables and herbs. This does, of course, need an amount of planning on your part, but you will only need to set aside a little time each day to tend to your plants.
Over the year you will make savings on your grocery bills. Take cherry tomatoes, if you buy a 250 g in a supermarket you will probably spend £1, which will rise to £2 for organic. But 100 cherry tomato seeds will cost you around 80p and will yield far more than 250 g during the harvest period.
For around nine months you can expect to have fresh herbs and salad leaves available. With packs of 1000 seeds costing the same as the average price of a 100 g saladbag, the savings are there to be had.
You'll have access to extremely fresh vegetables that can be picked moments before cooking or eating. Saving you money and improving your carbon footprint.
In order to maximise your crop yields, you might like to try the following:
- It's a good idea to always uses good quality compost, it's better if you can make your own. But be warned, saving money on compost is a false economy and will result in poor yields.
- When growing fruits, tomatoes, courgettes or aubergines you will need to regularly feed the plants with fertilizer or liquid food designed for that plant.
- You can germinate your seeds indoors whilst whilst the weather is cold then either move them to a cold frame or leave to mature indoors. This way you can achieve early crops just before a plants usual harvest period. You can also use this technique to help carry out an efficient succession planting schedule. As soon as a plant has been harvested you can replace it with new seedlings or almost mature plants from indoors.
- If your window sills or balcony is shady you can still grow a number of vegetables. Root vegetables like carrots or potatoes as well as salad leaves will flourish in the shade. Various beans and peas can also be grown with a degree of success.
- However, herbs, tomatoes, peppers and chillies will need a more sunny setting. You might want to think about growing these from a more sunny window sill, if your balcony is shaded.By raising your taller, climbing plants with shelving, you will leave room below to grow less space intensive herbs or leafy salad vegetables.
- It's often over looked, but you might want to add one garden planter containing bee friendly flowers or plants with attract flies and butterflies such as poppy or mint. This will encourage these pollinators to visit your food crops and pollinate their flowers.
- Mint will also discourage pests like slugs and snails, but you could also try French Marigolds.
- Lastly, you should check your plants daily to remove pests, pest damage and to make sure the planters aren't drying out. This is a particular problem with planters, but you need to make sure you're not over watering your plants.
How should I grow my staples in planters?
Either sow the seeds in small pots and germinate indoors ideally at around 20ºC, or sow outside during late-March to April under a cold frame. If germinating indoors, transplant out to your balcony planter between May and June.
Again, you can either sow from seeds indoors from January or on the balcony between March and April. A couple of weeks after the leaves turn yellow you can harvest and store in a cool, dry and dark cupboard.
This is best grown from 'seed' garlic bulbs, which are available from most seed retailers. You should sow the individual cloves about 10 cm apart between October and November. Feed with fertilizer once the shoots start to grow. The best time to harvest is during August, once the leaves turn yellow, and you can hang the bulbs somewhere dry to use during winter. You could also harvest some of your garlic in June as it will have a milder taste.
You can cheat and buy these plants fully grown. If you grow your own you should keep the plants indoors by a window until the weather starts to get better. Most herb plants prefer to be in a sunny location. As the weather starts to turn you can harvest and dry the leaves or you could bring them inside, to protect from frost.
Green salad leaves
Leafy green vegetables like lettuce are amongst the easiest and cheapest plants that you can grow on a balcony. You can start sowing these in early spring and then every couple of weeks until late-September ensuring a regular fresh supply of leafy salad.
Slugs and snails love these so you may want to spread used coffee grounds around the plants. This acts as a mulch and wards off pests. Be aware that, much like herbs, leafy vegetables are water hungry.
Brassica, like Broccoli
These can be sown between March-July in a suitable planter or you can extend the harvest period by using a mini-greenhouse. Once the you have harvested the main head these plants will then produce spears as an added bonus crop.
When growing plants for food quite often you just need to sow seeds and see what happens. You will find your own tricks and methods which will work for you. Don't get discouraged by failed crops, just consider it a practise run.