Balconies are small spaces. By following a few clever tips, you can overcome the limited balcony gardening space and have a beautiful, functional area.
Not everyone has the luxury of having a large back yard and front yard. Young people usually rent or purchase a condo in the city when they are first starting out. Retirees also might downsize to a condo when they no longer need a large house. Or they might have physical limitations where they can’t garden anymore.
So what do you do when you only have a small postage stamp-sized balcony or patio off of your living space? Here are some ideas to maximize your space and create a relaxing, outdoor space that can also be functional.
Note that while for the most part I mention “balcony gardening”, these techniques can be applied equally well to a ground-level patio or a small townhouse backyard.
Note: Be aware of your rental company or strata’s rules about gardening on a balcony or patio. A future post will cover some dos and don’ts related to this.
Plants generally grow up, so they are usually more than happy to have vertical space to stretch their branches and foliage.
- A simple trellis will allow a vining plant such as a climbing rose, clematis or peas to climb up and take up very little horizontal space
- Secure the trellis well to avoid it falling over in high winds
- The most portable and least obtrusive way to incorporate a trellis, is to attach it to the planter that the plant is in that you want to train up the trellis
- Don’t block all sunlight with the trellis if you have other plants that rely on sunshine and heat. However using the trellis as a privacy and/or shade screen is a good idea if you sit on your balcony
Dwarf or Compact Varieties
Some plants grew naturally big and don’t do well if you try and constrain them. So you want to look for dwarf varieties and plants that are compact but still productive (flowers, foliage and fruit/vegetables).
- You can actually have small trees, even fruit trees on a balcony
- You will want to pick dwarf varieties that do not grow too tall, although in general a tree in a container won’t grow as tall as if it is in the ground
- For fruit trees you can consider the cordon form. You train the tree to grow tall on a single stem, so this form takes up very little horizontal space
- There are also mini roses that will not only provide beautiful blooms but also some scents
- Vegetable plants that stay small such as lettuces, some greens and fruits such as strawberries that don’t take up much space in relation to what they are able to produce
No Wonder You Have Limited Balcony Gardening Space – Get Rid Of The Clutter
Balconies and patios are often the storage areas for bicycles, boxes of extra things, seasonal sporting equipment such as skis or snowboards and anything else that the renter or condo owner decides they don’t have space for indoors. This doesn’t leave much room to do any balcony gardening!
- Cull what you don’t need or find other storage areas to store them
- Consider renting sports equipment that you only need a few short months of the year
- Find a friend with a house that can store them in their attic or garage for you
- Rent storage in a storage facility
- Hanging baskets are always popular for flowers
- They don’t take up any floor space (although you do want to avoid having people hit their head on them!)
- They can also be used to grow strawberries, tomatoes (dwarf varieties called tumblers) and herbs
- If you can’t or don’t want to hang the plants, you can also put up shelves or find other hangers that allow you to place containers on a wall or railing
Warning: hanging baskets and containers can be very heavy. Make sure you use an appropriate hanger and that it is screwed into framing. Also avoid overwatering to the point that water spills over onto your neighbour’s space below you.
If you have limited balcony gardening space or no balcony at all, you may have to think about extending your garden indoors.
- All plants need light so position them in the sunniest windowsills and monitor their health carefully
- Consider trees such as lemons, these benefit from the warmer temperatures inside, plus they have beautiful blooms and you can harvest lemons all year long
- Vegetables such as lettuces and other greens work well as they generally don’t need high light levels
- Regular houseplants are also great as most are bred to not require as much light as outside plants
- Houseplants can also clean the indoor air of toxins and improve air quality
Small Scale Accessories
Think small scale.
You likely won’t have room for a three piece sofa/loveseat/table combination that you will find in a home centre or specialized patio furniture vendor.
- if you want to sit on your balcony to enjoy the plants, consider the small bistro table sets with two chairs and a small table
- use foldable chairs that can be put away in a corner when you are done sitting
- open your patio doors and sit just inside of your apartment of condo
- have some houseplants just inside the patio doors to blurt the boundary between inside and outside
- add a small water feature in a waterproof container which will help mask road noise outside
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For more great ideas of how to maximize your balcony space, check out my Pinterest board on Balcony Gardening.
Here are also some other online articles I’ve found that provide some more detail:
- Balcony Gardening – Big Food Production in Small Spaces
- Tips for Starting a Balcony Garden
- DIY: How to Plant a Personal Garden In a Small Urban Space
I also found out about a book that goes more in depth about growing your own food on a balcony: The Edible Balcony: Growing Fresh Produce in Small Spaces
It is possible to have a small garden even when you are as space-restricted as an apartment or condo dweller is. It just takes a bit of creative thinking and some compromises, but you can enjoy a mini tranquil garden and dream of a bigger one when you are able to afford it.
Want to have more ideas that can help you with your limited balcony gardening space? My new eBook has 14 ideas that can be applied to small spaces, with detailed steps to follow to achieve success.
Wishing you all the best and happy gardening on your balcony!
Tranquil Garden, Victoria, BC