Serenity Now! 5 Apartment Balcony Gardening Tips to Get Started

Your own private sanctuary may be only a few feet from your couch. An urban balcony garden adds peace to any place, whether you’re in student housing or a luxury high-rise.

5 apartment balcony gardening tips
Credit: iStock/AleksandarNakic

Living in the heart of a bustling city provides excitement and energy, but the apartment living often lacks one thing: tranquility. It’s hard to find your moment of Zen while cursing rush hour commuters or dodging tourists on scooters. Navigating the concrete jungle is enough to make anyone scream “Serenity now!” Or other, more colorful, words to the same effect. An urban balcony garden could be just the thing.

You don’t have to book a week at a meditation retreat to find a place to unwind. Your own private sanctuary may be only a few feet from your couch. An urban balcony garden adds peace to any place, whether you’re in student housing or a luxury high-rise. It’s your spot to enjoy fresh air and nutritious food; it’s a scenic space to relax.

Not sure if you’re ready to green up your apartment? There are many reasons for using your balcony for more than just a place to store your bike. Getting lost in a physical activity gives your brain a break. Focusing on the task at hand gives you the opportunity to leave your worries behind. You can find satisfaction in nurturing a living thing that will beautify your abode and provide colorful and even edible rewards. Best of all, tending a small garden is a snap. Your weed count will be minuscule!

What if you can’t keep your plants alive to save your life? Nurseries are full of green thumbs who enjoy sharing their knowledge. Join a garden club to meet new people and pick up tips for developing your green space. Reddit and Quora are also an easy way to get gardening advice quickly. 

1. Start with a plan

If you rent your home, check out the rules before hanging planters on the wall or outside the railing. Knowing what the walls are made of will also help you determine how much weight they can hold and what tools an fasteners you’ll need.

To maximize your limited space, plot out your garden’s layout before you head to the hardware store or nursery. Shopping without a list leaves you vulnerable to anything that catches your eye. Strolling through a greenhouse can be an expensive outing. Everything looks great, but you’re sure to buy more plants and accessories than your balcony can accommodate.

2. Measure twice, plant once

Making efficient use of a small area requires carefully choosing the pots and plants. Measure the width and length of your balcony to decide how many and what size pots will fit. What do you want to grow? Keeping your favorite foods in mind as you plan your garden eventually saves you a trip or two to the grocery store. Many herbs and vegetables grow well in containers, resulting in delicious, fresh food just a few steps from your kitchen. Are you strictly after eye candy? Planting an array of colorful flowers beautifies your balcony and attracts butterflies.

Keep in mind that in the fall you will want to bring the plants indoors so they don’t freeze. That big pot may be gorgeous, but can you lift it when cold sets in? And if the word polar vortex sounds funny to you, consider yourself lucky! 

3. The right plants for you

How many hours of direct sunlight does your balcony get? Vibrant flowers that need more than six hours of sun won’t produce many blooms if your balcony is shaded for most of the day. In that case, look for plants or vegetables marked “partial sun” or “partial shade.” Plants native to your area are generally the easiest to grow.

Veggies and herbs that need full sun include: 

  • tomatoes
  • beans
  • bell peppers
  • chile peppers
  • basil
  • lavender
  • mint and sage

Succulents also soak up the sun, as do petunias, verbena, lantana, and salvia. 

For partial shade, opt for: 

  • spinach
  • asian greens
  • arugula
  • carrots
  • cilantro
  • tarragon
  • thye

For shady spots, try the following:

  • impatiens
  • garden hydrangea
  • begonias
  • ferns

For an edible garden, consider choosing organic herbs and vegetables. Starting with organic seedlings limits your exposure to pesticides, and organic crops are easier on the planet. Since you control what goes in your garden, it’s easy to ensure your meal is as healthy as possible.

You know that tomatoes and basil taste great together. It turns out that they also grow well next to each other. Basil repels pests that could make a meal out of a juicy tomato. Explore more variations of companion planting to bring out the best on your balcony

4. Pick your pots

Choose pots and planters that work well with your chosen plants. Give those carrots room to grow! Almost any container can serve as a planter, as long as it allows for proper drainage. A hole in the bottom of the container allows excess water to escape and prevents the roots from sitting in water and rotting. Plants in ceramic pots need more frequent watering as the soil in porous containers dries out quicker. Ceramic pots score points for looking good and are heavy enough to not blow over on a blustery day. Plastic pots are a cheaper, but less durable, option.

Dark colors soak up the summer sun and can overheat a plant’s roots. Go with light colors for pots that will sit in full sun. Use shelves or put trays under the pots to prevent stains on a wooden deck and to prevent water from draining on balconies below.

Many container plants need water every day, especially during warm weather. Avoid the tendency to over-water your plants by using a water indicator or feeling the soil with your hands. Water thoroughly but slowly; stop when the water drains out of the bottom of the pot.

5. The dirt on container soil

Use a high quality, organic potting soil designed for containers. Mix in a bit of compost for added nutrients. Compost tea is a convenient option for urban gardens. Make sure to top off your plants with mulch to retain moisture. Keep mulch at least an inch away from a plant stem; otherwise, you’re inviting pests and disease.

Extra touches

Kick up your urban garden’s Zen factor with a water feature. You can relax to the soothing sound, and the visiting butterflies will thank you for the refreshing drink of water. Round out your tiny urban oasis with a hummingbird feeder. Fill it with the recommended recipe of four parts water to one part pure white cane sugar, and skip the food coloring. Add a comfortable chair to your balcony and you’ll be all set to get down to the business of relaxing.



Serenity …

Related on Organic Authority

Grow It Vertical! DIY Wood Pallet Garden
15 Fantastic Green Gardening Ideas and Hacks
17 Magical Backyard Ideas for Yummy Summer Outdoor Living

Annaliese Olson is a gardening and animal care writer. When she moved to the city from her family’s farm... More about Annaliese Olson