Starting a Balcony Garden – 12 Actionable Steps

So you have a balcony and you’ve decided to grow a garden on it. Why keep it boring and bland when you can color it up with flowers and leaves, right?

A balcony garden is very doable, and it really doesn’t matter how small your balcony is. Most plants that can grow in a yard can grow on a balcony as long as there are a few prerequisites that are met – good soil, sufficient water, sunshine and fertilizer. And a little bit of TLC.

If you have no idea where to start, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered with this actionable list that’ll guide you on exactly what you need to know to get started.

1. Pick your type of garden

more pot plants on a balcony

Start by deciding on the type of garden you’re after. For this, you should consider how much time you’re willing to put into tending the garden. Here are some garden types:

  • Kitchen garden – grow vegetables, fruit and herbs
  • Herb garden – focus only on kitchen and medicinal herbs
  • Flower garden – color up your garden with flowers
  • Easy maintenance garden – think cacti, succulents and flowering ferns that require minimal maintenance

You might want to go with a mixture of these or you might want to focus on just the one type. But having an idea of what plants your focusing on will help you to pick out the style, not to mention plants and seeds, for your balcony garden.

2. Plan your garden

planning a balcony garden

Take into account the space you have for your garden and think about how you might utilize this to the max.

Vertical planting is an excellent way to give yourself more space and greenery, while utilizing ladders or steps to place your plants are also easy ways to maximize your balcony space.

Think about the conditions on the garden – wind, sun, rain – as this will help you to plan how you want your garden to be set up.

3. Set a budget

a spoon with a potato and coins

Gardening can be done on a modest budget or an extravagant one. The point is to pick how much you’re comfortable spending on your garden.

To put this in perspective, you can make a watering can out of a used milk container or you can spend 5 grand on something like this .

The point is that by defining your budget, you’ll be able to pick the plants, tools and containers that work for you.

4. Choose your plants

chilli plants in a pot

Before you choose your plants, there are a few things you should consider:

  • How many hours of sunlight does your balcony receive per day? Plants have varying sun requirements which is important to consider.
  • If you’re going for a kitchen garden, choose dwarf varieties as these take less space, grow well in containers and can be very productive.
  • What about fruit trees? You can think beyond just flowers and leaves. Miniature fruit plants grow well in large pots.

You don’t have to have it all figured out at the start. Just pick a few… or one… you’d like to start with. It doesn’t really matter. The point is to get started by choosing the right types of plants that suit the climate you’re in.

5. Choose containers for your plants

little plants pots

The containers you choose for your plants should have enough room for the roots of the plant to spread out. Here are some types of containers you can try:

Clay pots – these don’t cost much but they can crack during winter due to the frost and winds. They also tend to soak up water so you’ll have to water your plants a bit more.

Plastic pots – these are very practical since they’re lightweight and hold water well. On the downside, they can easily tip over in case of strong winds.

Wooden pots – wooden containers can manage in all kinds of climates but you’ll find that if you don’t line them, they can absorb water and rot. If you’re opting for wooden containers, try cedar wood since it’s not very prone to rotting.

Stone containers – these are durable and retain water well but you’ll probably find them a bit heavy to deal with and they can also cost quite a bit.

Metal containers – although metal containers hold water well and are sturdy, they can also attract too much warmth which can damage the plant.

Foam containers – these aren’t environmentally friendly but they do give the right amount insulation your plants need.

If you’re into recycling and going green, you can always make your own containers at home. You’d be surprised to find that tons of things lying about your home that you can use. Some examples are old paint cans, old drawers, old plastic containers and you can even plant succulents in large, old mugs.

6. Buy the tools you need

gardening tools lined up

Here’s a list of basic tools you could do with but remember that you can find alternatives for some of them:

  1. Gardening gloves – these aren’t mandatory, but they help to keep your fingernails clean, make it easier to handle plants with spikes or thorns and keeps worms and other unwelcome organic matter at bay. 
  2. Watering can – You can buy one or make one, but these typically don’t cost a lot. They’re also not essential, considering that you can use a glass of water from your kitchen to do the same job. However, they do create less mess and make it easier to water your plants.
  3. Trowel – These are a gardener’s basic tool. They help you to dig and plant easily and they’re inexpensive tools to invest in.
  4. Pruners – These help you to cut the plant cleanly and quickly, reducing the risk of infection (yes plants can get infected from cuts too).
  5. Containers – This varies depending on your plants and there are a range to choose from. From planting pockets to self-watering pots to vertical planters, the choices are pretty wide.
  6. Fertilizers – You can pick out an all-purpose fertilizer or find specific fertilizers for each type of plant you have. Choose from liquid or pellet form.
  7. Potting mix – High-quality potting mix is essential. Look for a mix that drains well and has good ingredients. Potting soil typically doesn’t contain any soil, as earth often doesn’t suit the conditions of a container garden.

7. Make sure you can put in the time

Unfortunately, balcony gardens require quite a bit of attention so you can’t expect it to flourish when you haven’t been putting in the time to care of it. Be prepared to spend at least an hour (this is the bare minimum!) on your garden every week and make sure you keep the plants well-watered, pruned and healthy. There’s really not much of point in starting a garden if you haven’t got the time to spend on it.

You can always get your family members or anyone else living with you to help out with the garden. Try setting up a schedule with all the different garden duties on it since this will help you delegate the work and make it easier for you.

8. Make sure your plants get enough sunlight

It’s important to arrange your plants just right so that they get a sufficient amount of sunlight. The requirement of sunlight depends on the plants you have in your garden. For example, most succulents love sunlight and need a lot of it but if you leave newly planted ones directly in the sun, they can get scorched and die. So remember to balance it out.

Some plants you can grow on a shady balcony or a balcony without any light at all include:

  • Dracaena
  • Maidenhair Ferns
  • Bromeliads

9. Keep your plants in a safe location

many pot plants on a balcony

Most plants that are small enough for your balcony can easily be blown over by a gust of wind so you need to keep your plants in a safe place.

If your plants are near a ledge and get blown over by the wind, it can easily fall on someone’s head or something below it. Make sure they’re securely fastened to something that will anchor them in place to avoid the risk of knocking someone out.

10. Be ready to deal with pest control

spraying plants to get rid of pests

Pests can be one of the most annoying things to deal with when you’re trying to grow a beautiful garden. They’re most likely to come around when your garden has started flowering because they want to eat it. To get rid of common pests like caterpillars and ants, use mineral oil, an organic salt spray or a garlic spray to keep them away.

Some insects are necessary for your garden so if you see bees, ladybugs or dragonflies buzzing about, don’t panic. They’re not doing any harm to your plants. On the contrary, they’re helping your garden grow better.

11. Get help from a professional gardener

When starting your own balcony garden, it’s always best to get help from a professional gardener. Professional gardeners are usually very helpful when it comes to helping beginner gardeners since there’s always something to learn in gardening and you’ll find it’s going to be a great learning experience for the both of you.

12. Winter-proof your garden

Winter-proofing your balcony garden is important and there are several things you can do for this. One of the easiest is to try using burlap sheets to protect your garden from the harsh effects of winter and the rigid cold. Insulating your plant pots will also help.

If you’d like to know more about winter-proofing your balcony garden, check out article on how to winter-proof your balcony garden.

Wrapping up…

a garden on the balcony

So, there you have it. The steps to get you started with your balcony garden. If you’re someone who’s never gardened before, it’s easy to be daunted at the idea of starting a garden.

But everyone can have a green thumb as long as they’re willing to put in the effort required to keep their plants thriving.

So once again here are the 12 steps (in short) to take on your journey to starting your balcony garden:

  1. Pick your garden type and what you really want out of your garden
  2. Plan your garden based on the conditions and space you have
  3. Set a budget that you’re comfortable with
  4. Choose the plants you want to start with. Check out our guide to best plants for beginners.
  5. Choose containers for your plants. Make sure you choose the right ones for your balcony.
  6. Buy the tools you really need. If you’re budget is strict, only get the absolute essentials.
  7. Make sure you can put in the time for your garden. Your garden won’t flourish if you neglect it.
  8. Give your plants enough sunlight. Arrange them so that they’d get the right amount of sunlight they need.
  9. Keep your plants in a safe location. Make sure they’re fastened properly so you won’t risk them falling over someone or something.
  10.  Be ready to deal with pests. Use a garlic or organic salt spray to keep away annoying pests.
  11. Get help from a professional gardener. Getting advice from an expert gardener can work wonders.
  12. Winter-proof your garden using burlap sheets and insulate your plant pots.