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Growing Food In Small Spaces

This summer marks the third year of my balcony garden. We purchased a two-story condo that sits atop an office 3 years ago.  The neighborhood is great – one of those live, work, play communities that have become so popular. However, moving to a more urban environment was an adjustment for me.  I grew up in the Midwest, with gardens and critters all around; a theme I carried into my adult life with my family.  When moving to Colorado, and with only two teenage boys still at home (we have 4 children), we decided to downsize. What was I to do without a backyard and garden?  I decided to try my best with the space I have, and much to my delight, been very successful!

Start Small

Don’t let anyone tell you its impossible to grow food on a balcony or patio. You may be looking at your own tiny space thinking there isn’t enough room to justify trying. Why work that hard to be rewarded with three green beans, right?  No, wrong!  In my limited space, I have been able to produce a surprising amount with which to supplement our food budget each week from early spring to late fall.  All you need to start is a few pots some dirt and a spot of sunshine.

I have a large balcony wrapping around our third story master bedroom with a long narrow side that stays mostly shady and a wider side that gets about 6 hours of sun. Together, these two areas can accommodate a large variety of  plants, from sun-loving tomatoes to shade tolerant arugula.  Check out the pictures below – they aren’t the best quality, but you get the idea. These are of the narrow, shady portion of the balcony.

Before

Before

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After

After

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is another small balcony downstairs that gets roasted in sun all day long, so I have to put plants out there that do well in such an environment, such as peppers and eggplants. You can see a picture below.  Please pardon my hubby’s cacti.  Unfortunately, I have to share some of the outdoor space with him! Each year I’ve learned quit a bit about what not to do and added to the list of things that work well in these spaces.  Gardening this way has its challenges, to say the least, but there is the reward of creating a private oasis that brings me hours of enjoyment, and tasty veggies too.

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Design Your Own Balcony Garden

If you’re interested in making your own urban oasis, there are a few things to consider first. Before you begin, pay attention to the light and conditions in your space for several days.  How many hours of sun is available?  Is the sun hot and intense or dappled?  Is there wind?  Is there a water spigot in place or will you have to use a watering can? Knowing the answers to these questions will help you decide what plants could thrive on your balcony or patio. I use earthboxes to grow my big veggies like tomatoes and they work really well. For smaller plants, I use pots of various sizes.

Do some research on the pot size required by each vegetable you want to grow.  You will be surprised by how little space many garden favorites need.  For instance, bush beans really only need about six inches of soil.  That’s not much at all and a perfect fit for a small balcony. Choose vegetables that give you the best value. Cherry tomatoes are prolific and tasty, so those are a good choice.  On the contrary, a single artichoke probably won’t produce very much, so its better to choose something higher yielding – unless you really can’t live without the artichoke.

With a bit of effort, you can create your own private sanctuary, save a little on store-bought produce, be kinder to the environment and provide lovely fresh veggies for yourself and your family.