A Balcony Garden

It seems to be all the rage at the moment.  Everyone is back to “growing their own”.  And why not?  After all it’s fun, easy and most importantly, tastes great and is better for you than the produce you buy from the supermarket.  In addition, growing your own produce is cost effective and encourages us to make healthier choices when cooking with what we’ve picked fresh from the garden that day.  It also means we are eating what is in season rather than being reliant on something that has been flown half way around the world to be available whenever we so desire.

Living in the Southern Highlands seems to conjure up images of large high maintenance vegetable plots on acreage.  But you don’t necessarily need a large dedicated plot to grown your own.  A small terrace/patio or a handful of pots on a balcony will give you enough space to make planting, growing and harvesting something worthwhile. And dead easy too.

I was inspired to start growing veggies in pots on our back deck after reading the book “The Edible Balcony” by Indira Naidoo.  The book details how Indira transformed her thirteenth floor Sydney apartment balcony into a bountiful kitchen garden.  She gives a season-by-season account of her successes and challenges and also includes recipes showcasing her home-grown produce.  Worth a read if you are keen to start such a project.

Which pots?

Planting in pots is advantageous as you can move them around to suit your plants needs such as isolation from the hot sun, frost, or a pest infestation (you can buy pot wheels from hardware stores to make this easier on your back!).

Terracotta pots tend to be on the heavy side but they do look good! If you go with this option, buy them pre sealed or seal them yourself to avoid moisture loss (you can buy terracotta sealer at hardware stores). 

Plastic and fibreglass pots are a good alternative, being lighter so easier to move around and impermeable, so the soil inside will not dry out as quickly. Drainage is also important to prevent roots becoming water logged.  Keep your pots raised off the floor using pot feet, stands or small bricks.

Potting mix

Planting in a pot gives you control of the quality of the soil in which you plant your produce.  Be sure to buy good quality potting mix.  When planting I also like to add a good few handfuls of cow manure and blood and bone to give it a nutrient boost.

Getting started

Before you decide what to plant it is a good idea have a look at your space.  Take into account the amount and direction of sunlight it gets and the overall climate.  Sometimes is can be helpful to draw a quick sketch of your deck or balcony, showing where your pots and plantings will go.  Make sure not to overcrowd the area.  Your plants need enough space to grow to full size and still get sufficient air and light.  They won’t take well to being too squashed together.

A few simple herbs and some greens are a great way to embark on growing your own produce.  They are a good starting point if you are a bit unsure of how it will all work.  You can easily get hold of seedlings from the nursery or local market.  There is a fantastic stall at the Bowral and Mittagong markets that sells a large variety of very good quality seedlings. You will no doubt find that the local markets in your area have something similar.

It is a good idea to do a little research on what you’re planting before you plant it.  Information such as when to plant, watering and feeding needs, and common pests and diseases can be helpful to know.  
Also, only plant what you like to eat!

Happy potting……

Saskia Harris