The beauty of living in the city is that you’re very close to shops. Whilst this is often a very useful thing; you’re bringing home that bag of salad, or those tomatoes still clinging to the vine which are costing you a fortune. The truth is, much of this stuff can be grown easily, and it can be done without huge amounts of space. All you need is a little bit of time and some forward planning and you, too, could be enjoying your very own food.
Step 1 – The Set-Up
First, we need to work out exactly what we can grow in our balcony spaces.
If your balcony is only a small thing jutting out of your flat, the reality is that you’ll only be able to grow small salad veg, with baby carrots and beetroot also being a potential option. Although, sometimes it’s the small things which save you the most money – and that is definitely true when you start growing your own spinach, rocket and beetroot.
Take a sheet of paper, or a word document – or whatever you have to hand. A really good way to establish what you want to and can grow is by scribbling down what you enjoy eating on the paper first.
Next, take some measurements of your balcony (this can be skipped – it’s just easier to work out the spacing) and draw them out on a sheet of paper. Add some roughly measured pots to the drawing, and write what you’d like to grow in each.
Step 2 – The Materials
So you’ve got your balcony or terrace plan. Now, you need your tools and soil. The cheapest places to pick up soil are always the DIY and £1 shops. You can also buy pots from the DIY shops, or you can find lots of them on Gumtree, etc. A decent trowel is always useful – some gloves will help you with dirty hands, too. If you’re looking to grow tomatoes, tomato feed is obviously a good choice – the same applies to much of the fruiting plants. Salad leaves will do well with water, but some chicken manure pellets or crushed egg shell and a little feed of coffee grounds every so often will also do them wonders.
Step 3 – Planting
Now your pots are all set up, the only thing left to do is to sow.
Before you plant your veg seeds, give the soil a good squirt of water. Follow the instructions on each seed packet. If you’re growing tomatoes in March, it’s best to establish them inside by placing them in front of a sunny window or by french doors.
Salads really come into their own on a balcony. They can be scattered across the surface of each pot, and they should give you no trouble as they grow. Again, out of all of the fruiting plants, tomatoes require no pollinators, so another win if you’re high up and away from the bees.
Step 4 – After-care and Crops
Watch out for slugs; I’ve had a few run-ins with them on my terrace.
Keep everything watered well once a week. I’ve found that milk cartons make fantastic little watering cans. Fill them up to the top and give each pot a full bottle in dry weather. If the ground is wet, don’t worry.
Once your veg starts growing and is ready for harvest, don’t waste any time in eating it. You can throw your tomatoes into delicious omelettes, serve peppers with houmous, roast the beetroot and carrots along with Sunday roasts and add those crunchy, fresh salads to your weekday sandwiches. You really are open to so many options when you grow your own.
Here are some pictures from my balcony veg garden over the last couple of years since I started it: