Growing on balconies is very appealing and can be very rewarding. Enabling plants to thrive at great heights needs a few ideas and tips to get the best results.
There are a few variables that you must take into account for balcony growing. Here below are the most important ones for you to consider and tips to help over come the limiting ones.
Height above the ground
Growing on the ground floor or even the first floor will not affect your plants much more than growing in a ground level garden. However, the wind will affect growing on the 6th, 10th or 20th floor will be important. Sheffield has the added issue of tall building on hills. Many other cities do to.
These heights and exposure will be similar to growing on a hillside on the Peak District that border us here in Sheffield. Plants that tolerate high winds, exposure and high sun light such as heathers will be fine. To grow tomatoes, evergreen plants, some herbs and bedding plants need some shelter. Glass walled balconies will be fine but railing will need a windscreen attaching to it. The best types for these conditions include mesh windbreaks that reduce the wind by 50%. They do create shade however which may not help. more on shade below.
Poly Carbonate twin wall can be fastened to your railing type balcony to allow light in and improve your growing conditions. Make sure they are fastened well to survive the winter winds or make a provision t remove them for winter.
Sun or Shade
The sunny side of the building will provide better growing conditions than on the shady side. The shady side may also be become even darker if you need to use a windbreak that causes more shade.
South facing balconies can be too hot and some plants may scorch so a sunscreen may be necessary. If this can be in incorporated as a wind break to so much the better.
On the shady side of a building observe when you do have the sun on your balcony. Is it first thing in the morning in mid summer or in the evening? Evening sun will provide a better growing environment. Note if you are shaded by other building. If you are from the south the light should be sufficient. Close by building may also create wind tunnels. Take a note on a windy day which direction it comes from. It may be a different direction than the local weather forecast states.
If you buy plants from a garden centre or grow them on your windowsill before moving them outside onto your balcony it will be important to acclimatise them to the windy & possibly baking conditions. allow your plants to rest on the balcony floor but out of draughts before planting higher up where it will be more exposed. a couple of weeks of ‘hardening up’ should be sufficient. Buying plants from Ferndale Garden Centre where we grow plants in the right conditions for planting when you get home rather than from a supermarket with heat & little light or from a wind chilled trolley in front of the store.
Plants for sunny balconies
Edible: Tumbling tomatoes, Herbs, Chilli, Grafted Tomatoes (stronger roots and early ripening), Strawberries.
Floral: Geraniums, Petunias, Surfinias, Calibrachoa, Osteospernum (cape daisy), Verbena, Nemesia. Dwarf Narcissus, crocus, snowdrops. Begonia.
Plants for Shady balconies
Edible : Herbs, Grafted tomatoes, Chilli, Strawberries. Blackberry.
Floral: Seasonal-New Guinea Impatiens, Lobelia, Fuchsia, Box, Ivy, Viola, Hardy -Verbena. Dwarf Narcissus, crocus, snowdrops. Heuchera, Hardy ferns, Hosta, Dicentra fomosa.
You will need to experiment a little with structures, and plants as every balcony will have different micro-climates.