Project Balcony Garden: First Steps

So, since my camera died and I can’t really afford to replace it right now, its going to be difficult to post food photos and recipes for awhile. Luckily, I’ve got my garden project to keep me busy and keep you entertained!

In my first post about this project I talked about the excellent guidebook I’d been reading to learn all the ins and outs of growing edible plants in containers. One of the first (and probably most important) pieces of advice in the book is that in order to be successful gardening in a small space, you’ve got to plan, and plan intelligently. Luckily, I’ve got a bit of an OCD streak and I adore this sort of thing, so once I’d gotten through the parts of the book that were relevant to my interests (skipped most of the sections on edible flowers and fruit – not in the cards right now) I pulled out the graph paper and tape measure and got to planning.

After a bunch of changes and reconsiderations, I came up with this:

Garden Layout Diagram

This drawing represents approximately 1/3 of our available space on the balcony, which was about all I felt comfortable using given our almost perfect western exposure (which means full sun for a good portion of the day, but also that the balcony railing will create shade as the day goes on), the fact that the glass sliding doors take up 3/4 of the back wall area, the fact that we want to retain room for a couple chairs and a small table, and the fact that our grill and electric smoker are set up on the other end of the balcony.

Since creating this image I’ve made a few more changes: the basil is moving out of the rectangular container and into its own round pot with the addition of some cilantro, and will be placed at the bottom of the L-shaped bench in sort of a mirror image of the existing herb pot;  and, I’m going to try to grow two tomato plants instead of just one.

There are also a couple of unanswered questions here – in particular, what do I plant in the container with the peas once they’re past their time? I’m considering carrots as a fall crop (there’s a variety that grows in perfectly round spheres that I’m a little enamored with) but haven’t really decided yet. And will I also be able to plant a fall crop in the container with the beans? I know they grow and produce later in the season than the peas, so I don’t know if there will be enough time to grow something else once they’re done for the season.

At this point though, I’m pretty committed to my garden layout, and I’ve started preparing for the planting season. I’ve bought all of the seeds I need for spring planting (the lettuce, scallions, tomatoes, peppers, peas, beans, basil and cilantro are all being started from seed) and have built the L-bench (if laying a few boards on top of some cinder blocks counts as “building”), and have even started collecting my containers – found these gorgeous fiberglass pots at Home Depot and bought a matched set of three in different sizes.

I’m running into a bit of a roadblock trying to find rectangular containers in the right size, but hopefully I’ll be able to find something that’ll work – there’s a big garden center not too far from here that I’m going to visit in a couple weeks, and I’m hoping they’ll have some better options than I’ve been able to find elsewhere.

For now, though, I think I’m on the right track. Next up, the first REAL challenge: starting my warm-weather crops indoors from seed!

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