For Christmas my parents-in-law got me this great book, The Vegetable Gardner’s Container Bible. I asked for it specifically, because we don’t have a yard; the best our condo does for “growing space” is a third floor, west-facing balcony.
Upon receiving The Vegetable Gardner’s Container Bible, I promptly read it from cover to cover. As I read through the book, I thought about which vegetables we most enjoyed from our shared garden with my cousin last year. Considering that, I came up with a list of what we might want to grow, measured our balcony, and drew up a plan.
My Balcony Garden Plan
One of my favorite things in the whole world is sketching up layout plans on graph paper. From figuring out how furniture will fit in a room to figuring out how to lay out a container garden, it’s something I always look forward to and love to do. I suspect that this places me solidly in the “dork” column, as well as the “geek” column, but I’ll live with that.
The First Step: Taking Measurements
The space: Our patio is 9′-4″ by 4′-8″ with a 38″ railing.
The containers: The author, Edward C. Smith, recommends self-watering containers, which you can buy (expensive!) or make. I plan to make mine mostly from found/inexpensive containers according to the instructions in the book.
18 gallon plastic storage container: 25.5″ long x 17.5″ wide x 15.25″ tall, $7.57 each at Home Depot. Need: 4 ($32.00)
5 gallon food service bucket: 11.5″ diameter (or square) x 14.5″ tall, free from the restaurant at which I used to work. Need: 12 ($0.00)
19 gallon round planter: 25.5″ diameter x 15.25″ tall, $12.00 online. Need: 1-2 (I saw one of these online, but can’t remember exactly how much it cost, or whether or not it was self-watering.)
Hanging, self-watering basket: 12″ diameter, $15.99 online. Need: 1 ($15.99, or $10.77 from Amazon.com)
Window box planter: 30.5″ long x 8.5″ wide x 7.5″ tall, free because I own them. Need: 2 ($0.00 – Will need hardware to hang them, however.)
The Second Step: Which Vegetables to Grow?
The plants: These are the plants my husband and I are going to try to grow this year.
- Green pepper
- Lettuce (several varieties)
- Kale or chard
- Roma tomatoes
- Cherry tomatoes
- Green beans (vine)
A brief explanation
I put the Roma tomatoes and the cucumbers (vines) on trellises on the North side of the patio, where they won’t block anyone else’s light. I neglected to draw in the trellises, but they really are there.
The green beans also need something to climb, so I plan to buy (make?) an “arbor” that will arch over the patio door between the two buckets. Ben loves fresh green beans and the vine version produce more through the season and taste good even near the end of the growing season.
The cherry tomatoes are in a basket hanging from the eaves above our patio. I plan to get a small, determinate variety (like a “Tumbling Tom”) that will look very pretty in a hanging pot.
My hope is that I will be able to have two small chairs on the Balcony for sitting out on the summer evenings among the plants. I don’t know if this is actually realistic, but the math seems to work.
There’s still a lot to figure out, including:
- The cost of soil (no yard means no free dirt, not that I could use the “dirt” (read: clay) that’s the default in Colorado anyway)
- The cost of seeds (and which varieties to buy)
- The timing of when to start things indoors or plant them out-of-doors, taking into account Colorado’s typically late frost date, etc.
As soon as I get my seed catalog(s), I’ll put up a post detailing that aspect of The Garden Plan.