Garden or vegetable garden on the balcony? Why not?!

First of all, to approach the cultivation of flowers or vegetables on the balcony or terrace you have to consider that there are many varieties of flowering and evergreen plants but also fruit trees and even vegetables that grow very well even in pots or other containers, both in the traditional way and through vertical cultivation, which allows you to use all the available space in height.


Your balcony can be an ideal place to give vent to your green thumb, but there are of course a few things to consider before venturing into this new challenge. First of all you have to get to know your terrace well, this means spending a day observing it and noting the movements of sunlight, i.e. which areas receive the right lighting and which are long periods of shade, but also where there are drafts and where not, this will help you choose the most suitable plants with which you will set it up.


Most plants need the right amount of direct sunlight (usually 6/8 hours a day) to grow well and not be susceptible to spoilage and disease, but there are some species that grow without problems even in shady, cool and humid areas.



A balcony, however large it may be, is always a closed space and therefore in most cases it will have only one sun exposure; for example if you have a terrace on the east side of the house you will have sun all morning and shade for the rest of the day (this is an excellent exposure, especially if you live in the city where usually in spring and summer you get high temperatures already during the morning and many plants appreciate the hot sun but hate the scorching sun).


A south-facing balcony, on the other hand, tends to be shaded for most of the day but exposed to the scorching afternoon sun in flat summer, and even those facing west will have full sun from early afternoon until evening and, if we are talking about warm cities, the plants, especially the flowering ones, will cook giving beautiful blooms only in spring but withering, drying up and even fading in summer.


The ideal balcony to set up your urban garden is the one facing north-northeast, which will be sunny for most of the time but without ever reaching very high temperatures. However, if the exposure of your terrace is not this one, don't be alarmed! There are plants that can still be suitable for you, of course you will have to make do with the variety that can withstand the shade but the choice will not be so limited!


And if the problem is too much sun, you can create a shady area by using an outdoor tent or a trellis on which to grow a sun-loving plant that will give you the necessary shade and, with good irrigation and the choice of the right species, you will defeat even the scorching sun!


Growing vegetables and herbs


A correct amount of sunlight is essential for vegetable plants, such as tomatoes and peppers, which are among all major sun worshippers, but plants such as lettuce, carrots, spinach and cabbage are also able to develop well in shaded areas.


The same goes for spices that are well suited to areas with little sun and are generally considered the easiest to grow on balconies, or even indoors. As mentioned before, for the cultivation of vegetables on the terrace an effective method is the vertical cultivation, which will allow you to exploit all the space in height, using pylons or pots hanging directly on the walls.


This cultivation technique does not require any special equipment or expensive tools, just a few pots and one or two wooden pylons, even small ones, will be enough; the plants will grow in height, will climb to the structures you have set up and will give excellent results. Obviously, it is important the quality of the soil, which will have to be rich in nutrients and well drained, always use containers drilled in the bottom to allow the passage of excess water, some fertilizer or compost to enrich it and some sand or a part of peat to facilitate drainage.

Growing flowers

You have an infinite variety of flowers to grow on the balcony of your home to create a real urban garden. Flowers such as lavender can be chosen for their scent, while others, such as Echinacea can be used to attract beneficial insects to your plants, but also small seasonal or perennial flowers, stem or bush flowers, or flowering or evergreen climbing plants that you can make climb on a small wooden trellis leaning against the wall or all around the terrace or even using the vases hanging on hooks and stirrups directly on the walls.


Always be sure to choose your flowers according to the amount of sunlight they will have available on your terrace every day, so as to ensure abundant blooms and low maintenance.


Plants for very sunny exposures

The potted flowering plants bear the heat and the full sun in a different way from those placed on the ground, the latter having a proto all around will resist better to the heat of the aesthete because it will be mitigated by the turf, on the contrary, those in pot placed on a terrace will find themselves surrounded by an "unnatural" environment composed by cement, tiles or asphalt, and will be stressed due to the heat reverberation produced by these materials.


A useful advice to remedy the problem is to thermally insulate the container in which you are going to plant your flowers, to do so you can use bubble wrap (bubble wrap plastic sheets that are used to pack delicate goods), or a 0.5-1cm thick polystyrene panel, in this way you will avoid overheating the roots and the plant will not suffer from too much heat.


Among the varieties of flowers that grow well in full sun and withstand heat are: Daisies, Surfinia, Geranei, Begonia, Gazania, and many others. And don't forget the succulent plants that are perfect for growing on very sunny balconies and require very little maintenance, the only thing you need to think about is repotting the plants because some varieties will grow quickly even if you buy them really small, and to place them at home during the winter if you live in areas with a cold climate.


The importance of water

When planting your flowers always use new soil and make sure it is always damp, watering when the first 1-2 cm of soil will be dry to the touch and always using temperate water to avoid temperature changes, do it in the evening or early morning so that the plants rehydrate well before the big sun comes.


Take care also that the excess water comes out from the pot, to avoid that, stagnating at the roots, these ones risk to rot, to be sure always use containers with holes in the bottom and add a part of peat to the mould to increase its draining capacity.


Fertilise your flowers often in pots using specific liquid fertiliser and carefully following the indications on the packaging regarding the quantity of product, which varies according to the quantity of soil and the type of plant. Finally, remember to keep the plant clean by removing any dried flowers, not only for aesthetic reasons but also to prevent the plant from wasting valuable nutrients.


Agatea, Begonia, Camellia, Campanula, Heliotrope, Ivy, Fuhsia, Jasmine, Hosta, Forsizie, Lily of the Valley, Mountain Daisies (Erigeron Karvinskianus), New Guinea (or glass flower) and many others lend themselves particularly well to balconies and terraces in half shade.


Also the so-called alpine plants, such as many species belonging to the genus Globularia: G. Meridionalis, G. Cordifolia, G. Punctata, G. Thricosanta, G. Nudicaulis, G. Incanescens and many others, which, precisely because they grow naturally in cold climates, resist strong air currents (typical of terraces) and need little water and little maintenance.


It must be said that these plants can acclimatize to areas different from their natural areas only if purchased in garden centres where they have already acquired and developed resistance to the new climate, in fact it would be unthinkable to take them on site in the mountains and plant them later in the city.


To have an exhaustive overview of the varieties of flowering plants suitable for the various exhibitions, rely on the experts of the garden centres who will be able to indicate all the existing species and which are suitable for your terrace.


Growing fruit on the balcony

Most fruit plants require 6-7 hours of sunshine a day. If your balcony can meet these requirements, you will be rewarded with a good harvest every summer. Balconies are ideal places for small, dwarf varieties of fruit trees, such as the dwarf apple tree that grows in a column and develops the fruit along the trunk, the pomegranate whose dwarf species is called red silk, the peach tree that grows in a column and reaches a maximum height of 1.5 meters, but also the vine that is perfect to be grown along a vertical trellis and the citrus fruit, especially the lemon, with the only trick to cover the plant with special cloths during the harshest season.


Wild berries are also suitable for cultivation in pots; strawberries can be grown on hanging planters, allowing the fruits to grow in cascades, blueberry bushes can be suitable for rather large pots and raspberries can be grown using wooden trellises or a net on which the plant will climb to make the most of the vertical space.