Balcony Growing: Gardening Tips for the Backyardless

Blog Post Tuesday 16 September 2014

Balcony Growing: Gardening Tips for the Backyardless

With spring getting underway, it’s the perfect time to flex your green thumb and start planting a veggie patch. Growing your own vegetables can be fun, relaxing and, most importantly, delicious.

But for some Aussies, getting your hands in some soil and seeds at home mightn’t seem all that appropriate.  

Across Australia, especially Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, populations are booming. Housing affordability is feeling the squeeze, especially in our cities. Now when Aussies are moving home, more than ever, they are saying adios to the hills hoist and lawnmower and hello to apartment living. 

But just because your home doesn’t have a backyard, it doesn’t mean that you need to say goodbye to the joys of growing a humble veggie patch.

Growing vegetables indoors can actually have some perks. Certain kinds of veggies can be cultivated year round, and if you live in a cooler climate, like Melbourne, you don’t need to worry about building a greenhouse, because you’re already living in one!

It’s also awesome for your wellbeing. Indoor plants purify the air, reducing headaches, stress, and chances of catching a cold. The charming little things even help your good mood.

Your options will depend on the layout of your apartment, but even if you live in a shoebox void of sunlight, there are still plenty of veggie growing options.

The balcony

If your balcony gets 4-5 hours of sunlight, it’s the perfect place for your urban garden.

If there’s a bit of floor space available, get cauliflower and zucchini growing in a few bigger pots. If space is at a premium, smaller pots, containers or planter boxes can be new homes for eggplant, capsicum, chillies, and carrots.

Plants that need a bit of structural support are great for balconies. Tomatoes, cucumbers, beans and other vine plants can take advantage of balcony beams and fixtures to grow big and tall.

If your balcony has a wall that gets good sun, deck it out with a vertical garden. By letting your pots and trellises scale the wall, you’ll get maximum veg from minimal space.

The window

For apartment dwellers with no outdoor spaces to speak of, a big bright window is your garden-to-be’s bestie.

Herbs, salad greens, and leafy lettuce are great picks for the windowsill. They look great and are in easy reach for dinner-prep plucking.

Make use of the whole window with some plant hangers. There are some great baby tomato varieties that flourish in these. You can also try them in some upside down hangers to really show off the vines and bright red tomatoes.

The self lit garden

If your flat is surrounded by high rises and the natural light isn’t exactly flooding in, it’s time to bust out the grow light.

You can stay traditional on the windowsill, but with a grow light you can ditch the window all together and keep your garden wherever you like. By the TV. In the pantry. By the front door. Anywhere you have the space or would like to see some veggies, you can.

Hot tip: make sure you get energy efficient LED lights. Even being with the cheapest electricity retailer won’t offset your home being filled with bill-bulging fluorescents.

You can always embrace the moody darkness of your home and grow some mushrooms. You can get your hands on a kit for around $20 and the weird little things grow pretty fast, so that home grown mushie omelette isn’t very far away.

Community gardens

So, now you’ve caught the gardening bug and every free square inch of your apartment is chock full of plants. But it’s not enough!

You can expand your gardening horizons by hiring a patch in a community urban garden. There are plenty of established and emerging plots enjoying growing popularity across urban spaces.

There are heaps of community gardens and city farms in Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane.  It’s a great way to get your back-to-nature fix while catching some of that elusive vitamin D and making neighbourhood friends.