Balcony Gardening: Handbook for Micro Gardeners

Author: Dr. Abdul Matin

A balcony garden can be a great idea in an urban life. With the right planning, setup and management practices the balcony garden can provide a lot of fresh herbs, flowers or vegetables, as well as create a nice space to spend good time in with your family members. However; there are few important things most balcony gardeners need to look at for utilizing balcony space whether it is rented or owned. Whether you are new or old balcony gardeners you must need to consider the following things seriously for success.

1. Light

The amount of sunlight your balcony get depends on the exposure from your balcony in its location relative to the rest of the building. Overhead trees can limit the available light. One may need to look critically at the balcony to see if it gets enough light to allow plants to survive. Before you buy anything for the garden, please take the time to learn how many hours of sun per day your balcony receives. Pay attention to indirect light as well (no trees or walls blocking large portions of the sky). Plant requires some amount of daily sun, a plant that requires full sun needs a minimum of 6-8 hours sunlight per day. Practically an optimum full sun vegetable require up to 10 hours of sunlight or more. A plant that requires part sun or part shade needs 4-6 hours of sunlight per day. Plants that require full shade are likely to do well with 3-4 hours of sunlight per day.

2. Structural Integrity

The balcony gardeners also need to look at how much weight his balcony can hold before putting a lot of planters, gardening containers and other stuffs onto it for a garden setup. It might seem like a detail but weighing down a balcony structure can be extremely unsafe, and just the dirt used to fill planters can weight a lot.

3. Check Your Planters/Containers

Make sure the containers plan to use are compatible with the growth habits of your plants and make sure that they have adequate drainage holes at the bottom. Almost anything can be turned into a planting container provided it has adequate drainage holes. However, remember that the larger the container is, the more soil it will hold. And the more soil, the more water is retained and will be available to your plants. Small containers with 10 inches or less in diameter dry out very quickly in hot and dry weather, and though some plants don’t mind dry conditions, most plants become stressed when they dry out. Stressed plants are more susceptible to pests and diseases. In other words, there are advantages in using the biggest containers possible. When purchasing a container, make sure it has adequate drainage holes as mentioned earlier, if not you must create drainage holes. A large container should have at least few drainage holes one inch in diameter and preferably several holes. If the container doesn’t have enough drainage, you can usually drill, punch out, or use a pointy tool to pierce some extra holes. Self-watering pots are great because they contain a water reservoir system to provide a constant source of moisture to roots without any intervention from you other than to keep the reservoir filled with water. Do not use old pot or container without cleaning with soap warm water and dry our properly to kill previous soil borne pathogens and insect eggs.

4. Wind

Think about how you will deal with excessive wind on your balcony space to prevent damage to plants. Also consider inclement weather and winter conditions. You may need to provide tarp cover for plants to shield them from harsh weather conditions.

5. Space

Your balcony is only large enough to support a specific amount of plants. Try to do accurate blueprints for a garden space before ordering to make sure you don’t overbuy for the space you have.

6. Hanging Beds

A hanging bed is a great way to add space to a balcony garden. Look for support for hanging baskets if your space isn’t enough for what you want to plant. Make sure to measure for tiered systems including hanging pots.

7. Restrictions (Local laws)

No matter where you live, local law may be a limiting factor to your garden space. Some local laws are pretty vague, but be sure to look into the local zoning laws if applicable to see what standards are set by the local government about having plants in an outdoor balcony space, especially if it faces a public area. If you are renting, you will also want to check out your lease to make sure there are no restrictions on gardening.

8. Soil

If you are importing raised beds or pots into your balcony space, think about what you will fill them with. Soil choices are a big part of helping plants thrive. Use a potting soil that is designed for containers — these kinds of soils are very light. Cover soil with good mulch. Potting soil (with or without time release fertilizer) will be just fine. If you buy plants fit them tightly into the pot. You will have a nice showy pot and it is unlikely that they will outgrow the space over the summer. If you plant seeds, don’t put the pot in full sun. Keep seeds moist until they germinate by covering the pot with plastic wrap to keep the soil from drying out. While the growing medium used for container gardens is often called potting soil, it actually contains no soil at all—at least not the same kind of soil found in garden beds. More properly called potting mix, this sterile growing medium contains a mixture of organic and inorganic materials such as peat moss, perlite, compost, sand, and other ingredients. What is notably missing are the living organisms (including pathogens and insects) and other minerals generally found in garden soil. Do not buy topsoil or garden soil for your container gardens, and don’t dig soil from your garden beds. Most gardeners buy commercial potting mix by the bag, but it is also possible to make your own potting mix by blending peat moss, perlite or vermiculite, and well-decomposed compost together in an even ratio. (There are many homemade recipes for potting mix you can find online.)Commercial potting mixes sometimes include time-released or granular fertilizer already blended in. It is fine to choose either fertilizer-enhanced or plain potting mix, but this might reduce your regular feeding schedule, which is usually every two weeks.

9. Use a Top Dressing of Compost

The best compost is aged compost. It is usually blackish brown in color, moist, crumbly, and uniform in texture. The vegetable matter in aged compost will not be recognizable. The nutrients in aged compost often called humus will be easily accessible to plant roots. Many gardeners use their own kitchen waste to make organic compost which has been proven to be best for growing vegetables. Mushroom compost or any peat free compost can be good option for making pot soils or top dressing. Compost tea is great for apartment dwellers or anyone who can’t make compost, meaning its good for indoors and containers. Many gardeners use banana skin soaked in water solution to supplement potassium and egg shell powder (not raw crushed egg shell) to supplement Calcium. Potassium improves plant wellbeing and resistance to insect pest and diseases and water and nutrient movement in plants. Also potassium is good for roses and flowering plants. Calcium improves plant cell wall and water movement and water infiltration into the soil. Egg shell contains 40% calcium.

10. Water

You will need to think about whether you will cover the plants and hand water them, leave them to soak up rainwater, or practice a combination of these two strategies for getting the right amount of water to plants. Water slowly and thoroughly until excess water drains out the bottom of the container. If you are in a windy area your plants will need more watering, most likely once per day in the summer. Terra cotta pots also require more frequent watering than plastic or fiberglass.

11. Winter-Proof

If you plan to leave your pots out through the winter, make sure they are frost-proof too. All of the above are critical things to think about when you are gearing up for making a home balcony space into a productive, enjoyable garden. Making a checklist for these gardening issues can give you a much better vantage point for carrying out all of the work that needs to be done.

12. List of Container Vegetables:

Tomato, Chili, Raddish, Cucumber, Eggplant, Green beans, Green onions (day neutral variety Candy), Lettuce, Herbs, dwarf Sim, Okra, bell pepper, indian spinach, peas, carrots, swiss chard, kale etc.

13. Insect and Pest Prevention in Balcony Garden

• Choose disease-resistant varieties. Many ornamental plants and vegetables have proven resistance to diseases such as canker, mildew, and rust.

• Don’t overcrowd your plants. Good air circulation prevents the damp conditions that promote the growth of fungi and other disease organisms.

• Watch moisture levels. Notice if the soil is too wet or too dry and correct these conditions. Try to keep foliage dry.

• Practice crop rotation. Insects and disease pathogens can persist in the soil from one season to the next. Moving susceptible crops from year to year is excellent preventive medicine.

• Inspect your plants. Address problems before they get out of hand. Remove and destroy any fruit or foliage that you suspect may be diseased.

• Be sanitary. Humans are effective, if innocent, spreaders of plant disease. Pathogens can be spread by your footwear, hands, and clothes. Wash your hands before and after working with your plants, and clean your clothes if you think you have come in contact with sick plants.

• Clean your tools. Soil clinging to tools may harbor disease organisms. Similarly, clean out pots and flats before reusing them. A 10 percent bleach solution (1 part bleach to nine parts water) makes a good disinfectant.

Check seed packets and plant labels for pest and disease and resistance. Seed grower catalogs and websites will also list pest and disease resistance. In the garden mix plant families together to create diversity. This will help avoid the rapid spread of pests or diseases that attack specific plant groups.

Pour neem oil or insecticidal soap solution (natural treatment) on the top part of the houseplant soil and spray the area thoroughly. For Neem solution, use 2 tbsp Neem oil + 2-3 tsp mild liquid soap + 1 gallon of water. Neem spray will kill and repel gnats (flies) as well. Apply treatment once every week, for 2-3 weeks.

How to Make Natural Pesticide

1 head of garlic.

1 tablespoon (15 mL) dish soap (Note: do not use a dish soap that contains bleach)

2 tablespoons (29.5 mL) mineral or vegetable oil.• 2 cups (480 mL) water.


In urban life we are usually busy for our job, taking care of kids and family and we hardly have some free time to going out for sightseeing and enjoyment. However, during this Covid 19 pandemic years many of us are either working from home or have part time job and have some free times. Therefore, in last couple of year there are few Bangladeshi living in north America especially in Canada and USA have started to grow vegetables in their backyard. Many of them had previous experience of growing vegetables but others are new in this backyard gardening. Both the men and women are equally doing this great work producing their own fresh produce for family consumption and giving the extra produce to friends snd neighbours. This way people are contributing values to their food, health and socioeconomic value to the overall community economy.

2 thoughts on “Balcony Gardening: Handbook for Micro Gardeners”

  1. Thank you for this great article. A lot of people living in cities wants to do gardening in their balcony/Patio.
    This will be very helpful for them.

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