Feature

The Balcony Scene

G Magazine

High rise and low fuss, a balcony garden can be a little oasis of sustainability in the big city

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If you've always wanted to grow a sustainable garden but you live in an apartment, indulge your fantasy with a sustainable balcony garden.

It's a nice small feedback loop on the usefulness of your sustainable thinking, and daily encouragement from your own personal paradise: you are someone who makes a difference.

Starting Point

Get started with generously sized pots for a stable supply of nourishment and water.

If your balcony is in direct sun, choose terracotta pots, as these will transpire and keep roots cooler.

If wind is a bigger problem than sun, opt for plastic as it retains more moisture.

A motley crew of tiddly little pots will detract from the overall effect, so spend money once in getting what you really want. A balcony is a small enough realm for you to make perfect.

Buy good quality potting mix, and beg friends for compost or worm castings to mix with it. Well-fed plants tend to resist pests without help, and reduce the need for potentially harmful sprays and potions.

Organic Matter

You can start your own worm farm on a balcony.

They are a good permaculture strategy for getting a lot out of a little and have a threefold benefit: they stop foodscraps going to landfill, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create precious fertiliser.

A Bokashi bin is another composting alternative that can be maintained on a balcony.

Just pop your kitchen scraps in and sprinkle the Bokashi formula over the top. You'll need to borrow a friend's garden to empty the resulting liquid into from time to time, but their plants will love you.

Water

Unlike a more extensive garden or lawn, you won't need tonnes of water to keep everything on your balcony alive.

Collecting the shower-water in a bucket before the hot kicks in will probably suffice.

Keep a watering can filled and ready to go, and use water absorbing/releasing crystals to buffer things for the times you forget. Bear in mind that pots dry out faster than garden beds.

Keep it Simple

Try paring down the number of different types of plant to look after and focus on a select group. You could go tropical: orchid and vanilla bean balcony. Or Italian: a ten-type tomato and basil balcony.