Sustainable gardening in a flat or apartment
Even if your outdoor space is a small balcony, that doesn't mean you have to forget about gardening. You can establish a thriving herb and veggie garden in small spaces.
When you live in an upper-level townhouse, flat or apartment, you may only have a small balcony as your outdoor space. But that doesn't mean that you can't establish a thriving herb or veggie garden - even in the smallest space.
Townhouse and apartment living has become the norm for many city dwellers as developers try to cram more living space into ever decreasing surrounding suburbs. Using containers and pots is a convenient way to establish a healthy patch of garden on a small balcony, making it possible for anyone to look at setting up a sustainable garden, albeit on a small scale. And growing your own food at home reduces your carbon footprint and saves you a lot of money.
Get creative with containers
Containers and pots are ideal for a small selection of homegrown veggies, or for establishing a small kitchen herb garden. And using pots allows you a way to transport your garden should your lease expire or you want to move to a larger property.
When you start planning for a sustainable balcony garden, especially if you are working on a tight budget, your first choice might not be expensive glazed or terracotta plant pots, and while some plastic pots can be downright ugly, there are other affordable and economical solutions.
There are a few ways to stock up on plant pots and containers to get your balcony garden started:
- Ask friends and family, or even neighbours, if they have any plant pots they aren't using. More often than not they will have one or two that have been stuck at the bottom of the garden or in a garden shed. And don't turn down plastic containers - we would rather use these for a garden than have them end up on the trash heap!
- Skip diving is another way to pick up plant pots for free, as long as you don't mind diving into skips! An easy way is to approach neighbours who are moving and ask if they are throwing out any plant pots they don't need. Don't worry if pots are cracked or chipped - these can be fixed up or used as is to add a bit of rustic character to your balcony garden. It's easy to simply turn a pot around to hide a missing piece or you can pot these up with bushy or trailing plants such as thyme and oregano!
- Browse secondhand stores for items that can be used as containers for your veggie or herb garden - anything goes and if you're using secondhand or used it counts towards even more brownie points for a sustainable garden. While you're browsing for pots and containers, keep an eye out for items that can be used as a stand for your new sustainable balcony garden.
Sowing the seed for a healthy crop
Growing healthy vegetables and herbs from seed are the best value for money. Seedlings can be quite expensive and the cost of growing veggies in this way doesn't really save you any money. Any experienced gardener will tell you that sowing seeds will give you far more veggies for your buck.
A simple way to keep costs down and that is a part of sustainable gardening is to look at inexpensive and recyclable ways to grow your own herbs and veggies. Egg cartons are ideal for using as seed trays, or you can roll recycled newspaper into seedling bags – just add soil and pop seeds in and leave them in a warm, sunny spot. When the babies are big enough you can simply cut up the egg cartons, moisten and plant into prepared pots.
Choose the perfect location and the right plants
If you plan to grow edibles in your sustainable garden, do some research on what will grow well in your particular region and the location of your balcony. If your small space doesn't get that much sun, you may have to resort to only set up in a corner that receives more natural light throughout the day. Ask for advice at your local garden centre - they will be more than willing to help you achieve the best results.
Most herbs and vegetables can be grown in pots, with the exception of nightshades such as potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. But you will probably want to keep it small with edibles that can be grown in smaller pots. Plant vegetables that you like to eat, and herbs that you enjoy to cook with. There is no point taking up valuable space and resources with edibles you don't have a use for.
Here is a list of edibles to consider for your balcony garden:
Vegetables - Tomatoes, spring onions, baby carrots, lettuce, rocket, chilli, spinach, Asian greens and kale.
Herbs - Coriander, parsley, basil, mint, chives, curry plants, oregano, thyme, sage, rosemary and lemongrass.
GOOD TO KNOW: Nightshade plants contain solanine. This is a chemical that some believe may aggravate arthritis pain or inflammation.