When you’re short on space to garden, sometimes the only way to go is up! Vertical gardening is ideal for balconies, making use of walls, upright supports and cleverly designed planters to turn even the smallest space into a little green piece of paradise.
Tips on balcony gardening
- Spend some time watching where the sun goes on your balcony over the course of a day, so that you know where the sunniest and shadiest spots are. Most fruit and veg will need at least six hours of direct sunlight a day to do well.
- Balconies can be very windy, and this means plants will dry out fast. Putting up a windbreak of cane matting will make things easier for your plants.
- Be careful not to overload your balcony with heavy pots. Remember that soil and compost can weigh a lot when wet.
- Use drip trays under pots to stop water overflowing onto your neighbours below!
5 vertical gardening ideas for balconies
- Balcony rail planters are specially designed to sit over or hang from a balcony rail. They take up hardly any space at all, and they’re perfect for small plants like herbs and strawberries or trailing summer bedding like petunias and begonias.
- Stackable planters are another clever solution for small spaces. These modular planters can be stacked on top of each other to whatever height you choose, with planting pockets at each level perfect for flowering plants or herbs like parsley, basil and mint.
- Grow climbers in pots, trained up an obelisk or a trellis fixed to your balcony wall. Miniature climbing rose ‘Warm Welcome’ will grow happily in a pot and produces masses of bright orange flowers all summer. You could also combine flowers and food by growing a climbing bean like French bean ‘Blauhilde’, which has gorgeous violet flowers in summer followed by tasty purple beans that turn green when cooked.
- Tiered plant stands are great for small spaces like balcony gardens, letting you grow three or four times as many plants in the same amount of floorspace. On a balcony, the lower levels are likely to be shaded for part of the day, so put the sun-lovers on the upper levels and the plants that prefer shade lower down.
- Add height to your balcony garden with an ornamental tree in a container. Dwarf Japanese maple ‘Wilson’s Pink Dwarf’ has gorgeous variegated leaves and prefers to be sheltered from hot afternoon sun, making it ideal for balconies that often only get sun for part of the day. You can even grow a small fruit tree in a container. Ballerina apples like ‘Samba’ and ‘Flamenco’ produce fruit in short spurs off the main trunk, so they have a very narrow, upright shape that takes up very little space, and they have beautiful flowers in spring.