Balcony Garden Simple

Growing “Upstairs”

   Since the dawn of man we have been growing our own food. And as we did, other staples showed up to eat our food, and so we also had, meat too. Now these days, those “staples” still show up sometimes, and they are now “pests”. So we developed ways and chemicals to “shoo” them away from our beloved veggies. Balcony gardening, those problems just aren’t there.

Now that it’s almost impossible to afford rural living with so many small towns turning big, where there is no room to spread out, we are spreading, up. The economy is getting so bad we are finding ways to keep out internet, FIOS, cell phone, car, habits, there are ways to cut costs, and now we think about food. So where do we start?

Balcony Garden 101

So when you wake up in the morning, where is the Sun? In the evening, again, where is it? Just how much light gets to your balcony? Ya see where I’m starting right? Let’s also think about room. How many square feet do you have and are there banisters and railings? You’ll need them if they are there. Can you afford a good variety of pots from 8″ up to at least 5 gallon size? Obviously you should do cheap or you cut into profit. Can you install hangars or eye hooks for hanging baskets? On a 4’x10′ balcony with railings and ability for about 5 hanging pots, I have helped folks get to where they were having to take their “overflow” to work and give to neighbors produce, and still have way too much for them. And the aesthetics were wonderful. The last thing to accomplish is watering. Can you just deal with 5 to 8 trips from the sink and a watering can every few days, or is your nearest sink within 50′ of the balcony, because then you could purchase one of those “Coil” type hoses and the small adapter for the spigot, and you’re in there. All you need now, is soil, plants, and farmer go for it.

Garden the Containers First

Well, actually second, but this is priority too. First would be which plants can you grow from the sun, room, etc. questions above, but this will get you motivated. You are going to need pots, Potting mix, gravel or Styrofoam peanuts, and veggie fertilizer, watering can or that fancy hose. Check into those “Gro Boxes” they are worth the investment and can grow thru the seasons. Self contained tote sized gardens. For your climbers, search out simple trellises or simply put a Tomato Cage in the pot, and let the Pole Beans go along with Cucumbers. Terra Cotta pots dry out quicker and most Porcelain pots have no drain holes. Drainage is important.

As you are starting your pots, add about 1 1/2 inches of stone or the peanuts first, this is so the soil doesn’t clog the drain holes. Then add your Potting soil about half way, pull your plants roots apart a bit if they’re crowded, it’s ok if they rip a bit, they will form more. Place the plant in the soil and backfill up around the root ball. Water gently until water comes out the bottom. if the soil settles below the roots, add a bit more. That one is done. Tomatoes, I plant at least 2/3 of the entire plant below the soil. Those leaves below, will turn to root, from root you get bloom, from bloom, Tomatoes! Seeds that are directly in the pot, are about 1/4 inch below the soil. This would be like your Cucumbers, Squash, Radishes, Carrots, Beets, Beans, Herbs. Use tables, plant stands, fancy saucers, etc. to liven up the scenery.

Care After The Plantings

If you do the watering can thing, get one that pours “gently” and you can control the flow. Don’t want to wash out the babies downstairs. Those coil hoses are OK if you are within 50 feet of a sink. Remember to get the faucet adapter. The hose is usually in the garden center, the adapter is in the plumbing department. Specialty fitting.

Usually while its mild out, you can get away with watering about every 6 days or so, after the heat sets in, you may have to step it up a bit. I like the saucers, if its dry, the soil is getting dry. Fertilizing can be done in a slow release granular type, Liquid types are like every 3 weeks or so. We’ll do fungus and bugs later in the month or so, but until then, have fun and respect the parameters of your balcony. Rotate the pots every so often if you think they aren’t getting enough sun. Check the web for apartment gardening or balcony garden pics.. You can grow too.

March in Richmond Garden Time

March In
Richmond, Va.

Here we are in March, Richmond Va. wondering… Or are
Most of the “Gardeners” here know, It’s go time. Others, wait for the
media, to say “GO”.  I’m sorry if you wait, we “Dirt Folks” , are ahead of you.

For the last few weeks, we have been watching birds, plants, sky color, and
aching bones, additional 2 1/2 hours extra daylight, to see when we need to go.
It’s now. Believe us.
OK, lemme clue you in. As the sky turns more blue from
grey, we start pruning what we didn’t finish in the Fall. We always know, there
will be another snow, and we count on it. Robins showing up, and neighbors
finally taking down old Christmas decor… Garden prep time is here.
March. What needs to be done now, needs to be done ri If you haven’t pruned your
Roses, get that done. Crape Myrtles are this month as well. Last ditch effort on
those tired ornamental grasses. Lawn? Pre-Emergent, NOW!! Sorry if you don’t get
that done if you follow our Lawn Sheet.. It will cost you more in about 45 days.
Way more.
Clean out any old fruit litter you may have missed. Have Stink
Bugs? They love old decaying fruit litter, so maintenance of your beds is
Let’s talk lawn tools for a second. Oil them, sharpen them, or buy
new stuff. There. That’s it. You can’t build a house with a rusty screwdriver
and half a hammer. Can’t cook, with a 2 tined fork and 3 cracked glasses. Can’t
update your Facebook without a, well, I guess you can, but you get it.

By Now, if you started seeds indoors already, you are ready to feed
those babies. In a few days, they will be ready to take out and start hardening
off. If you haven’t, it’s now. Peppers, Tomatoes, Eggplant and Onions for the
summer garden. Cold Crops? Why are you waiting. GO. NOW. They are showing up in
plant form now in nurseries, so go ahead, plant them.
Garden Prep time is
now too. Solarizing beds starts now.

Solarizing Gardens
Solarizing is
simple.First thing is to finish clearing out your old beds. Rake out old rows
and fill in furrows. Till if you must, just be careful it’s not too wet, because
you can actually cause a compaction issue.  Add more compost if you have it or
need it. Top dress with about a quarter inch of composted manure. Add a little
10-10-10 and a little lime, then water. Cover the entire bed with clear plastic
and place bricks or lumber around to hold in place. After a few weeks you will
see new gtowth from weeds and old veggie seeds, bugs will hatch as well. It’s
ok, it’s supposed to. Around early April, you should be growing and hatching the
bad stuff really good. Watch the weather and when you see the frost warnings
come out, simply take the plastic off that evening and let Ma Nature fry
everything that night. There. Done. This will give you a head start on no
chemicals for a while. That was easy.

Indoor Plants
is also a great time to re-pot those tired indoor tropicals. Always add new
potting mix as the old falls out when breaking up the rootballs. Go up one pot
size to get more production from them, or separate the babies sprouting out for
new pots. Time to start feeding again thru the season. Use insecticidal soap
solutions to treat for bugs. water good the first time after re-potting to help
settle the new soil.

Water Garden
I know its a hard
chore but it needs to be cleaned out too. Remove the leaf netting now and skim
out what you can. Don’t start feeding those fish until the water temp stays
above 58 degrees. If you had moved the pump closer to the water fall for Winter,
it’s time to put it back in the far end to get complete circulation now. Check
for new shoots on those plants, it’s time to propogate them as well.

In case you missed my
WWBT segment on “More bang for your buck” it’s out on their website

Balcony Gardening

I’ve been getting a lot of hits lately on Lawn Care, Pruning, Feeding, Hardscaping, etc., but only two inquiries about Balcony or Apartment Gardens. I know you folks are out there, just wondering about your abilities. I have produced a few since Spring for some who want “space-saving” type gardens, and only one was a terrace. The others had room, just didn’t want to fool with large gardening or the maintenance. So here are a few that we did, which include old store fixtures, gutters, broken fountains, and just about anything we could find.




These are just a few, but the internet is loaded with ideas. You just need to be on the lookout for “vertical garden” items like the old store racks, etc. If you can’t grow down, grow up. Old lighting works great as well as an unused aquarium. Don’t be afraid to try things on your balcony, and soon you will have that garden you desire up there.

Lets see your ideas and projects. How do yo keep a confined garden producing?

Seed Starting in Richmond

Seed Starting in Richmond is a timing issue to most. Some have great assets such as a South facing window, or even a small Green House. Those who don’t, here goes.

Start by doing some simple math. See the “Emergence Time” on your seed packets? Add 40 days to that, and then think about our Zone. We are in 7A here. April 15th is our last “Killing Frost” approximate date. That means that we should be able to plant seedlings out without getting bit by frost. Now, back to the math. Subtract 40 days from April 15th, add the emergence date on the packet of seeds, and settle on an about time to seed. I am “kindofagambler”, so I usually start when I’m ready for change. Which will be verrry soon. Just like seeing the little guys coming up, and I’m not afraid to cover them up when the forecast is going to turn bad. Later issue.

Now, there are several ways to start your garden. Seed starter kits can be store bought as a kit, replicated with egg cartons, empty plant flats, pudding cups, deli tray platters, etc. I like to re-use what I find. (Sorta lessening my carbon footprint). Make your own mind, but hurry, It’s almost time.

Seed starting mixes are done to death. I use what Ma Nature hands me. You can use the soiless seed mixes to get started if you need to. There is no “dirt” in them, mostly peat. You shouldn’t feed when seeding anyway. Feed after leafing. The thing to remember is this, “Don’t plant so early as to get your little guys in a root bound situation before its time to transplant, or they will die.. Just plain die”. Do the aforementioned math and you will be hooked forever!

OK. Lets go.

Get your seeds, growing medium, containers, labeling ID stakes, location or growing get up, and patience. Seed to soil contact, water, sunlight. Thats it. Simple? You betcha. There are a lot of ways to copy Ma, but you need to remember, it is doable. Some prefer to make a “Grow Box” using a tote, PVC pipe, and a plant light. That’s great for the North facing folks. The rest can use a narrow flat in a window sill to get results.

The planting instructions on the packet are there to get you growing. The seed companies have spent a lot of time playing with the formulas to get you eating veggies in your own gardens. Pay attention to them. Emergence, moisture, sunlight, depth, etc. Its all on the packet. Not a bad deal to get baskets of fresh veggies all Summer for $1.69 or so. Go ahead, get dirty.

Now that the “simple” part is done, let’s get a little more physically drained. Where are you going to plant your seedlings later? In about 3 weeks it will be time to tend to your garden plot. We will address that then, but now, you need to decide. Pots, tilled bed, raised bed, naturalized, etc. Where is the room coming from. The average size family of 6 can eat comfortably from a 20×15 plot for about 8 months or more. Holy cow! And that’s without chickens! I have seen a lot of folks with10, cheap, 18″ pots with the craziest stuff growing from them, ALL year. Come on, get dirty. Small plots going vertical, balconies lush with plants, and even water gardens supporting tomatoes!

Yeah…. Its time.. Put a seed in the soil, it will grow, you will eat, you will share with your neighbors, they will return the favor and the flavor, you will cook, you will learn, You WILL be hooked!! You will save money, and Ma Nature will be proud…. Get Dirty!

Garden Coaches are out there waiting for your decision. Call one or e-mail one ( for example.. We’ll grt you dirty!