Grow apples, figs, tomatoes and much more on your balcony
Get tips to cultivate your garden even though you live in an apartment.
By Lars Lund
Even though the season is coming to an end you can easily get your fastest plants going.
Do you live in an apartment with maybe an balcony on fourth floor and you look down on an allotment garden near the residential complex or perhaps you look down on some houses with a garden, then you may be a tiny bit envious of all the nice things they grow in the garden. But do not despair. The vegetable garden is no longer just for people with gardens. You can even fit a small greenhouse if you got a balcony.
Over the past few years everybody wants more nature right where they live. This is obvious in the townscape in the large cities. Urban gardens are popping up in the backyards of the city. Even in small apartments potted plants are replaced with carrots, tomatoes, and lettuce. When the happiness of the home can be grown in the window sill then so can the happiness and the flavour of ones carrots also be grown in the window sill. And yes, it is possible. You just need to carefully choose your plants and maybe specialize yourself in what you want to do. Some plants are more challenging than others.
The right conditions
Give the plants as much light as possible. South-facing windows gives the most sunlight. If you need light you can supply with LED lighting. You can use a timer that turns on and off the light. Move the plants a bit away when the sun is at its highest. Too much heat will scorch the plants.
A bit of wind now and then. For instance from a small ventilator or set a window ajar. This way you avoid rotting. Also avoid waterlogging. You can for instance let the pots absorb water from a tray with watering fabric. Weekly give them a shower with a sprayer. Also remember a good potting soil and make drain in the pots. Furthermore, a plastic pot lasts longer than clay pots.
Microgreens (small seedlings from almost every seed) like rocket, beetroot, kale, spinach beet, cress, white mustard, peas, sunflower seeds, corn, monks cress give a healthy diet and good flavour. Use low plant trays with drainage holes so the water can be absorbed from the drainage holes. The plant can collapse if you irrigate from the top.
You can buy special seed growing trays where soil is not necessary and instead the seeds are placed on a grid with water beneath it. Cover it with a cloth until there are seedlings.
Lettuce should be kept cold. 15-18 degrees Celsius are ideal. Here pots are suitable. When they get bigger you can give them a water bath every other day for ten minutes and no more than they can absorb the water.
Radishes are also planted in pots approx. 1 centimetre into the soil. Cover it with plastic. When they begin to grow you must frequently irrigate, which will give it a mild flavour. Should be kept cold.
Herbs are easy but needs a lot of soil. Therefore, use pots.
Carrots, kale, potatoes, pepper, and tomatoes require more care, but it is not impossible.
In general, they require a larger container due to the root system which will become more extensive. Carrots can be planted and grow in a milk carton that has been cut in half or in buckets or pots. Carrots thrive best where it is not too hot. You will have the most luck with early crops and the smallest crops such as Paris Market carrots.
Kale: Choose shorter stems. Add a bit of liquid fertilizer when they come up.
Beetroot: All sorts will do, but the small Zeppo is the fastest (50 days).
Potatoes: Can be cultivated in special pots. For example, the PotatoPot in which you can pick the potatoes and let the plant continue growing. But they can also be cultivated in a small flowerpot, which can be fun for the kids. If you have a balcony a mortar tub is an excellent option.
Tomatoes: Grow the small cherry tomatoes. These are the easiest and give high yield. Kitchen Minis is a fully developed plant that have been developed to grow indoor.
Chilli is the biggest challenge. They need warmth and light, but Habanero, Hungarian and Bird Eye Demon are suitable choices. In contrast, the normal pepper plants are easy to grow.
Among the more special plants you find ginger and turmeric, which are grown the same way. Buy the gingers where you can see a knob or more. Choose a good size for you pot (the roots grow horizontal). Cut off a piece with a knob and place it in a pot with soil covering a few centimetres. Irrigate without waterlogging. Expect to wait two months before it grows. If you begin in a small pot, then you should transplant it to a larger pot.
The window sill is good, but the balcony gives more options and basically just as many options as in a garden. The bigger pots or containers with soil, the more options you have. Here you can for instance cultivate in growbags. Put two on top of each other and combine the two by cutting some holes and then you can for example get more potatoes. A small greenhouse for the wall is just as good as a greenhouse in a garden. On the balcony you can also grow fruit such as wine, figs and apples. For each category of fruit there are special sorts which is suitable for cultivating in pots. In the market you can also find mini-sorts of apples, pears, peaches and plums.
The cheating method
Kohlrabi, kale, beetroot and many other plants can be bought fully grown in pots. The horticulture Petersen near Aarhus, Denmark is specialized in this kind of pot culture, which is sold by home improvement stores, nurseries, and supermarkets. The idea is for the busy garden owner who wants results. Although there is a lot of restaurants and private consumers who like the idea and have e.g. bought fully grown kohlrabies or some small kales for decoration.
Om Lars Lund
Danish horticulturist and journalist
Lars Lund has for many years engaged in the garden and greenhouse. Lars has published many books about greenhouses, and he has participated in many Danish horticultural TV shows. He is a walking garden encyclopaedia, and he has answers for most basic cultivation questions – also the more ambitious ones.
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