As garden centres and nurseries in some parts of Canada begin to open for curb-side pickup and delivery, now is a perfect time to consider your gardening needs — cultivating a balcony garden is a simple pleasure that apartment and condo dwellers can easily do. Check for provincial updates to make sure you get the right information specific to your region.
Pay attention to the unreliable weather (hello, hail in May!) and hold off on planting until the last frost has passed. Planting in pots, flower boxes, and planters keeps things simple and organized and the portable nature of a balcony garden makes it easier to switch things up with each new addition.
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Ensuring pots have proper drainage is key — a hole in the bottom for water to drain out is ideal. We have found success with the method of placing stones at the bottom of a planter in lieu of a drainage hole, although it seems popular opinion is split on this method.
Once you’ve taken stock of the size of your space and the amount of sunlight you get, it’s time to select your plants — check out our roundup below of some of our favourite balcony plants and flowers.
Flowers for bees
Saving these crucial pollinators is something we can all get behind. An easy way to do your part for the planet is to add plants and flowers that attract bees to your outdoor space, particularly if you enjoy a lower level balcony.
These little insects are also fans of lemon balm which has many natural health uses — boil the leaves with water for a soothing tea.
Make sure you grow single flowers as most double flowers have too many petals, preventing the bees from getting to the middle of the flower, where the nectar and pollen are found.
Grow your own food
Depending upon the size of your balcony, you can grow much of your summer food (like greens, cucumbers, summer squash, celery, strawberries, and peppers) in pots — we’d argue that there’s nothing better than tomatoes fresh from the vine, and if you have enough sunlight you should have success.
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Even the smallest outdoor space can handle some potted herbs which are inexpensive to buy and are easy to grow. We love an assortment of herbs including basil, thyme, sage and oregano to add homegrown flavour to our summer cooking and some beautiful foliage to our balcony garden.
Enjoy some lovely lavender
Lavender is a durable plant that grows well, looks pretty and ahhhh, that smell!
The gorgeous plant can be purchased in various sizes of pots for reasonable prices and is an easy way to add instant lush greenery to your space. Lavender can be hung indoors by the stem to dry and then enjoyed in a variety of ways — stuff sachets with them to keep clothing drawers smelling fresh, display dried bouquets, and even try cooking and baking with the dried buds.
Keep your home minty fresh
The many varieties of mint, a wonderfully fragrant herb, are a must for balcony gardens. Mint grows easily and can be used in so many summer recipes from refreshing salads, digestive teas, and quintessential summer cocktails.
Keep in mind that mint has a tendency to spread so give it some space from other herbs or its own pot to avoid a garden takeover.
For the love of shade
While some plants require more light to thrive than others, even a shady balcony can become a garden oasis with the right plants. Majesty Palms, for example, are ideal for growing in spaces that don’t get much sun.
“When selecting plants, ask the grower if they have been shade grown, which makes them perfect for these spaces,” Graham Bull, co-owner of Toronto-based house plant design studio Jomo Studio, tells HuffPost Canada. “We specifically bring in shade-grown varieties for all of the east and north facing balconies in [Toronto].”
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Select herbs also do well in the shade — Bull suggests cilantro and chives for balconies with partial sun. Ferns are fond of shade as they are naturally found on the forest floor, and eye-catching fuchsia plants also fare well in indirect light.
Soak up the sun
Bull says that Instagram faves like cacti and succulents “will relish the heat and brightness of a sunny balcony,” so you can be sure we’ll be stocking up on those low maintenance insta-famous plants to adorn our outdoor space.
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