Designing a Balcony Garden – Assessing Your Needs

I have been reading a good book called, Family Garden: A practical guide to creating a fun and safe family garden by Lucy Peel. This book doesn’t say anything specific about balcony gardening, but I’ve been able to adapt a bit of her advice to suit those of us who enjoy small outdoor spaces.

The first step is to assess your needs. Using her advice, I’ve assessed our family’s needs and here are some things that I’ve come up with . . . Like a house’s yard, a balcony can serve many purposes, including:

  • Storage. We mostly just store balcony things on our balcony, but we’ve seen people use balcony’s for more extensive storage – bikes, sports equipment, and so on. For us, the storage requirements are very basic – balcony furniture and garden equipment. I need a way to store my garden bins and protect any perennials from the winter. As for our furniture, the daybed weathered last winter just fine, being left out and exposed. Our table will move into the kitchen and that just about takes care of everything.
  • Garbage. This may be more pertinent to a yard garden, but it could apply to balcony’s too. For us, the only garbage on our balcony is the organic type in the compost.
  • Clothesline. I would love to have a clothesline on my balcony and have seen lots of examples where it has been done very successfully. Right now, I settle for a fold up drying rack.
  • Kitchen Garden. Do you grow food on your balcony? We do. It’s the primary purpose of the garden and one of my favourite hobbies.
  • Vehicles. Now, you’re not likely parking a car on your balcony, but it may be the parking spot for bikes or a stroller. This is not the case with ours, but maybe if we had bikes. Do you have any great ideas for storing bikes on a balcony safely?
  • Lighting. Right now we rely on candles and light from inside the apartment. I would love to use solar lights though.
  • Dining. Do you like to dine on your balcony? We do, but it seems to happen only rarely. There’s not enough space in our current set up to seat more than the two of us . . . and we only eat out there on rare nights that we’re awake longer than the baby. The outdoor table is actually our old dining table, and will comfortably
  • Playing. How do you feel about a children using the balcony for play? We’ve just started letting Maraika come out to water the garden with us . . . but I don’t know if I’ll ever feel OK with her spending time out there.
  • Lounging. When I was pregnant with Maraika we made the best and most unconventional decision for our balcony – a BED! We have a twin sized day bed out there and it is amazing. Although we don’t to enjoy it as much as we would like, that first summer it was a great way to spend many morning-sick hours in pure comfort.
  • Water Features. I would love to have a water feature on our balcony, but I haven’t gotten around to finding a good solar powered pond.
  • Attracting Wildlife. This is definatly not for us. On the 11th floor, it’s rare that we see anything other than the odd moth and I like it that way. Bird droppings are a health concern on balconies and unless it’s a butterfly or a bee, I’m not a big fan of insects.
  • Decorative Features. To this I would add – disguising features. We have some ugly permanent features to our balcony that we would like to hide – including a beige railing, brown divider and concrete wall. A great deal on an area rug takes care of the ugly floor and I just hope that the plants provide at least a bit of camouflage.
  • Children’s Garden. This year Maraika’s too young, but next year, she will definitely have her own little plot. I think pretty, fast growing, and edible plants are the best for little ones. Do you have any favourites?
  • Safety. It’s not on Peel’s list (although she dedicates a whole chapter to safety), but I would add it to the initial planning, especially for a balcony. For us, a safe balcony means that there is nothing that could be used as a step and there is no way for the baby to break out there on her own.

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