Even if you only have a balcony or courtyard, you can still grow and harvest your own edible container plants. All it takes is a few pots and planters and regular nurturing. You will find that pot plants tend to dry out much faster than plants growing in a conventional garden so you need to ensure that you give your plants a regular watering every couple of days or so in the hot weather. As a general rule of thumb, water when the soil at the top is dry.
You don’t need to limit your potted plants to one variety per pot as many vegetables and herbs grow quite happily together in the same pot. For example tomatoes and basil make very good companion plants and they also taste fantastic when used together. If you have a nice large pot, why not put a tomato plant in the middle, then plant some basil around the tomato and finally fill the edges with different varieties of leaf lettuce. Remember to also put a stake in to give support to the tomato plant as they get quite heavy when fruiting.
As most vegetables prefer full sun place them where they will get the most sunlight preferably against a wall to protect from strong winds and group them together to assist with evaporation loss.
Another very important thing to remember is the quality of the potting mix as this will provide both nutrients and support for your growing plants. Use the absolute best quality you can afford, some high quality potting mixes even contain water retention crystals so see what’s available at your local garden center. You may also like to consider using saucers under your pots to stop the water running all over your balcony plus the established roots of your plants will draw the moisture from the saucer as well.
With a little imagination and use of different shapes and sizes of pots you can set up a great growing area on your balcony which is both attractive and very productive. Use shallow wide planters for things like lettuce, spinach, onions and other greens and deeper pots for things like tomatoes, carrots, capsicum and other root vegetables. For smaller pots of herbs you can purchase a tiered display stand to make even better use of the space available. You can even purchase small free standing green houses which will help to create a micro-environment for seed germination but remember to open the front flap or even remove the cover once the plants start growing so they don’t get burnt once the weather warms up.
Even hanging planters, if you have space for them, can be used to grow things like cherry tomatoes and strawberries. You can also purchase dwarf fruit trees such as peach, nectarine and apple which would make an attractive feature in your balcony garden.
Just remember that the only nutrients that your plants will get is from the potting mix you use so its necessary to apply a good fertilizer once the plants are established. Whether you use a liquid seaweed or slow release pellets make sure you get the nitrogen-phosphorous-potassium mix right for the type of plants you are growing. As a general rule, nitrogen is for leaf growth, phosphorous for root growth and potassium for flower and fruit production.