Most balcony container gardeners who have done some balcony garden design research have probably heard the term “gardening up.” Gardening up is the practice of using vertical space on a balcony in order to grow more plants in our small outdoor spaces and to create a more visually interesting garden space.
There are many ways you can maximize your space with vertical planting:
1. Trellises. Instead of growing a plant outward, train it to grow up a trellis. Plants, such as cucumbers, do well in plant containers when grown up a trellis. If cucumbers aren’t trained up a trellis, they will spread over the balcony floor and reduce space for growing other plants. Trellises covered in vines or other climbing plants help block too much sunlight, create privacy or help cover up storage or a worm compost bin.
2. Hanging baskets. Hanging plant baskets (remember to water those with coconut fiber lining more often) free up space on the balcony floor for more containers or allow for some furniture or space to move. Hanging plant baskets are ideal for plants that spill over the sides of containers (rather than growing upward). Good hanging plants include English ivy and pothos (which do well in shade). Strawberries are also a great choice for hanging plant baskets, especially because they are less likely to become infested with pests when they are kept off the balcony floor. For the best effect and most growing space for a hanging basket with strawberries, use a wire basket and coconut fiber lining. Cut holes in the fiber lining and plant strawberries on the sides and bottom of the basket, as well. These hanging plant baskets will produce more fruit and will provide more visual interest to your balcony garden.
3. Shelves. Plant shelves are also a great addition to a balcony container garden. Shelves allow more light to reach the plants, keep containers off the floor (which will protect the floor surface) and they allow the apartment gardener more space. Purchase plant shelves that have a stair-step look to them (shelves right above another shelf will block out too much light) or build your own.
4. Window boxes or ledge planters. Windowboxes and plant containers that can hang over the apartment balcony ledge will also allow more floor space on the balcony for more plants or even a nice seating area. Always check with your homeowner’s or condo association, or your apartment management before attaching anything to your balcony’s ledge. Make sure that your plant containers are secure and will not fall. For this reason, never simply set a container on a balcony ledge!
These four vertical planting techniques can allow apartment gardeners more space and more vertical interest. Especially for gardeners with shady balconies, vertical planting will allow for better plant growth by ensuring more sun reaches the plant leaves. So when planning your balcony garden’s design, make sure to think vertically!