The following five mistakes are common to beginning balcony gardeners, as well as some more experienced gardeners. There are many more mistakes that gardeners can make, but here are five that you can easily avoid.
1. Too many small pots. Too many small plant containers holding many small plants will make a balcony garden space look cluttered. With small containers, no plant can grow to a large enough size to create an interesting effect. Keep several large plant containers or planters that will allow multiple plants to grow in creative groupings. Purchase or build several large wooden planters, or use sturdy Rubbermaid bins that have a lot of planting space. Read more about choosing plant pots.
2. Insufficient drainage. Choosing the correct soil is an important part of setting up a container planting. Plants in containers need good drainage for healthy root growth. Plant containers need drainage holes, as well as loose potting media that allows water to permeate throughout the soil and throughout the whole container. Some plants need more drainage than others, including succulents and cacti, as well as plant cuttings. Drainage is one reason why container gardeners should purchase potting soil instead of using dirt found on the ground. Outside dirt does not have the appropriate drainage capacity, while potting soil is perfect for the confines of a container. Learn more about how to choose potting soil by reading "What Is Potting Soil?"
3. Wrong plants. Before purchasing container plants for your balcony garden, visit your local garden shop to see what plants are available to you. Write down a few that interest you, and research them (many popular container plants are profiled in BalconyContainerGardening.com’s Plant Fact Sheet section). Will the plants you want to keep grow too large for your small garden space? Do they need more sun than you can provide? Will it need a lot of extra care? Narrow down the plants to those that you know you can provide for, and then make your purchases. Don’t simply purchase a light-loving flower that you think looks beautiful, and then expect it to live in your shady balcony garden. This will only make the plants look thin and weak, instead of bushy and lively. If you have a shady balcony garden, see “25 Plants for Shady Balconies” for a list of shade-loving plant.
4. Over- or underwatering. The most common mistake when it comes to container garden maintenance is over- or underwatering the plants. Plant containers dry out quickly, especially on hot, sunny and windy days, so check on the plants daily. To learn more about correct watering, read BalconyContainerGardening.com’s article “Tips for Watering Plants.”
5. Not recognizing pests or disease. Many beginner container gardeners don’t recognize a pest or disease when they see it. Unfortunately, letting pests or disease take over may result in a massive kill of your plants or an unsightly balcony garden. For example, beginners may not know to look for green caterpillars on their tomato plants, and if they see a little brown spot the tomato’s foliage, it’s not seen as a big deal. But that caterpillar could be a tomato hornworm caterpillar, which can eat up foliage and severely compromise the plant, and that brown spot could be deadly (and contagious to other tomato plants) fungus that will prevent a good tomato crop. Without sufficient knowledge of how to recognize and handle pests and diseases, a container gardener may fail for years to come (tomato blight fungus spores can infect next year’s crops). For more information about these two tomato (and potato) plant problems, read about the tomato hornworm caterpillar and potato and tomato blight.
Now that you know about these five common container gardening mistakes, you can do your best to avoid them. If you’ve already purchased inappropriate plants or have too many small potted plants, you don’t have to live with it or throw anything out (as long as it’s healthy). Ask your friends or coworkers if they have appropriate conditions in their gardens and if they would like to have some of your plants. Your friends may be thankful!