If you’ve always wanted to grow your own fruit and vegetables but don’t have a large backyard, you can still create a delicious garden on your patio or balcony. Nothing beats homegrown salad or fresh tomatoes picked off the vine! Small spaces can give you a surprising amount of crops and enough variety to enjoy all Summer long. Most vegetables and fruit can grow in pots, although some require a bigger pot than others! Optimize your space with a few of these tips on growing vegetables and other edibles on your patio.
Growing Vegetables in the Shade
A shaded patio, without direct sun, doesn’t mean you can’t grow any edibles. There are many plants that enjoy part shade or lightly shaded areas. In fact, most leafy greens find full sun much too hot and will end up wilting or getting burned leaves.
Our favourite shade-loving vegetables include chard, kale, lettuce, green onions and spinach. These plants need between 2-3 hours of sunlight and then can grow in shade for the rest of the day. When you are growing plants in shade you have to be aware of your watering schedule, and only water when the soil is dry, as otherwise, the roots may end up soggy or rotten.
If you have 4-5 hours of sunlight then the rest of the day with dappled shade on the patio, you can experiment with a few more vegetables. These plants may grow a bit smaller than if they had more sunlight but they will still produce a delicious crop! We suggest trying peas, beans, root vegetables, Brussel sprouts, broccoli and rhubarb.
Use your patio’s vertical space to grow even more plants and enjoy all that delicious home-grown food this summer! If you add a trellis to the sunniest side of your patio or balcony, then you can try growing grapevines, beans, peas, cucumbers or even squash! These plants can grow rooted in a deep pot with plenty of rich soil. You may even want to dig in some compost or add fertilizer every few weeks to make sure they are getting the proper nutrients.
Once your plants have sprouted, attach them to a sturdy trellis and continue to train the branches to grow upwards. For heavier fruit and vegetables, make sure your trellis is attached to something very sturdy like a beam or post. Continue to attach your branches to the trellis at key points with thick string or twine. Stay away from using metal wire as it can cut into the plant’s branches or rust.
If you are looking for a long term project then you might want to try growing a fruit tree. These trees can be trained to grow upwards against a wall, fence or trellis, rather than in their natural broad shape. It may take a few years for your tree to really flourish and give you delicious fruit, but enjoying a homegrown pear or apple is worth it!
Micro-Greens for the Win
It’s all in the name! Micro-greens are quite small (of course!) and can grow close together, taking up very little space. Grow them from seed and watch them sprout. All you need to start is a seed tray, soil and seeds!
Follow the instructions on the seed package to plant them, as each one is unique. You may also want to cover your trays with netting to keep the birds out!
Once your micro-greens reach harvestable size (when the first leaf pair opens and turns green) you can harvest your greens by cutting them or pluck them out and eat the roots and all! If you cut them, then you can wait for them to re-grow and have a second harvest!
Choose High-Yield Crops
When you are growing in a tight space, there are some edible plants that are worth it and others that aren’t! Choose fruits and vegetables with high-yields so that you get the most out of your space and feel like all your efforts are rewarded.
The best yielding crops per square foot include tomatoes, beans, zucchini and cucumbers. Other worthwhile edible plants are those that have a quick growth rate so that you can harvest them over and over again. We recommend radishes, chard, lettuce, carrots and spinach.
Keeping your Balcony Garden Happy
Pests can always appear, even in the best of gardens! On a balcony or patio, you have a few extra considerations that may make it tougher to keep them away, such as a lack of airflow or damp and shady conditions.
One way to give yourself a break while also adding to your edible haul, is to companion plant herbs into your vegetable container gardens. Did you know chives can keep aphids out of your garden? Or that basil will stop tomato hornworm in its tracks?
Take a look at all our ideas on herb companion planting for your vegetable garden over here in our blog post.
Creating An Edible Paradise
Of course, you want your balcony or patio to be a beautiful paradise for you to relax in all Summer long, not just a field of vegetables, right? Luckily it’s not that hard to create a beautiful spot that also produces delicious edibles. You can easily mix annuals or perennials into your vegetable container gardens to create attractive planters. Your guests may even be surprised when your reveal the strawberries growing amid your nasturtiums!
For ideas on combinations and themes to get started, read our blog post on using vegetables and herbs in your container gardens here.
However small your balcony for patio, there is always room for growing something edible. The reward of enjoying a homegrown tomato that you planted yourself is definitely worth all the effort. Get creative and have fun building a delicious oasis for you and your family!