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Living in a flat doesn’t mean you can’t cultivate your own small patch of earth. Gardens come in all shapes and sizes and there are a range of veggies, herbs, fruits and so on that are just right for your living space. Not only will you score a beautiful balcony garden, you’ll enjoy the benefits of gardening to feed the body and nourish the soul. As counter-intuitive as it sounds, urban gardening is much easier than you might imagine.

→Here are my top tips to get you on your way.

Before you start, spend some time outside. Realistically assess your ‘plot’ – is it sunny all day, shady and cool, windy? This will help you choose the best plants to plant. There are lots of different plants on the market and there is one for virtually every taste. Some have multiple tiers so that you can maximise the number of plants you have growing in one space. One thing to bear in mind is high-rise-balconies – even if they’re only one or two floors above ground – are often affected by wind. Plant in heavy pots that won’t blow over, and provide regular water to counteract the drying effect of the breezes. Try to think vertically instead of horizontally or another option is to look for planters you can hang. You can also try attaching containers to the wall.

The hardest part is overcoming the psychological hurdle of thinking that it is difficult, confusing, time-consuming, or takes up lots of space.  In fact, it is none of these things; you don’t need expensive, special equipment, or any particular skill. All you need is a little love – all gardens need a little regular love. It’s a matter of keeping an eye on those pests and acting before there’s an infestation, using organic plant food and of course, regular watering. One of the advantages of balcony gardening is that there’s often a lot less you need to do than you would in a bigger patch – just a few minutes a day can result in a whole lotta goodness.

Tomatoes are easy to grow, they need larger containers, support, and water!

Vegetable gardens aren’t just for the farm. There are lots of veggies you can grow in just a little bit of space. A few of those foods are: tomatoes, green onions, cucumbers, beans, kales. If you are growing different veggies in different planters, make sure you clearly mark which ones are which.

Harvesting – this is what it’s all about, so don’t be shy about picking your produce! Many vegetables can be harvested at several stages. Leaf lettuce, for example, can be picked as young as you like; snip some leaves and it will continue to grow and produce. Summer squash (zucchini) and cucumber can be harvested when the fruit is just a few inches long, or it can be allowed to grow to full size. The general rule: If it looks good enough to eat, it probably is. Give it a try. With many vegetables, the more you pick, the more the plant will produce.

Leaving your urban balcony garden neat is also important – because your garden is confined to containers, you will have less mess to contend with than other gardeners, but you will still have things you will need to tend to and haul away. Make sure to pull up weeds, dead plants and rotten fruits and veggies as soon as you spot them. Haul any trash or refuse completely off the balcony so that they are out of the way and don’t blow onto neighbour’s balconies. Be careful when watering so that excess water doesn’t flow outside the confines of your balcony or onto an unsuspecting person below. Keep your garden neat and tidy and keep everything firmly on your property. If you really want to get your neighbours on your side, butter them up with some fresh homegrown tomatoes.

Gardening is a relaxing and rewarding hobby and watching a seed blossom under your care to become food on your and your family’s plates is gratifying. Whatever your motivation for breaking ground on your own backyard garden, chances are good that you’ll take pleasure in this new healthy hobby, and that your wallet, the environment, your body, and your taste buds will thank you!

 

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About Tiago Silva

Personal Trainer and Nutrition Adviser in the field of weight loss and muscle gain. Multisports fanatic and current competing in long distance triathlon.

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