Living in an urban area often means limited peaceful, private outdoor spaces, and apartments generally don't come with yards. When I moved to Los Angeles, I was lucky enough to secure a place with a small balcony. I love having this space to sip on an iced coffee, read a magazine, and enjoy the weather. But after a few months of just having a set of table and chairs all alone out there, I decided to level it up and start a little balcony garden. In the process, I gathered a few tips for maximizing every square inch of your growing space, especially on a small balcony.
1. Plan your layout.
Before stocking up on your gardening essentials, you should outline where you'll be placing your furniture. The first step I took was setting out my largest pieces and then working my planters and decor items around them. If you have a larger balcony, you have more freedom and therefore more design options. Try out a few arrangements before deciding on what you like most.
2. Use planters and stands that don't sit on the ground.
While gardening on your balcony mainly involves using containers, you still have a variety of growing mediums to choose from, and some allow you to maximize your floor space. I invested in a railing planter (a container that hangs or sits on your railing), a hanging plant, a trellis, and a small shelf that can fit multiple plants and decor. If you're up for it, you could also train vines on your balcony railing.
3. Take note of the elements.
Before picking out your plants, be aware of how much sun and wind your balcony gets. For example, north-facing apartments get little to no direct sunlight, so you'll want to choose plants that can tolerate low light. My apartment faces south, so it gets a lot of sun, and I have to make sure to thoroughly water my potted plants every day. If you're on the 50th floor, it probably gets pretty breezy—ensure your containers and plants can withstand that.
4. Start small.
If you're new to balcony gardening, it doesn't hurt to start with just a few plants. I went with four small containers so that I didn't overwhelm myself (or the space, shown above). As you learn and get the hang of caring for your balcony garden, you can always add more plants to your collection.
5. Try out a trellis.
Another way to save floor space while increasing foliage: Set up a trellis. Choose a material that matches your style (I went with wood), and grow any climbing plant appropriate for your hardiness zone. You can also use it as a living screen to create more privacy.
6. Start an herb garden.
Herbs grow well in containers, and they don't take up as much room as vegetables or fruit trees. Certain ones even thrive when planted together—I use my railing planter to grow parsley and rosemary. It's also likely a quick walk from your kitchen to your balcony, making it easy to add some freshness to your meals in less than a minute.