Gardening can be done in small areas

Gardening is not just for those with a house, backyard , acreage or farm.

Gardening is not just for those with a house, backyard , acreage or farm.

It is possible grow many things on a balcony patio or deck.

Even the smallest area can be home to a productive garden. Start by planning, it is the key to any garden.

Know the areas climate. What direction does the balcony or deck face?

How much sun does the area receive in the growing season?

Is the area cool, hot or in between?

How much area will be dedicated to the garden? Are there rules against hang baskets and plants on the railing or on the walls?

How much weight will the balcony hold?

Once this is determined it is time to decide what to plant: flowers, vegetables or both.

The amount of sunlight the garden receives dictates what can be grown successfully.

Plants that enjoy the full sun and heat that goes with it will not thrive on a north facing balcony. Instead the plant will be thin and straggly.

Likewise a shade loving plant will wither and burn in the full sun regardless of the amount of water they receive.

Soil and water, other cultural consideration can be easily amended to suit various plants.

The amount of sunlight can only be amended with the use of artificial lights or shade cloth both of which are time consuming and expensive.

Containers need to be large enough to hold the roots but small enough that they do not take up too much room.

The depth of the container needed depends on the shape of the roots.

Carrots will thrive in 10 inches (25 cm) or soil while a tomato needs more.

Taller plants such as sunflowers do better in a deeper wider pot.

The roots will venture deeper in the soil but will also put out sideways anchor roots to keep to plant upright.

If in doubt, choose the larger container as an increased amount of soil increases the water holding capacity.

Be sure that all containers have holes in the bottom to allow for drainage. Without drainage, the soil can become too wet and the plant roots will rot. Shallow pans to contain excess moisture might be a necessity.

Water dripping from the balcony above is unpleasant.

Containers come in all sizes, shapes and materials imaginable. Glazed clay or plastic pots are the most common.

Specially designed cloth planters are becoming more popular for those that want to plant vegetables.

Choose ones that are pleasing to the eye and work for your budget.

When using recycled or used planters, wash then thoroughly and rinse with a light bleach solution. Do not use containers that once held toxic or poisonous substances.

Use a soil with some water retention properties but also has good drainage.

Many planting mediums consist of peatmoss and vermiculite or perlite all of which provide plants with little if any nutrients.

Adding up to a third compost or composted manure to the mix should prove beneficial.

Regular applications of fertilizer is essential in container gardening.

Planter soil even when amended with compost does not hold enough nutrients to grow plants in containers for any length of time.

Fertilizer can be slow release or applied regularly, it is the gardener’s choice. Always follow the directions on the container.

The amount of water the plants require depends on the temperature and the type of plant.

Pots that receive more sunlight at noon or in the afternoon will need more water than ones that have a morning sun.

When mixing types of plants within a container, choose ones with similar moisture requirements

Those who are considering starting a garden on their deck or balcony this year need to start planning.

Spring for them will come quicker than for those that plant in the ground.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist that lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at or