21 Apr 2010


People who live in apartment buildings are limited in their gardening choices. Many units have small balconies, which presents residents with a couple of choices. The standard sized balcony has just enough room for a small table and a couple of chairs, or an outdoor garden to enhanceor conceal the view.

There are a number of considerations when planning a balcony garden. Altitude and direction will determine how much wind and sun your balcony will have. The higher the balcony, the more wind your garden will be subjected to. The closer you are to the ground, the less wind you will see.

In San Diego, the prevailing winds are westerly. As storms come through, the wind will cycle from northerly to south winds. East facing balconies will be subject to the dry Santa Ana winds, which can vary from straight out of the north to east. These winds are high velocity, and east side balconies will need some protection.

Choosing pots for your outdoor plants depends upon several factors. Plastic pots are lighter, and hold in moisture. They come in a variety of styles and colors, but care should be taken for plants in sunny locations. Dark colored pots can easily heat up in the sun. Plastic  provides no insulation, and degrades over time with exposure to the elements. They will eventually need to be replaced.

Terra cotta pots are clay. They have thick walls, and are heavier than plastic. While providing insulation to keep roots from overheating, they also will wick moisture away from the potting soil. This can help keep plants from being overwatered, but it also means you must pay closer attention to prevent your soil from drying out. A clay pot is less likely to be blown over, and takes much longer to degrade. These pots can last a long time if you don’t drop them! And if you do break a clay pot, the fragments can be used to place over drainage holes in new pots to reduce moisture loss. Regardless of material, all pots need to have a drainage hole.

Decorative containers can add style and color to a balcony garden. However, these containers do not have drainage holes, and are intended to hold a regular pot. When using these, the plant
should not be snugly at the bottom, as it will be sitting in drainage water. Use a stone or piece of pottery to keep the plant up off the bottom, so the drainage water can evaporate.

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