GROWING FRUIT AND VEG ON BALCONIES
When space is really limited, gardening needs ingenuity. With a few clever tricks and some innovative gadgets, though, you can turn even a balcony into a productive garden overflowing with fruit, vegetables and herbs.
You'll find plenty of useful gear to help you build your balcony garden in our garden centre in Mullingar, from planters to dwarf apple trees specially bred to grow in restricted spaces. Here are our top tips for balcony success.
Use large planters wherever possible, so they act more like raised beds than containers and give your veg a longer root run. Generally, the larger the container you give your veg, the happier they'll be: if your balcony is high-rise, though, get a structural engineer in first to check it can take the weight of containers full of damp compost and plants.
Use successional sowing to keep your pots working hard all year. As soon as you harvest a crop, re-sow the container or replant with vegetable plug plants for a really quick replacement. That way you'll always have new crops growing up as you eat your way through the ones you sowed earlier.
Grow container veg varieties which are better suited to growing with their roots restricted. Good choices are Courgette 'Patio Star', Aubergine 'Ophelia', Broad Bean 'The Sutton' and Pea 'Bingo' – all grow small but have bumper crops for their size.
Don't forget the fruit as there are plenty of long-cropping varieties which grow quite happily in containers including gooseberries, blueberries and blackcurrants. Strawberries do better in pots, as they're off the ground away from slugs; and you can even grow 'Minarette' apple and pear trees, trained on a single stem.
- Take care over feeding and watering as your plants depend entirely on you for their every need. Automatic watering systems share the load: you'll find timers, hoses and dripper systems in our garden centre. Add a weekly liquid feed when you water: liquid seaweed acts as a general-purpose tonic, but when plants are flowering a high-potash tomato feed encourages plenty of fruit.
Please ask the staff in our Mullingar garden centre for more information and advice about growing fruit and vegetables on a balcony.