1. Wait to plant until after Mother’s Day. This is probably excusable in other areas of the country, but here in northwestern Ohio, Mother Nature can be temperamental. This year, I bought my plants near Mother’s Day but didn’t pot them until recently. Sure, you could just move the plants indoor when it gets to cold, but do you really want to do all that work? I know I don’t.
2. Learn the difference between annuals, perennials, and biennials before you purchase your plants. In a nutshell, annuals last for one life cycle, perennials are recurring, and biennials last for two life cycles. This article from ProFlowers.com goes further into detail. If you choose a perennial, you may be able to keep it alive by bringing it indoors for winter.
3. Determine how large of an area you want your plants to cover. Because you will be using containers, it’s much easier to control the growth of your plants. However, you still want to check what size your plants will grow to and figure in the size of your outdoor space. You wouldn’t want to purchase a bunch of rose bushes if you have a 5′ x 5′ balcony (ouch).
4. Determine what direction your balcony/patio/deck faces. Generally, if your space faces west or south, you will receive plentiful sun; spaces facing east and north will receive some sunlight during the earlier part of the day. My balcony faces east which is why it’s shaded most of the day. This is important so you can…
5. Determine how much sun your space receives. A simple way to do this is take note of the hours in which your space is lit with sunlight. This is easiest to do on a clear, cloudless day. My space receives direct sunlight from sunrise until about noon, so usually I choose plants that are partial sun/partial shade. Unfortunately, this means I don’t have many options for bright, flowering plants… but fortunately, my balcony is a cool, shaded haven for most of the day.
You may luck out if your balcony is covered and enclosed but the railing is not. On the other side of my railing, I hung planters with basil, so they can receive more sunlight than the others. The planter in the back is one I purchased from Target and it’s made specifically for railings. The other planter was not, so I drilled holes into the side and used the same zip ties.
6. Determine what kind of weather your garden will be enduring. Consider if your plants will have to endure snow, a lot of rain, dry conditions, etc. since you’ll want plants that can tolerate the weather.
7. Pick your containers. This may be the funnest part of planting a container garden. There’s so many options out there, in a variety of materials such as plastic, clay, cement, etc. You can even repurpose common items such as coffee cans, milk jugs, pots and pans, etc. I’ve repurposed a trash can for this ostrich fern, steel containers, and plastic containers from the Dollar Store for my garden.
You can also customize the planters with acrylic paint or spray paint, depending on the material of the planter. This would be ideal if you stumble across some dirt-cheap (pun-intended) containers but don’t like the color. I kept some plain but sprayed the outside of these Socker containers from Ikea:
Sure, my garden is a bit high maintenance. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. I’ve always dreamed of having a balcony and the large amount of shade it receives is a huge blessing during those hot days. Taking care of my little garden every morning is quite a joy. I’m a lucky gal.