Greening the Balcony – Part 1

Guest post by Avalus. I am looking forward to the continuation(s) and once again I render my robe and put ashes on my head, this should go up a month ago.

A new project by me, Avalus. I use my balcony each year to grow veggies and some flowers, but I never thought about sharing this. Charly encouraged me to do so, so thank you very much for this opportunity! Similar to Full Fish Ahead, this will be some poorly held together train of thought with many pictures that will be written at random intervals and you all hopefully find interesting and worth your time reading. Comments are very welcome, as I learn something new every year I change my balcony in a lush green jungle (or in 2018, more like a dry brown savannah). Also, I hope to inspire people to green up their spaces, if they can!

So, this is my balcony, roughly 2 by 5 meters, facing south on the lofty hight of seventh floor and as of now, already pretty full of plants!

© avalus, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© avalus, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

But how did I get there?

I started in late winter and early spring with the pregrowing the slower plants. Tomates and peppers mostly but also some older seeds that I expected would not germinate anymore were put in the earth*. For pregrowth I use these 2 old fishtanks that I got from a garbage pile, the seeds are planted in egg cartons and some leftover paper pots, as soil I use cocosshell soil. This foto is from late march, you can also see a sprouting avocado and a taro plant grown from a leftover from cooking.

© avalus, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

*That is why there are some beans growing on the right. Also, the old cucumber seeds just took some four weeks to germinate, in between I bought new ones and they just took four days and now my friends with gardens and family will get gifts of cucumber plants. XD

From last year, a broccoli and two romanesco plants have endured the winter. I thought about tearing them out but then they began to bloom and instantly attracted pollinators, so they stay and I decided to side the broccoli with pansies. Later, this one will be used as a support for peas, that I planted around it.

© avalus, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© avalus, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Then, in early April I got to work cleaning the old pots out. I kept about half of the soil but mixed it topped it off with newly bought earth. For that I use peat-free planting soil although one really needs to look at the content table, as I found out a few years ago. And in the past years, this was also more expensive but this year they did cost the same. All hauling was done from a local garden centre with a hand drawn trolley, which was exhausting as I needed some 240 litres and I don’t own a car. If I lived somewhere else or was not as able bodied this would be a major problem and I would definitively need the help of friends.

© avalus, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

My main growbeds are these half transparent outdoor boxes, I bought some six years ago in a large hardware store. They are mostly in the shade and have held up wonderfully. The lowest 5 cm are filled with porous ceramic balls to store water, on the backside I drilled a line of small holes at 10 cm as an overflow.

© avalus, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Others are just large planting pots, buckets or plain balcony boxes and we will see more of them later this year.

Now, at the start of May, the tomatoes are finally gaining strength, as do the mangolds and the cucumbers. Both of which I apparently did not photograph in their boxes. Planting all of these will have wait though until the ice-saints, a series of days around 15th of May, where temperatures might fall deep here in central Germany. Most of the tomatoes will be given away as well, I will just keep nine of them, as that is usually enough to satisfy my tomatic needs.

© avalus, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

So, what will I grow? Tomatoes, peppers, aubergine, cucumbers, strawberries, lettuce, carrots, radishes, beans, onions, garlic, peas, sweet potatoes and potatoes along with a load of different herbs and some flowers for the bumbles and the bees like tagetes, sunflowers and calendula. From th last years there is Indian canna and lavender. This sounds like a heck of a lot, but the last years showed that with the right combinations these plants work well under the conditions of my balcony in summer. Over the months there will be changes as plants ripen and get collected and replacements will be seeded, grown and planted.

Why do I do it? This is of course not enough to sustain me by a long margin, but I very much do enjoy having plants around me and growing at least a bit of sustenance. It also helps me to appreciate much work goes into farming at least a little more. I cannot collect my own rainwater and the soil is bought, so there are some environmental impacts, of course, even if I try to minimize them. All in all, it just makes me very happy to eat my own grown food and gaze upon thriving plants.

And to finish this instalment, here sprout the first beans, nasturtiums and peas!

© avalus, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Happy planting, everyone!


  1. says

    Fingers crossed for a plentiful harvest, avalos! I think that growing a bit of your own food is an excellent idea, and I also like that you have not tossed that broccoli plant straight away when you have noticed that although it is not useful to you personally anymore, it is useful to pollinators.

    I do wonder what environmental impact something like this has. I think that with a bit of central planning (composting facilities, inbuilt rainwater collection on apartment buildings etc.) this kind of thing could (and should) be made more accessible to everyone. Everyone should try to grow some veggies at least once in their lifetime, to appreciate that food does not come from supermarkets.

    It looks like you are growing on your balcony more diverse plants than I do in my huge garden :).

  2. amts says

    What a wonderful balcony!! For a variety of reasons my own food growing is limited to a small space on my deck. I manage tomatoes, peppers, peas, and a variety of squashes. But nothing like the bounty you have managed. Happy eating!

  3. says

    I saw the pics and went “Where did he get pics of my old balcony” and then I noticed that it’s just very similar architecture.
    Good luck with your plants.

  4. Ice Swimmer says

    You’ve got quite a balcony farm.

    I only started now my own balcony gardening (I used to grow stuff on a windowsill in former places), because the late spring made it difficult to determine just how much sunshine my glazed balcony gets* and then I got delayed because of an erysipelas infection, but now I’ve got the first five pots of herbs growing. Next year, I could start from seeds and go crazy.

    * = The balcony is roughly to the south, but the hillside to the south, which is higher than this building, is wooded, mostly with deciduous trees.

  5. avalus says

    Thank you all :)
    As for harvest so far: I had plenty of salad, radishes, peas and herbs but now the cucumbers and tomatoes are exploding.

    @ Charly “It looks like you are growing on your balcony more diverse plants than I do in my huge garden :).” I try to have something to harvest every day oder every other day but I don’t need the bulk. Also I love to experiment what I can intercrop. Or what I get to germinate at all… .

    @amts: Good luck!

    @ Giliell: I am a great balcony thief xD

    @Ice swimmer: There should still be enough time for things like salad, snow peas and small radishs from seeds and have a harvest this year. Go crazy! :)

  6. lumipuna says

    Lovely. Although my own balcony is a bit smaller and has a different architecture, my gardening habit and system is rather similar. The balcony is quite sunny, and also has glass walls like Ice Swimmer’s, so on sunny summers like the current one it’s too hot for many plants. I grow mostly leafy veggies in spring and autumn, and tomatoes and cucumbers in summer. The growing season is very long and warm by Finnish standards -- I just harvested some potatoes and the very first cherry tomatoes.

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