Time to get your balcony garden ready for planting.
Rules: ask the building management or homeowner’s association if there are any rules about having planters on your balcony. You don’t want to invest money in pots and soil and not be able to use them.
Containers: Check last year’s containers for cracks or sun-fading. If you are buying new containers check out this link about container gardening basics
When researching containers be aware that some articles may focus on patio containers – where weight and water run-off is not a consideration. This link to house plant containers has useful information that could be applied to balcony containers.
You can buy up-scale containers that are light-weight plastic but look like ceramic or stone. Most of these do not have a drainage hole. Planting directly into these containers you run the risk of over-watering and drowning your plants. It is best to put a saucer inside this pot and another container with a drain hole.
If you would rather re-use and re-purpose – local thrift stores have many different types and sizes of pots and planters. Just wash them out with regular dish soap. In most cases that is sufficient.
Pots with a drainage hole need a saucer under them. You do not want to water your plants and have the excess drip down into your neighbor’s balcony. Deep saucers with sides at least an inch or more will work the best. You can pour water into the saucer and the plant will soak it up from the bottom.
Pot sizes: You can use large pots on your balcony if you do not fill them completely with soil. Most annual plants and culinary herbs only about 6 inches of soil. Fill the bottom of your 2 foot tall container with empty water bottles or other light weight items that will take up room and not break down in the soil. You can top off the container with a saucer and a pot with the plants in it. Or you could top with a saucer and then fill the top with soil. Some soil and water will drip down into the bottom of your container but that will not usually not cause any problems.
Check back next month to hear about soil and plants or you can jump ahead to more detailed information in this Colorado State University Fact Sheet on container gardening.