Not everyone who lives in Queen West condos is a busy urban professional
with no time or eyes for anything not displayed on the screen of a Blackberry.
Some otherwise nature-loving, outdoorsy people can find themselves living in
an apartment or condo of financial necessity or in order to be close to work,
hospitals, and relatives. If you're one of the growing numbers of displaced
green thumbs, don't despair of ever seeing plants again that don't
belong to a city park or arboretum. You can plant your own garden right on your
balcony, and we can help you get started.
The first, and often most overlooked, step in planning a balcony garden is
finding out what its limitations will be. This includes not just finding out
whether the city has rules defining how high above Toronto patio sets are
allowed to be, but also what your building superintendent has to say about balcony
gardens. They may be prohibited or they may have size and weight limitations
due to the structural strength of the balconies themselves. You should also
monitor how much sun your balcony gets per day (anything less than six hours
is no good) and improvise a wind sock to see how strong the winds usually are.
Once you've determined that the potting soil from your balcony garden
won't end up as a fine dusting over a London, Ontario real estate office
a hundred kilometers away due to unusual upper-level winds, you can start thinking
about what kinds of flowers you want to plant in your balcony garden. Even if
your balcony has relatively calm winds you'll want to select hardier plants
because most of Canada is pretty cold and dry on average, and it only gets worse
the higher up you get. Dwarf shrubs and trees, herbs, and many flowering annuals
are a good choice.
When arranging your balcony garden, you won't have as many options as
you would if you had been able to afford that house for sale. Toronto beach
balconies, even though the view is worth the lack of space, are still relatively
compact. You'll therefore need to choose small, tough containers that
will resist spilling over and showering passersby with geraniums and clumps
of soil every time the wind picks up. Hanging baskets on the ceiling and window
boxes on the rail are acceptable as long as they're firmly anchored and
not too heavy. Remember not to clutter the space. You don't want to trip
yourself up when you come out to water the plants.
Just as engineers carefully consider the weight of Toronto boardwalk homes
before allowing them to be built on an infill, you must conserve weight on your
balcony garden. Soil, especially wet soil, is very heavy, so to save weight,
fill the bottom of the planter with plastic or wood chips and cover with fabric
before adding dirt. You'll also want to invest in a watering can, as it's
unlikely you'll have a hose extension twenty stories up.