Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Patio and Small Area Gardening

"But, Viking Mom I live in an apartment/Condo/ small house with a tiny patio and don't have enough space to have a full garden."

I get this comment a lot after a discussion about gardening and growing your own food.

I would like to dispel that myth. You too can have a garden on your apartment patio. It just takes a bit of planning, creativity, muscles, and bribery.

My very first home was a two bedroom condo on the second floor. I had a small patio off my living room that was a bit wider then a washer and dryer placed side by side. How do I know? The closet for my washer and dryer was at one end of the patio.

When I decided to follow a more organic and gluten free diet I really focused on growing my own food. It was far easier to grow my  own food then travel 45 minutes to the closet size health food store which carried about 2 pints of strawberries, lots of kale and grassy looking vegetables. As I recall they had more shelves of vitamins and food supplements then actual fresh produce.


What to grow?
There is a lot one can grow on a patio or small balcony. My first suggestion is determine what will grow in the region one lives in and then add 10 degrees. Fencing, small living area, the reflection off the community pool and position of the balcony can raise the temperature of the patio and small balcony. Keep this in mind when planning.

Here is a short list of possible plants to grow.
Sugar baby watermelon

Any small squash or melon




Tomatoes and cherry tomatoes

Small potatoes


Onions, chives and garlic

Herbs and spices



Lettuce, cabbage and kale

Broccoli and cauliflower

The list above comes from a blog called

I am not sure if the blogger is still active but she has some great ideas about living on a budget.

I would also add that I have grown:
Miniature apple tree
Bird and Bee attracting flowers
Roses (especially for the rose hips)

I also discovered companion gardening before I realized it had a name. I also had a small fish pond made from pot so I had the water from that to water specific plants.

When planning think up and not out. I had some hanging trellises but I also got creative with old wood shutters, ribbon, and lots of hanging pots. Many of my herbs were in hanging pots, especially the catnip.

Experiment and be creative.


One of the problems I discovered with having such a huge garden on a second story balcony was drainage. My neighbor below me wasn't thrilled about having so much water drain over the side of my balcony onto his patio. 

What evolved was a rather creative solution.
Hot water heaters have huge pans that have drainage plugs. The drainage plugs are the right size to thread white PVC pipe to it for drainage. I placed my largest pots in the pans and then "strung" them together with PVC pipe. The drainage pipe then ran down the side of our building and drained into the gardens below. I discovered that I had to raise the larger pots a bit to let gravity work easier. Smaller pots were taken down and watered inside the larger pots. 

Since my washer and dryer were also on the patio I was able to place a faucet split on the washer faucet. I was able to run a small hose from the washer to the larger pots instead of hauling watering cans of water back and forth. I was surprised to find at the Home Depot that there are actually small "patio hoses." 

I wanted the patio/balcony to also look pretty but I also knew I would have to haul the large pots up a flight of stairs to the condo. I found at Armstrong Nursery plastic pots that looked ceramic. My large pots were actually these plastic pots. Smaller ceramic pots were then placed as accents around these larger pots. 


My balcony/patio was located on the second story of my complex.  Of course, there was no natural soil up on the patio/balcony. This meant I had to haul many bags of soil up the flight of stairs and any other supplies I needed. My neighbors were always amused at what I was actually able to get up on the balcony/patio. 


Most of my neighbors kept small house plants or one or two decorative plants. There may have been one or two tomato and basil plants. I think I was the only full garden.  My very patient neighbor down stairs of me was the first to be bribed with fresh tomatoes, herbs and corn. The garden became a source of entertainment and brought our "court yard" community together. One neighbor was always eager to volunteer to water the garden when I was away for the chance to eat the raspberries. 

It took a lot of work to create and maintain, but the end result was so worth the effort. I was sad to leave it and so where the neighbors. When I was packing up to leave I did gift my down stairs neighbor the raspberry plant one of the pots of herbs. He turned out to be an awesome neighbor.

Grow a Garden!

Bless Bless

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