A balcony garden is a great way to extend your living space and to create a lush escape removed from the hustle and bustle of the City. Though warmer days may feel far off, the dead of winter is the perfect time to plan out improvements to your outdoor space as you wait for Spring’s arrival. Make your balcony flower garden as simple or complex as you want. The container and plant choices depend on your budget and maintenance skills, but you can get satisfying results even on a slim budget.
Every gardening area has microclimates. In the case of balconies, growing conditions differ significantly from the environment on the ground. Factors that influence microclimates include shade, sun, wind, and height. The latter means that flowers in a box suspended from the railing experience different growing conditions than a container placed directly on the balcony surface.
Balconies experience significant temperature fluctuations, especially when you must deal with New York City’s urban heat island conditions in the summer. Additionally, the surface of a balcony determines how much heat or cold it retains. If desired, you can influence this factor by adding floor coverings, such as mats or outdoor carpeting.
Before you start your balcony flower garden, evaluate your area in a three-dimensional manner. While larger spaces can translate to growing more flowers in larger containers, don’t forget about vertical space. To make the most of the growing area, you can attach flower boxes to railings, suspend hanging baskets, create trellises, or stack pots.
You need to find out exactly how many hours of direct sunlight each balcony area experiences by observing the space. Consider that walls and buildings can impede light in some spaces. Make sure to calculate the sun exposure close to the gardening period because it differs with the seasons. If you don’t want to wait until it’s time to plant, you can use a sun calculator to get a better idea.
New York City falls into USDA hardiness zone 7. If you prefer to leave your flowers on the balcony year-round and don’t want to plant annuals every spring, get hardy perennials that will survive the winter. To be safe and to account for varying conditions on your balcony, choose plants that are rated two zones more tolerant. For NYC, this would mean choosing zone-5 plants. Of course, you can grow a mixture of annuals and perennials, so you only replace a portion of your plants each growing season.
Buying Plants and Supplies
Before going shopping for flowers, you need to purchase good potting soil and containers to hold your plants. If you want to save money, don’t skimp on the soil. Instead, minimize expenditure by shopping for pots at second-hand stores and yard sales.
Once set with the supplies, you can pick out your actual flowers at the local garden center. If you don’t know what will thrive in your space, don’t worry. Just consult the store associates and let them know your requirements.
Consider if you want to use some of the balcony space for a seating area. A small table, a couple of wire chairs with colorful cushions and a garden gnome (or another type of decoration) put the finishing touches on your little oasis in the Big Apple. If you don’t have room for furnishings, add some outdoor string lights to complete the look.
Creating a garden on your balcony will go a long way toward making your apartment feel more like home, especially if you’ve just moved. Be sure to check out our other tips on settling into your NYC living space.