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  • Writer's pictureMartin Steel-Brown

How to Start a Balcony Garden - Our Top Tips

Updated: Dec 15, 2021

Balconies should be an extension to our home, where we can relax and enjoy

Everyday as I walk around the city and look up, I see apartment balconies either looking sparse or empty, cluttered in washing or full of half-dead and burnt plants in plastic pots that are faded and cracking.

Why are we reluctant to put the time and effort into designing our balcony gardens? I believe it comes down to 3 main sore points for apartment dwellers. Time, Cost & Experience.


We all complain about not having enough time to do most things and gardening is no exception. When it comes to gardening though, we actually have a lot of control over how much time we spend on it based on the style of garden and the plants we choose.

When I speak to a client about designing yard gardens, it's quite common to hear that they are looking for a low-maintenance garden but want a large lawn! Well, I've got news folks - these two wants do not match up! And the same goes for balcony gardens.

  • Don't plant flowering annuals, veggies, and herbs in lots of small pots if you want to keep maintenance levels down. These plants will suck the time out of you with their neediness.

  • Stick to slow-growing trees, shrubs, and perennials. They'll appreciate a little attention less ofter.

  • Larger pots although more expensive initially, will provide better moisture retention and will reduce watering requirements, saving you time.

  • Never skimp on adding compost & mulch! These are your best friends in potted gardens.

  • Pick plants that suit your balcony exposure and you'll avoid spending unnecessary time trying to keep them alive.

Finding a balance between time, money and your experience will help you to connect to your perfect balcony garden.


Gardening can be expensive, especially if you have zero patience and want an instant effect. But the cost is also relative to each individual, so work within your means.

  • Set a budget and stick to it

  • Make a plan before heading to the garden store so you don't spend money on the wrong plants or purchase pots that won't fit!

  • Measure your balcony and get to know your space. Is it full sun, part sun or full shade? Morning sun or afternoon? Undercover or exposed to the elements? These are the things you will need to know before selecting the best plants.

  • You can save a lot of money by purchasing smaller plants and waiting for them to grow into their space. Young plants need to be tendered too more often, so be prepared that your maintenance requirements will increase. You may need to weigh up the amount of time you can spare vs the extra spend to buy larger plant specimens.

  • If you're on a tight budget, keep it simple. A large feature pot with a single tree and some ground covers might be more cost-effective than a dozen smaller pots and plants. Not to mention they will take up less time maintaining.

  • Starting with fewer plants and pots and adding to your collection over time is also a sensible approach. Be sure to pick pots that are in common colors and shapes so that it is easier to match them up if the same pot isn't available next time.


A lot of us simply get overwhelmed when we consider setting up a garden and never break past this paralysis! Don't let a lack of experience hold you back from having a space where you can retreat and relax while enjoying the outdoors and fresh air. Learning to garden can be a very rewarding and addictive hobby, but it's not for everyone. Some people just want a nice garden to appreciate.

  • Decide if you want to learn how to garden or simply sit back and enjoy it

  • Seek advice at the plant store. Horticultural professionals are a wealth of knowledge! Just be prepared to answer some questions about your space and maybe even take some pictures beforehand.

  • Perhaps hiring a professional to maintain your balcony will ease the stress of looking after this yourself. Chances are the maintenance costs will be lower than you expect for such a small space.

  • Hire a professional to help you with your project. Whether you are just looking for a design to get you started or if you're seeking a full service that includes design, installation, and maintenance. Getting off on the right start will prevent mistakes that can cost you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.

I dream that one day I will look up at the towering buildings that fill our cities and will be delighted by the sights of flourishing gardens that are as unique and beautiful as the communities that live within them.

Until then, I look forward to helping educate those that also seek a greener living space. So what's stopping you from creating your own balcony oasis? Maybe I can help.

Our designers specialize in small urban gardens, terraced housing, balconies, and decks. If you are thinking about transforming your small outdoor space, don't hesitate to get in touch for a free, no-obligation consultation.

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