Life on the balcony

Published: May 30, 2011

Living in an apartment must not keep you away from having a healthy green space.

The number of apartments is growing with increasing population. More buildings usually means less green spaces and a greyer city.

Nonetheless, living in an apartment must not keep you away from having a healthy green space. Even small spaces such as a balcony can become a rewarding and refreshing garden of your own. All you need is some planning.

What do you want from your garden?

Ask yourself, which type of garden you would like to walk into each day? This mostly depends on the space, sun, wind exposure and the irrigation system. But first thing is first.

Weight management: Firstly, find out how much weight your balcony can hold. Use light weight containers and compost. Good quantity plastic pots are one option.

Make most of the space you have: Figure out what else you need your balcony for. You can have your garden, a space to dry clothes and a place to sit and enjoy your garden.

  • Use a detachable robe or a folding stand for drying clothes that you can hide when it’s not needed.
  • Have stools in your balcony that can be placed neatly in a corner without making your garden crowded.
  • Use your balcony walls to maximize your space. Hanging baskets and flowering vines can do the job beautifully.
  • Install a cement slab or a wooden plank on some blocks to have extra space to put your plants. Space under it can become your storage for empty pots, a compost bin or a watering can.
  • Don’t get carried away. A crowded garden will not be pleasing and hard to maintain.

Sun and wind exposure: It is very important to know how much wind and sun your balcony receives each day before you go on plant shopping.

Strong winds will not be liked by most of the plant. Place your pots beside the walls which will act as a wind breaker.

Sun exposure is not an issue because nature has produced plants with different needs when it comes to sunlight. If your balcony has full exposure, you can grow almost everything in it successfully, be it crops or flowers.

If your balcony receives partial sunlight, you will have a whole new range of plants to choose from. You can grow all sorts of herbs, orchids, ferns and vegetables that enjoy indirect sunlight.

Most apartments have a combination of such spaces that means one can grow anything that they like.

Effective watering: Your plants need pure water. If your apartment does not offer you drinkable water and you are purchasing water for consumption then you can easily purify your saline water with low priced but good quality products available in the market.

Also keep in mind the slope of your balcony for drainage. Ideally, you will not flood your floor with water by using a watering can.

Grow crops in the balcony: Grow your own food. You can try different combination of vegetables in a single pot. Plant radishes and leaf lettuce together to save space. Have at least two pots of tomatoes all the time. Eggplants, cucumber, pepper, chillies and lemon are must haves.

You can use hanging baskets to grow herbs that you use every day like coriander, mint, fenugreek etcetera. Some fruiting trees like cheeko will also do great in a container.

Do include some fragrant flowers that will invite butterflies and bees and will also make your house smell like heaven.

I have a 11×4 feet balcony in which I am presently growing bitter gourd, pumpkin, tomatoes, eggplants, cucumber, celery, mints, coriander, fenugreek, chives, basil, parsley, lemon grass, cardamom, lemon and cheeko as edibles and, orchids, ferns, cactus, jasmine and roses to add more life to my balcony.

Add life to your balcony too.

Happy gardening!


Zahra Ali

A freelance writer, gardening teacher and environmentalist. She has been spreading the message of natural living through her blog 'Crops in Pots' since 2008

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Moise

    Thanks. Something good on Tribune blogs. Grow our own vegetables healthy, cheap and walk toward self sustainability. We have example of North Korea and Cuba, when USSR economy collapsed Korean and Cuban economy collapsed as well. While North Korean stuck to planned economy rationing Cubans were asked to grow their own food in balcony, rooftops and vacant plots. Result North Korean starved and Cuban ate the healthiest food ever in their life.Recommend

  • Khalid Rahim

    Hello Zahra, What if your spouse disagree and feels plants are menace creating bugs and dirt and taking all that space on the balcony? I lived abroad for two decades and helped many a household grow vegetables in small and large containers, use of hydrophonics and
    creating your small orchard. Unfortunately I have noticed that with all the nurseries blooming
    in major cities the prices reach Pluto for an average person to create a greenhouse on their
    balcony. Do you know any NGO in Islamabad that strongly believes in protecting the Ozone
    and God’s gift of evergreen forests and natural vegetation.Recommend

  • ABC

    Can you post pictures of your sabzi garden?Recommend


    The inflation is badly hurting our living as prices of vegetables keep growing out of our reach. Why is the reason I want to alos grow vegetables. Please mention names of veg which can be grown in flats in Karachi. Also mention there Urdu names. I want to grow tomatoes, loki, adrak, etc.Recommend

  • Zahra

    @ Khalid I think you mean to ask me what to do if “your” spouse isn’t nature friendly. :) Well inspire her. Plants are a blessing. You can always start your own nursery by taking cuttings and sowing seeds. In Islamabad Vegegarden network is very active in promoting organic farming techniques.

    @ ABC visit to look at my plants.

    @ Maleeha you are right. you can start by sowing baigan and timatar. Later when it gets bit colder, sow herbs and lettuce.

    I hope it helps.Recommend