Balcony Vegetable Garden: Small Space, Large Savings

A balcony vegetable garden can save you so much money! You don’t need to feel limited by living in an apartment. I grow numerous herbs and vegetables on my balcony and there are many people doing it successfully in spaces even smaller than mine. Here I’ll share what I have grown and how much money it saves me, to grow my own food.

Introduction – Balcony Vegetable Gardening

Yes, a balcony has limited space and you can’t place plants in the ground, but with a few large pots, some good potting soil, enough sun, frequent watering and a willingness to experiment, try, fail and try again, you can grow many herbs, you can grow vegetables, some fruit trees and various florals too.

You could get the kids involved, as it’s a wonderful learning experience for them too, and ask them what they might like to grow. If the kids have some input into what is being grown, and they take some ownership over caring for the plants (such as watering them), not only will they learn important life skills and science concepts, they will develop a respect for sustainable practices, and probably be more willing to eat the fresh produce once it’s time for harvesting!

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balcony vegetable garden
My beautiful balcony vegetable garden! Here you can see my lemons, avocado tree, rosemary, spring onions and sanseveria

What herbs and vegetables do I grow on my Balcony Vegetable Garden?

In the past couple of years, I have successfully grown the following on my small balcony garden:

  • Leafy greens such as lettuce, spinach and endive
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Root vegetables such as beetroot and carrot varieties
  • Lemon trees (dwarf varieties)
  • Beans
  • Basil
  • Mint
  • Rosemary
  • Chives and spring onions
  • Lemongrass
  • Chilli
  • Snow peas
  • Avocado
  • Nasturtium
balcony vegetable garden
My dwarf lemon trees getting some sun
balcony vegetable garden
My tastiest cherry tomatoes ever!
balcony vegetable garden
All from my balcony garden – spinach, basil, spring onions

I have also grown the following non edibles:

  • Geranium
  • Succulents such as Sansevieria, Jade and Cactus
  • Palm trees

I have also seen my neighbours grow some other herbs and vegetables on their balcony gardens:

  • Pepper plants
  • Pole beans
  • Mango
  • Blueberries
  • Cucumbers
  • Zucchini
  • Rhubarb
  • Green onions
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Asian greens such as bok choy
balcony vegetable garden
The bees love my basil! This is a perennial basil which is much easier to keep alive!

“There are no gardening mistakes, only experiments”

Janet Kilburn Phillips

How much money can really be saved by growing a balcony vegetable garden?

Well, this depends on how much you are going to plant, how much you can harvest and how often you may have been buying that particular herb or vegetable from the supermarket.

For me, if I wasn’t growing it, I would be regularly buying fresh basil, onions, tomatoes, greens and lemons at a minimum. The other things I may buy less often, but currently the prices for those regular items are as follows:

Basil bunch: $3

Lemons: $3 (500g pack)

Leafy greens: $4.50 per large bag

Spring onions: $2.80 per bunch

Cherry tomatoes: $3.90 per small punnet

(Prices sourced from Woolworths online – April 2022)

Considering I would be buying at least one of these items per week for myself and my son, that’s a saving of more than $17 per week, before taking into account all the other items I’m growing which I use less often than these regular items.

Of course, if I’m having an awesome harvest of snow peas because they’re in season, we’ll either be eating them raw for afternoon tea while still on the balcony, or I’ll find recipes to add them to!

balcony vegetable garden
Some funny shaped carrots from one of my pots!
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Are there some herbs and vegetables that don’t grow well in balcony gardens?

There are some vegetables and fruit trees that grow better in the ground. Though it’s not always the case, generally, root crops such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, some onions and some of the climbing varieties such as larger tomatoes will need quite a lot of space and may do better in the ground than in pots. Many fruit trees will also do better in the ground as the root systems need plenty of space to spread out. My dwarf lemon trees have done quite well, and you can look for dwarf varieties of many types of fruits but they are still probably better off in the ground.

You also need to consider the soil you’re using – potting mix will work better for most herbs in the pots you’re using as garden soil can take longer to dry out which may not be ideal for some herbs.

Can a vegetable garden work on any balcony?

This depends on what you’re trying to grow. It also depends if your balcony receives direct sun or whether it’s shadier. Most vegetables and herbs will need some sun during the day, with some needing just partial sun and other varieties such as lemons and tomatoes requiring full sun and regular watering.

balcony vegetable garden
Tomatoes need lots of sun!

There is no harm in trying though!

Some herbs are very easy to grow – some you can grow inside your kitchen, maybe in a sunny spot by a window.

You can create your own vegetable garden in even the smallest of balconies by taking advantage of height with a trellis-like structure, you can opt for small containers rather than large pots, and you can look at wall space and stacked pots if you don’t have much floor space.

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Make sure you consider seasonal veggies for a higher success rate, and avoid planting too many things close together – root systems need space to spread out for optimal growth.

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There are a lot of examples online you can use for ideas and inspiration for balcony gardening too. Try Pinterest for a start!

Gardening is cheaper than therapy and you get tomatoes

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How do you maximize space in a balcony garden?

First, assess your space and what may be possible. Have a look at your floor space, your wall space and which spots receive sun. Plan out something basic as you can always change and adjust things as you go.

You can utilize raised beds, you can use balcony planters on your railing, but you may need to get permission from your body corporate before you do this, as it is not permitted in some places.

You can definitely use height to your advantage as well as wall space, or use stakes in pots to grow climbing varieties. Make sure you consider if your balcony may be prone to windy conditions, as this can affect how you design your space.

You can use shelves to stack pots attractively and this maximises space well. You can also stack circular pots on top of each other in a grid like pattern, so that the water from the top pots trickles down into below pots, obviously without hindering the growing space of the plant.

What do I need to start my own balcony garden?

To get started with your own balcony veggie garden, have a think about what you would like to grow. What do you eat a lot of or what do you buy a lot of, that you could grow, to save money?

Choosing pots will depend on how much space you have – you can opt for large round ones, slim rectangular planters (great for along a wall or railing), or you can just choose different size containers and make sure they have drain holes.

Most vegetables need good drainage and direct sunlight as well as plenty of watering but you also need to ensure that excess water can drain into a tray. If you are absent for long periods and there’s nobody to water the plants for you, you may want to consider a drip irrigation system but this can be involved and may not be necessary if you’re home most of the time.

So to summarise, you will probably need:

  • Pots and/or plastic containers, and trays for underneath for good drainage
  • Potting mix
  • Some basic garden tools – a shovel, watering can, stakes
  • Seeds or seedlings
  • Some fish emulsion (great when growing vegetables)

You should be able to get all of these items in most hardware stores.

balcony vegetable garden
My sunny balcony is one of my favourite places to be!
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Summary – My Balcony Vegetable Garden

Vegetable gardening doesn’t have to be only for those with a backyard – many vegetables, fruits, herbs and other plants can be grown successfully in an outdoor space such as a balcony.

balcony vegetable garden
Cherry tomatoes and rosemary, ready for roasting!

Growing your own food can save you a lot of money, it can help to teach children some important lessons about sustainable living and caring for their environment and can be a very relaxing, therapeutic way to fill your bucket too! You can read about Bucket Filling in my article here.

So, collect a few pots, some potting mix, some seeds or seedlings and get planting! There’s so much you can do, even in a small space. If you need more room, just go vertical! Don’t forget to get the kids involved too! It’s a great way to reduce screen time and teach them some vital life skills.

Have you tried to grow veggies? What kind of herbs or vegetables did you grow? What did you find challenging? Let me know in the comments!

2 thoughts on “Balcony Vegetable Garden: Small Space, Large Savings

  1. Awesome work Liz! You know what, even here in Adelaide I have seen lemons at $30/kg, so a half dozen tiny ones even came in at like $15 for me once! I was like Wtf (my lemon trees and the old faithful local one with a branch hanging over the fence was already stripped lol).

    1. Thank you CaptainFi! Hahaha, did you strip that tree?? Lol. I LOVE when I start seeing blossoms on my lemon trees, and when I can finally harvest them, it’s SO satisfying! I swear, they taste so much better too! If I really take care of the lemon trees, they save me so much by producing bountifully! I use them so much for cooking, and I always add it to my green tea. : )

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