Ask a Question forum: Balcony Vegetable Garden: Proactive Measures

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Name: Deneen
Chicagoland suburbs (Zone 5b)
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DeneenScene
Jun 5, 2015 5:27 PM CST
Please share favorite balcony container gardening tips. I have grown vegetable gardens in the past; but, always with a yard (i.e., lettuce/greens/herbs in container, Roma tomatoes, bell peppers, etc. in the ground). But, I am new to the balcony gardening scene having downsized from a home with a yard to a condo with a sunny, 25-foot balcony that faces west with an unobstructed view. There is a tall evergreen-type tree at the very end of the south side of the balcony that is home to birds and I occasionally see a squirrel on the balcony. So, I’m starting with just a few plants this year: two Big Beef tomatoes, two bell peppers, one cilantro & a few garlic cloves pushed into the dirt. With the fickle weather we’ve had, right now they are happy indoors in front of long, sliding glass door with lots of sun. If all goes well, I'll plant lettuce later.

A woman wrote about how she planted tomatoes in a deck container. As soon as the tomatoes approached maturity, the squirrels picked them & sat outside her kitchen window munching them in her face. I don’t wanna be THAT woman. You will hear me screaming from miles away. LOL! Any successful hints, tips or hacks you care to share about anything related to a balcony garden? Please … do tell. I appreciate you! Pardon this long post … I’m trying to be proactive.

Pests: Don’t want this garden to become a salad bar for squirrel(s?), birds, aphids, etc. I know that garlic & marigolds are deterrents (of what, I don’t remember). Just read that diatomaceous earth (which I have on hand) sprinkled on top of soil runs interference. Also, read that people have used their hair cut clippings mixed into top of the soil as a deterrent as well (cringed as I typed that). What works for you?

Water: Am I nuts to try to do this without buying self-watering pots (balcony; so, no water hose)?
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Now it shall spring forth …" Isaiah 43:19
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Jun 6, 2015 8:51 AM CST
Just like regular in-ground gardening, the only thing that really keeps the squirrels and birds out of your tomatoes would be fencing around your plants. Watering will be critical especially with your exposure but I have mixed emotions about self-watering pots, perhaps keeping the soil wet all of the time. I don't know that DE would be a deterrent to the pests that you mention.
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
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Weedwhacker
Jun 6, 2015 4:48 PM CST
Welcome to All Things Plants, Deneen!

You might want to experiment a bit with self-watering versus "regular" pots/planters. I have flower boxes hanging on our deck railing, which is on the south side of our house; I could NEVER keep anything growing in them until I got self-watering planters, they have been a literal life saver!

I do agree that you're going to need to somehow protect the plants from the squirrels if they're visiting... maybe something as simple as some "floating row cover" would work for you. Cayenne pepper may also help deter them -- I've read that will help with keeping them out of the bird seed. I think DE is pretty much a deterrent for slugs (which I wouldn't think you'd have a problem with there, unless maybe if you dig soil from someone's garden to put in the planters), and I've heard of, and tried, using hair clippings to deter deer (didn't work that well here), but I wouldn't imagine that would be a concern, either!

Every year is a learning curve, no matter where we have our garden! Smiling
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Name: woofie
NE WA (Zone 5a)
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woofie
Jun 7, 2015 9:19 AM CST
Earthboxes work really well for tomatoes, and you can get them with wheels to make them easier to move if necessary. They're a bit expensive, but they last for years.
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