Balcony Vegetable Gardening In The City - Knowledgebase Question

New York, NY
Question by lyoshida
October 15, 2000
I live in New York City and recently moved to an apartment with a balcony!!! We are on the 17th floor and the balcony faces West. We have a very open view and get some direct sunlight during the day and a lot of indirect sunlight.

Next spring I would like to try my hand at growing tomatoes, zucchini and bell peppers on my new balcony.

- Is it possible to grow these vegetables using pots?

- Are special "potted" varieties of each of these sold?

- How large a pot should I use for each?

- When should I begin growing these plants, and should I start them inside first?

Thank you.


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Answer from NGA
October 15, 2000

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You should be able to grow tomatoes and peppers in large containers, however zucchini may be problematic in that it is a rather huge plant. You will need containers of at least five gallon size with a half barrel being better. This is one case where bigger is definitely better.

You can start the tomatoes and peppers indoors, about twelve weeks in advance of your frost date for peppers and about ten weeks for the tomatoes. Squash are normally direct seeded because they grow so quickly. If you plan to start your own, you will have best results using supplemental lighting rather than relying on the window sill.

With a balcony situation and in the city, a frequent problem is wind. Wind is very drying and so you may need to consider protection from that when setting out your plants. Another consideration is that afternoon sun can be very hot, especially when reflected off a building. Again, this is drying and also stressful. Using large containers and possibly including the water holding polymer crystals int he potting soil should help.

For more hints on container growing, you could search the Q&A and library archive for the specific plants you are interested in or take a look at a book or two about container growing. One I particularly like is Container Growing for Dummies by Bill Marken, Dummy Press, ISBN: 0764550578. In it there are many useful tips as well as general instructions about containers, a variety of plants including vegetables and herbs and also very important, the finer points of potting soil.

Good luck on that balcony!

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