Starting a California Coastal Apartment Balcony Food Garden - Knowledgebase Question

Rancho Santa Margarita, CA (Zone 9B)
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Question by issuesandtru
September 8, 2007
Hi! We live in an apartment (2nd story) about 5-10 miles from the coast in Southern California (Rancho Santa Margarita).

We would like to start a small food and possibly flower garden on our covered balcony (it is upstairs). It only receives afternoon sun. We were hoping to grow some Washington Cherry tomatoes and Sugar Snap Peas for our salads.

We don't want to use

Answer from NGA
September 8, 2007
If you don't have space for a vegetable garden, you can raise fresh, nutritious, homegrown vegetables in containers. A windowsill, patio, balcony, or doorstep can provide sufficient space for a productive container garden.

You'll want to grow vegetables that take up little space, such as carrots, radishes, and lettuce, or crops that bear fruits over a period of time, such as tomatoes and peppers, for best use of space and containers. Dwarf or miniature varieties often mature and bear fruit earlier, but most do not produce as well overall as standard varieties. With increasing interest in container gardening, plant breeders and seed companies are working on vegetables specifically bred for container culture. These varieties are not necessarily miniature or dwarf and may produce as well as standard types if cared for properly.

The amount of sunlight your container garden receives determines what crops can be grown. Generally, root crops and leaf crops can tolerate partial shade, but vegetables grown for their fruits generally need at least five hours of full, direct sunlight each day and perform best with 8 to 10 hours. Available light can be increased somewhat by providing reflective materials around the plants (aluminum foil, white-painted surfaces, marble chips, etc.).

Here are some veggies to consider, along with days to maturity, Full Sun or Part Sun light requirements, and minimum container size per plant:
Beans, bush; Full Sun, 2 gal. container, 45-60 days to maturity.
Beets, FS/PS 1/2 gal., 50-60 days.
Carrots; FS/PS, 1 qt., 65-80, make several plantings at two-week intervals for season long harvesting.
Cabbage; FS/PS, 5 gal., 65-120 days to maturity, Requires fertile soil.
Chard, Swiss; FS/PS, 1/2 gal., 30-40 days, Harvest outside leaves for long yield.
Cucumbers; FS, 5 gal., 70-80 days, be sure to support vining types on trellis or netting.
Eggplant; FS, 5 gal. 75-100 days, Requires fertile soil.
Kale; FS/PS, 5 gal., 55-65, Harvest outside leaves to prolong harvest.
Lettuce, leaf, PS, 1/2 gal, 30-35 days.
Mustard greens; PS, 1/2 gal., 35-40 days. Make several plantings at two-week intervals to harvest over a long season.
Onions; FS/PS, 1/2 gal., 70-100 days, requires lots of moisture
Peppers; FS, 2 gal. per plant, 110-120 days, requires hot weather
Radishes; FS/PS, 1 pint, 25-35 days, make sSeveral plantings atekly intervals
Squash; FS, 1gal per plant, 50-60 days to maturity; Plant only bush types.
Tomatoes; FS, 5 gal. container per plant, 55-100 days to maturity, Stake and prune or cage.
Tomatoes, cherry; FS, 1 gal. container per plant, 55-100 days to maturity.
Turnips, FS/PS, 3 gal., 30-60 days, Harvest leaves and roots.

Hope this information provides lots of guidance!

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