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May 21, 2009 10:18 PM

Los Angeles Balcony Garden -- What's Idiot-proof?

I have some beautiful balcony containers and I'd like to plant some edibles, but I don't have the time to really dote on my plants. I've had success with parsley in the past, and I have a jalapeno plant that seems to be in good shape (although the other 3 I planted refuse to flower). Any recommendations would be much appreciated. Thanks.

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  1. In big enough pots, you could grow tomatoes. There are varieties specifically bred for containers (Patio is one), but you can also grow regular plants or heirlooms. The main thing -- and this doesn't take a lot of time -- is that you'll want to keep your tomatoes pruned to one or two main stems. They'll often grow 5 to 6 main stems, but this makes the plant way too unwieldy, even if it's in the ground.

    A really good article about pruning tomatoes is here: I refer to it often.

    Here's some info on growing tomatoes in containers:

    You could also grow basil very easily.

    And more peppers. They'll do fine in pots.

    There are some cucumber varieties that do well in containers too. http://www.container-gardening-tips.c...

    General information on growing veggies in containers:

    1 Reply
    1. re: mudster

      Reading this thread, and your response, mudster, has emboldened me to go ahead and do a container garden this summer. (I've been shopping prices for containers for months, and was truly taken aback by some of the costs. But seeing I can use 5-gallon plastic utility pails is the answer for me!)

      Found a great source for heirloom seeds. And I'm getting excited.


    2. Check out the Burpee catalog to get an idea of veg bred for container growing. But you don't have to be limited to that. Also, if you really get into it, be aware of how much weight your balcony can hold. Once you have your stuff planted it really only requires minimal time- regular watering and feeding, an occasional pinching back for some. For the most part you'll never have to weed! Besides containers, I've grown directly in bags of soil laid flat. Just cut a big rectangle out of the top side of the bag, poke holes through the soil and plastic on the underside for drainage, and plant. I've grown "Short 'n Sweet" carrots, leaf and head lettuce, spinach, onions, beets, mini-bell peppers and various squash this way. Radishes don't do well using this method, the soil's too rich for them. All leaf, no radish. I've also trained cherry tomato and cucumber vines planted in large pots as an edible privacy/sun screen. The cherry tomato did exceedingly well at that. From one plant I trained certain shoots up trellis strings, pinched off the rest and had more tomatoes than I knew what to do with! It covered an area 5' wide by 7' tall.

      1. nasturiums.
        easy to grow from seed (soak them awhile before planting), pretty, and both flowers and leaves edible as salad greens.

        1. I am still getting the hang of edible gardening, and (unfortunately) I am also contained to a patio for my plants. This time of year, my patio gets full sun all day--what is your sun situation like? Most edibles (that I am aware of anyway) need a LOT of sun...

          Right now I have (all grouped together in containers):
          - mint and chives
          - italian parsley, thyme, and rosemary
          - two varieties of variegated sage
          - basil, curly parsley, dill
          - tomatoes--Patio, and a cherry variety
          - Blue lake green beans (this is probably the saddest of the lot--they must not like containers)
          - spinach and chard--the chard is still going strong, but the spinach is done I think for the Summer. Where you live though you may still have some time left if its not too hot? The chard has been great for me--I grew it from seed, it just keeps producing, and it is so tasty in my morning omelets with a few mushrooms and swiss.

          I am definitely not a "doter", but the thing I really have learned is that all these edibles need tons of water--not as in saturating every day, but every second/third day once established. I live in SoCal and am crazy water-conscious, so most of my garden is drought-tolerant and only gets watered once a week unless we are having a heat wave. The edibles definitely need more attention.

          Good, organic compost mixed with org potting soil always is imperative as well. And lots of harvesting too...

          1. Im in a similar situation with a small balcony. A friend of mine suggested a tomato planter that you hang upside down. I have had quite a bit of success with them last spring and summer and will be using them this coming spring (Im in UK).

            There is a good article here as well as a tutorial on how to make your own planter ( But I see you don't want to devote alot of time to it and neither did I so you can buy ready made planters quite cheaply at most garden stores now.

            The article does have some good info as to why these things are a practical way to grow tomatoes on a balcony.