Balcony vegetable patch
March 19, 2014 5:08 AM   Subscribe

I live in an apartment and am thinking about growing vegetables in containers, not sure where to start!

I'm on the 8th floor so it isn't that much windier than on the ground, but I get very little direct sunlight because of the angle of my building. I'm in France so the climate isn't too extreme.

Can anyone recommend vegetables that would grow well in these conditions? Blog recommendations for beginner gardeners would be great too.
posted by ellieBOA to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Plants need 6 - 8 hours of direct sunlight to grow well. That being said, you might be able to grow lettuce as it has a short growth time. Good luck!
posted by KathyK at 5:18 AM on March 19, 2014

Best answer: Lettuces, spinach, and other cool-weather leafy greens are probably the best place to start. Tomatoes, peppers and herbs will be hard without better light.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 5:34 AM on March 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Give a shot to chards and spinach maybe, for low sun-- put up a bamboo screen if you get a lot of wind. But if it's REALLY low sun brace yourself for sadness.. there's a lot of decent plants for low sun but few edible ones I'm afraid.
I like the Urban Organic Gardener for tips and pics.
posted by Erasmouse at 5:46 AM on March 19, 2014

Best answer: In addition to lettuce you might give a try to m√Ęche. It's relatively unknown in the US except among serious gardeners but it's more popular in France (hence the French name!) so you should be able to find seeds. It grows best in fall/spring and is grown over winter in warmer climates so it is capable of maturing even when light conditions are naturally lower. It's also a small plant (so don't expect huge yields) that matures quickly.
posted by drlith at 6:04 AM on March 19, 2014

Best answer: I get very little direct sunlight because of the angle of my building

Depending on the layout and the compass direction, maybe you can maneuver window boxes to get your plants out from the shadows and into the sun. (Or... a big mirror? Could a mirror or two mounted securely in the right places increase the sunlight directed on to your growing area?)

If you talk to building management, maybe they will let you have a spot on the roof or another balcony for putting out a few containers. Or a secure place on the grounds of the building? Or in a sunny window in some common area of the building but not likely to be picked over by others in the building?
posted by pracowity at 6:30 AM on March 19, 2014

Best answer: One herb that can do ok with some shade is mint. Keep it in its own large pot because it's an aggressive space hog.

If you do get *some* sun, you could also look into edible flowers like nasturtiums.
posted by hilatron at 6:33 AM on March 19, 2014

Best answer: Leafy greens are really your best bet, because if the plant grows, you'll have something to harvest. In general, it takes a lot of energy for a plant to make a flower, and then convert it to fruit, so the less sun there is, the less likely that a fruit-type plant (tomato, pepper, squash, cucumber, melon, etc) would actually reproduce and give you something to eat; beans and peas are probably the lowest-sun end of that spectrum, tomatoes and peppers the highest. Root vegetables are in general slightly higher-sun than leaves, but lower-sun than fruits, so that (carrots, beets, scallions, garlic) might work out okay.
posted by aimedwander at 6:44 AM on March 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Check out Grow Great Grub: Organic Food from Small Spaces. It has a lot of great information. I like how it tells you not only what will do well in containers but how efficient it is to grow something in containers. (Or, inefficient in the case of, say, broccoli.)
posted by sevenless at 7:42 AM on March 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

A friend has a balcony with no direct sun, and can only grow chives.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 10:31 AM on March 19, 2014

Be sure to give your plants enough root space. I like to use 18 gallon rubbermaid boxes for this.

Stab holes in the bottom with a knife for drainage.
posted by oceanjesse at 11:43 AM on March 19, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for all the advice everyone, will check out the links and see if this is doable!
posted by ellieBOA at 2:56 PM on March 19, 2014

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