Gardening Update: balcony gardening basics

As I’ve mentioned before, I started my balcony garden 3 years ago. Apart from the chives, basil (miraculously) and mint, all the plants die over the summer and I start from scratch in September. Our balcony really is pretty small, as you can see below, and I want to show you just how much I can fit on it. Three of us had lunch out here yesterday- it’s a squeeze, but it works! I only get about 2 hours of direct sun on a small part of my balcony but that seems to be enough even for chillies and tomatoes in this hot climate.

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I start my vegetables in a seed tray. These are really easy. You fill them with soil from the garden centre, in this case, Dubai Garden Centre, water the soil, and then just pop in a seed or two per hole at the depth stated on the packet. I keep mine in the least windy part of the balcony, and in the shadiest part. I feel that in the Gulf we get a lot of indirect sunlight in the shade (my husband got burnt lying in the shade last week!) so they don’t need to be in the strong light. The light bounces off the buildings and glass all around to provide enough for growth. I water them once or twice a day to make sure the soil doesn’t dry out and within a few days I usually have seeds poking through the soil.

This year I started my herbs in individual small pots. I chose the herbs I use the most in the kitchen, coriander, parsley, basil, mint, oregano and thyme. I planted them individually so that I can move them around according to how much light they need, so that one won’t overpower another and to allow me to control how much water each receives. The coriander and thyme are in the shadiest part of the garden doing well. The thyme needs very little watering. I’ve planted a lot this year as I use it every day in salad and didn’t have enough last year. The parsley sits on the table and is mostly in shade. The oregano is in partial shade.

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I put the chillies in the place they’ll receive the most sun, and the tomatoes are also getting as much as possible. There is one corner where I don’t think they’ll get any direct sun at all, but we shall see how they do.

I repotted the chillies and tomatoes about a week ago and they’re all looking strong. Only the super sioux didn’t come through strong enough to replant, which surprises me as they’re supposed to be most suited to the desert.

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As you can see in the photos, I’m experimenting with stakes and cages for my tomatoes. It’s difficult to get something strong and stable enough to withhold the strong winds we get up here. I’m hoping these will work. The tallest look like they’ll be best and were about 80AED from Ace Hardware. The bamboo is very stable and strong, but I’m not sure it will provide enough surface area for the tomatoes. The sticks were only 10AED each from Satwa.

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And yes- that is the Burj Khalifa in the background. The world’s tallest building!

Do you have any questions? Let me know in the comments below. What’s your favourite thing to grow on your balcony? What have you had most success with?

2 thoughts on “Gardening Update: balcony gardening basics

  1. Wow will you give me a tour if your tiny garden one day? Love the plants and the view. Burj Khalifa.
    Your post has encouraged me to grow herbs and tomatoes. No balcony at my place will it be possible to grow indoors?

    • Sure! You wouldn’t be able to grow tomatoes inside I don’t think because of the air conditioning, but herbs are famous for doing well on windowsills. If you’re struggling to grow them from seed I would recommend buying the plants and trying with those. Good luck! Let me know how you get on 🙂

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