How to Grow Herbs and Vegetables in an Apartment or Balcony this Fall
I love visiting farmers' markets every fall and picking up fresh herbs and veggies covered in bits of earth. Everyone thinks you can only grow veggies in the spring and summer but the truth is you can grow your own crops starting in the fall. Urban gardening is also the perfect hobby and may save you money on your grocery bill.
Even if you live in a city apartment with limited space and sunlight, many items are just as possible to grow especially herbs and small vegetables like beans, and root vegetables like beets, carrots, and onions and even cherry tomatoes. There are many herbs and some veggies that thrive on balconies, windowsills or fire escapes.
Since it’s already September it’s best to skip trying to grow them from seeds and visit your local garden center, nursery or independent flower shop selling items already in pots. Everything is on sale now that it's past the prime growing season. I recently purchased several herbs and with some loving care, they have already doubled in size.
If it’s your first time growing herbs on your balcony here are a few things you may need:
- Organic Fertilizer
- Extra pots in various sizes with an opening at the bottom to drain water (choose clay, plastic, or ceramic pots and if you have space consider a larger wooden planter)
- Small balcony-sized shovel
- Watering can
- Hanging baskets
- Gardening gloves (optional)
Place your herbs on the section of your balcony that gets the most sun. Frequent watering is important so they don’t dry out - balcony gardens need more watering than regular gardens. Slow-release natural fertilizers are best and some herbs can be trimmed and pruned to accelerate growth. Happy planting!
This popular herb comes in a slew of varieties and will thrive in balcony pots. I typically purchase a small basil plant and it doesn’t take long for it to grow large enough so I can harvest a few leaves. Begin using the leaves as soon as the plant is big enough to spare some. Sweet basil is the most popular and is known for enhancing Italian dishes with its licorice clove flavor. This widely used herb is perfect in your favorite pesto sauce recipe, pasta sauce, or in fresh salads. Basil also goes well on that fresh-baked sourdough bread everyone is baking in quarantine – add a slice of plant-based cheese for a delicious appetizer.
Health Benefits: Basil is typically used in small quantities so vitamin and mineral benefits are limited, but are known to provide Vitamin K. Basil extracts are also used in essential oils and holy basil tea.
Who doesn’t love fresh mint tea after dinner? Even more exciting is when you can step onto your balcony, pick a few mint leaves and let them steep for the perfect cup. My mint plants tend to grow wild, which just adds to the excitement of balcony life. Transplanting mint into larger pots helps it sprout even bigger. This fragrant herb is super easy to grow and comes in multiple varieties such as chocolate, peppermint, ginger, spearmint, and pineapple mint. Harvest your mint sprigs before the plant flowers and if you want to extend the plant life pinch off the flowering buds.
Health Benefits: Due to mints' strong flavor it’s typically added in small quantities but does contain several nutrients and is a good source of Vitamin A and antioxidants. Mint may help relieve indigestion and an upset stomach.
There are many varieties of parsley but the two most common are Italian flat-leaf and French curly-leaf. Both varieties are great culinary herbs and flourish. You can even grow parsley in small containers right on your windowsill. The soil should be kept moist so don’t let it dry out. Parsley is extremely versatile and can be added to many meals such as pasta and veggie dishes, fresh salads, used as a sandwich or soup garnish or a veggie burger topping. You can also dry your parsley to use all year long.
Health Benefits: Parsley is pretty impressive and I have used mine in green juice as it’s known for having a high nutritional value and helps fight inflammation. Parsley contains vitamin A, C, and K and is a healthy antioxidant.
I’m in love with my purple lavender plant! This gorgeous perennial has a wonderful fragrance and adorable blossoms. After purchase, I replanted my lavender in a bigger and better pot, as the original seemed quite flimsy. Despite lavender needing more sun than I get on my balcony, about six hours, I won’t give up and whatever time my lavender plant and I have together is precious, especially during the time of pandemics. You can add dried lavender buds to tea, use them in a cookie recipe, or if you are very creative lavender can be added to salve, soap bars, and hand cream.
Health Benefits: Happiness! Lavender has been used since ancient times and has been known to treat nausea, skin irritations, headaches, and promotes overall positive well being.
All varieties of rosemary will grow in containers and it’s a popular and savory herb. The more light the better so the needle-like leaves will flourish on this Mediterranean plant. It’s super fragrant and is a nice touch to your balcony garden. Use it as a seasoning in your favorite plant-based recipes such as stews, casseroles, soups, pasta, tofu, and a variety of grains like rice and quinoa.
Health Benefits: The health benefits of rosemary are mixed but rosemary has been used in traditional herbal and Ayurvedic medicine for years. It also has many aromatic uses and rosemary essential oil has become quite popular.
You can grow radishes in containers and pots as they grow well with limited space. There are several varieties of radishes with the most common being the cherry belle round radish. Other varieties include daikons, icicle radishes, elongated variety, black radish variety, or the stunning watermelon radish. Radishes do well with more sun, about six to eight hours a day. But they are also known to flourish with only partial sun in a hot climate. You can also grow radishes indoors in long rectangular pots. When you harvest the radish roots you can also harvest the green tops to use in salads and soups. You can pickle radishes, shave them into a slaw, slice them in a sandwich, or chop them up in your favorite dish.
Health Benefits: Aside from being very pretty to look at, this root veggie is known for improving immunity due to high levels of vitamin C. Other nutrients include Vitamin E, A, B6 and K, folate, and potassium. Radishes also support a healthy digestive system since half a cup of radishes equals about one gram of fiber.
Every year I attempt to grow cherry tomatoes on my balcony and the biggest challenge is the lack of sunlight. But if you have long afternoon sunlight you have a solid chance of growing blossoming tomato plants. Choose stable pots that drain well with fertile soil 12 inches deep if possible. Regular watering is key, especially in hot weather. As they get taller use a cage or trellis or creatively use your balcony railing. You can also grow cherry tomatoes in hanging baskets and they will brighten up your space all season long. We love eating cherry tomatoes plain, in salads, cut up in the sauce, toppings for a homemade vegan pizza or roasted with asparagus and baby potatoes. These small versatile tomatoes are easily integrated into many scrumptious meals.
Health Benefits: Although tomatoes are used as veggies they are considered fruits from a scientific perspective as they form from a flower, but the debate continues. Tomatoes contain vitamin C, fiber, potassium, folate, and vitamin K. Furthermore; you can harvest your tomato seeds to grow more tomato plants next year.