If you’ve followed my journey since graduating college, you’ll know one of the things I was most excited about in my new apartment is having a full-sun balcony! Finally, I could have the thriving garden of my dreams, even though I moved to the city! I would create a jungle… but there was a problem. I was a plant killer.
It was never on purpose, but things seemed to just die around me. I even managed to kill succulents! I wasn’t sure if it was just different plants than I was used to, or if there was some magic to using pots instead of a yard, but I was on the struggle bus. Now, I’m sharing my trials-and-triumphs from the last few months so you can plan out a garden that works for your space, and save yourself some of the mistakes I made.
Drainage holes are life
I am ashamed to say I had absolutely no idea about the magic of drainage holes in pots. I genuinely had no idea. I just picked up a few pots that looked pretty from my local Home Depot and ran with it. They are MAGICAL. Turns out I was just overwatering all my old plants, and then the water would just sit in the bottom of the pot and cause problems.
I didn’t get anything special for my plants, and it turns out, I literally got the cheapest pots the plant nursery had. They were $0.29-$0.69 depending on size, simple black plastic, and have drainage holes in the bottom. Any excess water I pour on them can just flow through and drizzle onto the grass below. You’re welcome, property management! 🤣
daily watering is mandatory
Unfortunately, I think I lost my basil and rosemary before I learned this. Yes, I forgot to water my plants to the point that I killed rosemary, which does best in dryer soil. I live in the rainy Midwest of the United States, so I just kind of thought that if it rained that day, my plants were all in the clear as long as they didn’t tip over from the wind. My, how wrong I was.
Even dryer plants that don’t need to be watered daily need to be checked daily, because environmental factors can influence how slowly or quickly the water is used up. Take the time to individually research each plant you have to see how moist or dry the soil should be for them to thrive, and check them daily to make sure they stay at an optimal level.
See, I tried to do this, I was like “I’m just going to get one plant… oh, but tomato plants need another plant to help with pollination, ooh, I’ll just get some flowers to attract pollinators,” and next thing you know I had a dozen plants on my balcony and no clue how to properly care for any of them. Instead of diving in, start with one or two plants, and learn how to take great care of them before adding more.
Some of this may seem basic to more experienced gardeners, but for me, each of these was a total game changer. I went from that girl who suddenly couldn’t keep a plant alive to the one with a happy little green layer across the age of her balcony. I hope that these tips can help you avoid some of the mistakes I made, and really make the most of your outdoor space with a little garden!