14 Edible Plants to Grow in Your Balcony Garden
Whether you want to plant root vegetables or edible flowers, know that it is possible to cultivate fresh produce in your small outdoor space.
Beginners may be wary about starting a balcony vegetable garden, but we're here to tell you it's a great idea: As it turns out, there are a number of plants that actually thrive in containers, and that means that even the most amateur of green thumbs will be able to transform their small outdoor space into a crop-yielding plot. Great introductory type of plants to grow are herbs. Mint, basil, and rosemary make good use of tight quarters, and there are so many ways to put them to good use in the kitchen. They need little interference, aside from watering, and will make any recipe you're cooking up taste that much better. For more advanced gardeners, growing greens like spinach and Swiss chard will be a fun addition to your balcony vegetable garden. "Be sure your pot is deep enough so your plant doesn't become rootbound," warns Ryan McEnany, public relations and communications specialist for Bailey Nurseries. "Many vegetables will need at least 12- to-18-inch pots to give them space to grow," he says. Either use a fabric pot or make sure the plastic or ceramic pot has drainage holes in the bottom. "Without drainage, the pot will retain too much water and rot the roots of your veggies," he says.
Because not all plants actually play well together, having the right combination will ensure a thriving, fruitful garden. For instance, you want to avoid plants of the same family in the same pot—they will eat up the same nutrients. You also want to make sure you are utilizing your space wisely, and a variety of plants—have a nice mix of bulbs, vegetables that are tall, and plants that hang over the sides.
"First and foremost, you've got to determine how much sun your balcony gets to help decide which vegetables you're able to grow," says McEnany. The plants we're suggesting do well in pots because their root system don't run too deep. "Each of these produces a strong harvest so you can make dishes straight from the balcony throughout the summer and fall," he says. "Many varieties are now grown specifically for containers." Ahead, explore recommendations for the best items to grow in your balcony vegetable garden.
If your balcony tends to be shadier—with less than six hours of sun each day—leafy greens like Swiss Chard are a great addition to your vegetable garden. Martha likes to grow heirloom varieties that are hard to find at the market.
McEnany recommends 'Pizza My Heart' Sweet Peppers ($2.99, reneesgarden.com) as they "are made specifically to be grown in containers and are great on pizzas, salads, or in a fresh pasta dish," he says. "The plant itself stays pretty compact, but you'll want to give it some support as the peppers start to develop so it stays tidy and easy to pull the peppers off for your lunch or dinner."
According to McEnany, beans need at least six to eight hours of sunlight, so these are a great option for balconies that receive tons of natural, direct light.
Another compact vegetable perfect for container growing is 'Bush Slicer' Cucumber ($2.99, reneesgarden.com). "I love this cucumber because it's easy to manage in a small space and produces a ton of food," says McEnany. "The vines are a nice decorative touch if you plant it next to your railing. Just be sure to pick the cucumbers as they ripen so the plant will keep producing." This is another ideal grower for at least six hours of full sun.
Sweet Pea Flowers
Not only are they delicious, but the flowers are actually a beautiful addition to an otherwise mostly-green pot.
A root vegetable, radishes are ideal for shadier balcony gardens, and taste great in a variety of dishes.
Edible flowers are an out-of-the-box plant to grow that will bring pollinators and color to your balcony vegetable garden.
Add a pot of this allium to your window ledge—though you might be surprised at what you harvest and how quickly!
Keep the pot in a sunny window, and don't water it too frequently. The ginger will grow fresh knobs and sprouts that can be used in cooking. Whenever a recipe calls for ginger, simply dig it up, break off a piece, and replant the remainder. Neat trick, right?
Another leafy green, spinach has so many health benefits that it makes for a powerhouse vegetable to grow on your balcony.
"There are a million tomato varieties, and many do well in pots, but I love Terenzo F1 ($4.45, harrisseeds.com)," says McEnany. "It's an All-America Selections winner, so you know it's a great plant, and it just pushes out a ton of tomatoes all season." Terenzo F1 stays compact and is great in a container, or if you want to give some height to your balcony, put this one in a hanging basket, and the plant will drape over the side to give some added dimension to your space, he adds.
Onion flowers are actually quite beautiful. Plus, these are one of the most versatile crops you can grow.