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  • Naomi Stephens | Permaculture Designer

What You Need to Know Before Starting Your Balcony Garden

Updated: Mar 9

It's so exciting to get started on refitting a balcony with a garden. If you don't start with a plan, you'll have some hiccups, but don't worry. I don't think there is a gardener out there who can say they have never accidentally killed a plant before.

Balcony covered in flowers and a garden

What direction are you facing?

It's all about location. You'll need to know what sun coverage you'll get, which dictates what plants you can place in your balcony garden.

Here is a quick breakdown of what kind of sunlight you get depending on what direction you're facing:

  • South-facing balconies get the most sun.

  • North-facing balconies get no direct sunlight. 

  • East-facing balconies get the morning sunlight.

  • West-facing balconies get the afternoon sunlight.

South, East, and West facing balconies.

You can grow everything: fruits, vegetables, flowers, and herbs.

Keep in mind that if you're south-facing, you'll get the most intense sunlight, which is not always a good thing. Direct sunlight can kill young seedlings or tender herbs like basil if they're exposed to it all day.

Start seedlings indoors or keep them in the sunlight for a few hours and put them back in a shaded area.

Keep an eye on tender plants; if you see them wilting in the heat of the afternoon sun, move them into a shaded area.

North-Facing balconies

If you have a north-facing balcony, you'll rely mainly on daylight, so you'll need shade-tolerant herbs that don't need direct sunlight.

Try herbs like mint and parsley.

You can also grow alpine strawberries, mushrooms, lettuce and microgreens.

Rest assured, you can still grow successfully in any direction; however, only if you grow plants suited to that direction.


Before placing plants on your balcony, you must observe what happens.

For example, how windy is it usually? You might consider placing a windbreak or plants that can handle the wind.

Look for the spots where the sun rays settle and move along your balcony. This lets you see which spot gets the most sun and plant accordingly.

Permission to plant for renters and other issues

If you live in a rented apartment, you'll need to double-check with your landlord or letting agency about what you can do to amend the structure of your balcony.

Can you put in nails for hanging baskets?

Some apartment buildings find gardening 'messy' and may not allow it.

Also, if you're on the bottom floor and your balcony faces communal grass, mowed and kept, find out if they use herbicides that may damage your plants.


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