Apartment balcony container garden: before and after

July 11 2014 | Guest post by Lenna

AfterThis year is the year of apartment renovations for us! First on the list was our balcony.

Our balcony is quite large, about 45 square feet. In previous years, I've never done much with it. We had a few flower boxes, some black mats on the ground, and a few folding camping chairs. We also used to use it for storage — my bike, our garbage and recycles, tires in the winter. Generally, it felt like wasted space. The railings were very rusted, and a drab beige colour. I was never very motivated to do anything with it, partially because it felt gross, and partially because I could never justify spending money on a place that was "temporary." Over time, that feeling of temporary has faded, and we realized that after four years we aren't going anywhere new anytime soon. So I decided to invest a bit of time and money into making our outdoor space happy, inspiring, and liveable.

Before

Last year, I tried planting some simple herbs for the first time; this year, I decided to get serious and do some real vegetable container gardening! To fuel my motivation, I even took a workshop on organic balcony gardening through one of our local CSAs, Fresh City Farms. But first, I needed to clean up the rust and ugly.

I bought some rust-sealing spray paint to cover the worst spots. I started out by cleaning with a wire brush, but OH MY — I just found more and more layers of rust and paint and gross. I gave up and just covered it really well with the spray, to seal it in. For the rest of the balcony, I painted it with a non-toxic outdoor acrylic paint. Huge, immediate improvement!

In Progress

Once I had dried two coats of paint, I got to work on the rest. I decided to go with interlocking decking for the floor. It's easy to put together, and is totally reusable for when we move somewhere else.

After

I replaced my old grungy window boxes with some brightly coloured ones from IKEA. I wanted this outdoor space to be bright and happy, ALL THE TIME! Even at night, when it's lit by a string of rainbow icicle lights I already had.

For my plants, I got to work finding various seedlings. I figure, this year I'll see which plants yield the best, so I can focus on what works best for next year. I started with: kale, green onion, Romaine, green leaf lettuce, celery, green peppers, red peppers, cucumbers, strawberries, concord grapes. The kale, green onion, and romaine have already failed, but everything else seems to be growing quite well so far! My first few strawberries have been deee-licious!

After

I decided to purchase some new furniture, including a Zero Gravity chairs (SO COMFY), a small table, and some extra folding chairs for company. I also got some stackable shoe racks to use as a plant stand/for gardening supplies. I will admit that I went a little over my planned budget on furniture, but since all the things will be able to travel with us and be repurposed when we move, I'm okay with it.

balcony makeover pics

In the end, I'm so incredibly happy with how things turned out. The white paint alone makes a huge difference, and we now spend lots of time outside. I've even spent a few days working from home reclined in my chair, which is fantastic. Matt works from home, and spends time outside with the kitties daily. And since our neighbourhood is a hotbed of activities in the summertime, we can now comfortably sit outside and enjoy the sounds of music playing in the park during the festivals, when we don't have the time or inclination to venture out into the crowds.

Success!

After
All four kitties love it outside.

Renovation Budget: $350

Costs:

  • IKEA decking – $100
  • Rust paint, acrylic paint and supplies – $30
  • Plants – $35
  • Containers, pots – $40
  • Soil, fertilizer, supports – $32
  • Zero Gravity Chair – $49
  • Turquoise table – $18
  • IKEA Tร„RNร– chairs – $30
  • Seville stackable shoe racks – $42

  1. I copyedited this post last week and I've been waiting and waiting for it to go up so I can share it. I LOVE this. It gave me so much hope for my poor boring balcony. Nice job!!

  2. oooooh, this makes me so impatient! we have to wait for some final construction to be done on our new condo balcony before we can really do it up right. that flooring makes SUCH a difference.

    what a great space you created!

    • I know! It feels good on the feet too ๐Ÿ™‚ I hesitated because of the costโ€ฆ but it's super easy to put together and is totally reusable, so it seemed like a good investment.

      Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. This is fantastic! I love that interlocking floor, the colorful pots, the trellis, and of course the kitties.

  4. I love absolutely everything about this! The plants, the flooring, all the bright colors – you really made great use out of this space! I am currently doing the container gardening thing myself (my squash plant has nice big leaves but no fruit yet, and my tomato plant has itty bitty tomatoes) with some hits and misses. I now need to go get some window boxes as you have done and plant some more flowers ๐Ÿ™‚ Oh and your cats are adorable, too.

  5. I have that little turquoise table!

    The before and after pictures are mind blowing! Way to make that space so much more inviting. It looks like your herbs are faring a lot better than mine… I think the Louisiana heat/sun is too much for a lot of them.

    • Table twins ๐Ÿ™‚

      It hadn't been super hot here this summer (and even when it is, it's usually only in the 90ish range), but when I see anything looking a bit wilty, I've been spraying them with a spray bottle, seems to pick them up!

  6. Eeeeeeeeee! I LOVE THIS. This is motivation for me to finish the little garden in our postage-stamp townhouse back yard as soon as my back gets better!

  7. Oh wow, this is pretty much my dream for our balcony made reality. It's so beautiful! I'm inspired to finally clean it up and maybe talk my boyfriend into investing in some new planters.

    Question – do the Ikea hanging planters have drainage? If not, how do you manage it?

    • I'm a former patio container gardener. You can drill holes into most containers (a wide masonry-type bit works best). Make sure you do some in the sides and the bottom. I also found (the hard way) that if there's warning of heavy rains, you're better off moving your containers so they're not drowned.

    • They don't… but as Dee said, you can drill holes in them. I'll be honest — I didn't, but I've also been watching the water levels to make sure they don't get drowned. 3 months in, so far so good…

  8. Wow, this is fantastic! Makes me want to redo my sad little balcony garden, haha. The paint and the flooring make it look like a completely different space. I bet you're the envy of neighbors across the way ๐Ÿ™‚

    • haha, I often wonder if people can see my balcony, because I *totally* creep other people's balconies for inspriation / to see if other people also used theirs as a garbage dump when that's what mine was. I'm not sure that anyone can actually see mine, though, the way the other buildings are situated…hmm…

  9. I'm so in love with this patio! But you said the green onions failed, I have some advice on those. Just go to your local grocery store and buy a bundle with the roots still attached. You can keep them in the fridge in a glass of water, and when you want to use them, if you just cut them to the white part and plant the other end in a pot, they'll re-sprout into new green onions. They're pretty hardy.

    • I actually started the green onions that way, in water from cuts. The kale, romaine, and green onion I started all in the same container… the kale was attacked by red aphids, and was dead before I noticed the infestation… the romaine shrivelled up in the heat… and the green onion wasn't looking too hot between the two, so I cleared out the whole pot just to be safe. I might try the green onion again, since it might have just been a casualty of its neighbours.

  10. Ahhhhh I'm so jealous, I have a big empty balcony I would love to do over… but we're probably moving countries next year, so it doesn't seem worth it :/
    Yours looks amazing and inviting! Well done! ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Thanks so much! Yeah, I can see wanting to hold off if you're switching countries… but if you don't, you totally should!

    • They were the "SOCKER" series! A quick search on their website looks like they might be done for the season… but I've seen then in photos from other people's balconies in the past in other colours, so I'm guessing they bring them back every spring?

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