Balcony Garden Project - Start Up & Observation

 Balcony Garden & the Importance of Growing Something (Anything)

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It is important because;

- You can not run without being able to walk; can not walk without being able to stand and can not stand without falling a few times. Letting a system which is invented by humans to feed you comes with its disadvantages and most of the time, those disadvantages bring unbearable results.

I can not stress how growing plants on your small balcony helps you both psychologically and physically.

It is your small place which is usually a ZONE IV (less visited area-dead space for most houses).

You will be visiting at least once everyday and see the process with your own eyes and understand how it is really possible to cover the deserted areas of the planet with lush forests.

What those charts mean to me ?

As the balcony stands between tall buildings that will fulfill a wind breaker, there is still possibility to get high speed winds to harm the plants or the mulch on the pots. Coastal line is famous for its tornadoes that come close to beach for years. Also the July and August temperature readings show us the obligation to use a good mulch to prevent over evaporation. The frost day numbers calls for frost resistant plants to circle in the pot for winter days (we are located in northern hemisphere).

Currently, my living quarter is also my home-office and have a very small balcony. A square shaped 2,25 meter squares.Seeing the sun for only few hours because of its location. It will be a challenge but It will be FUN !

Let's check the sun calculator and the position of the balcony...

Summer Solstice: 4 to 5 hr sunlight

Winter Solstice: 3 to 4 hr sunlight

and some reflection sun light from the buildings around. (Small amount but helps on growing nonetheless.)

The balcony is located at 1st floor of a 6 floor building and between 4 buildings with same features.

This thing will be tough. Sunlight is nearly none. Need to use some shade plants.

The plan roughly looks like the above... we are surrounded with trees growing with a small pace because of the sun, but still have an advantage of 3rd dimension. So climbers with some shade weeds can benefit out garden.

Instead of buying plastic pots, I rather use the space on maximum and make some beds. Light woods and light materials on forming the soil of the beds are crucial. Balconies have limited lifting strength on heavy weights. Soil, when combined with water holding inside can weight quite much. But I have good alternative materials for soil's structure to make it light.

Soil Bulk Density usually referred as %5 or more organic matter, %25 water, %25 air, %45 mineral.. If the bio organic matter increases, the holding water capacity will increase too and the mineral percentage will go on lower numbers. Make no mistake we are not talking about the matter amount, this is the percentage.

Wet, Clay soil is 2300 kg/m3 - Vegetable soil is 1700kg/m3... It is safe to assume between those numbers if we decide to use garden soil directly in our balcony. 

(0,4m x 0,318m x 1,5m) + (0,4m x 0,318m x 0,998m) = 0,1908m3 + 0,1270m3 = 0,3178m3

Wet Clay Scenario - 731 kg

Veg Soil Scenario - 540,26 kg

Usually a balcony that belongs to a 20 years old building holds up to 250-350 kgs per m2. My balcony will hold up max 350 in this regarding info. Maybe it will hold much more but it is essential to play safe rather than risk it. 

How to decrease the weight ?

Perlite (Agricultural, 80kg/m3), can help both draining the excess water and giving aeration on soil. When combined with vermiculite and some vermicompost; perlite may decrease good amount of weight from the balcony. However this will a con; there will be water run off from the bottom of the pots and I suggest collecting these waters and reinstate to watering system so that no nutrients or minerals are lost to drainage. 

Peat Moss (Torf) (207kg/m3), can help holding water and ease the plants root system to take over. But it contains no nutrients. So we can see it like a biochar. You can charge peat moss with a good aerated compost tea like you do to a biochar. It offers a good expansion area. You can combine a synergy with biochar and peat moss so you get a really good potential land for soil ecosystem to grow on.

Vermicompost and aerated, fermented dry manure will also be added to provide necessary nutrients.

What about the mixing percentages? well, every video I watched, every article I read gives completely different percentages. So I will go with my trial & error way. 

Let's first decrease the soil amount by laying clay balls one layer to the bottom first. 
this will award us 1cm layer. Than we can leave the potting mix at 25cm so that the pot is not full.
The soil mix may consist of %25 garden soil and sheep manure mix, %25 agricultural perlite, %30 peat moss and %20 of vermicompost with vermiculite and biochar mix.

that stands for; 

Potting Mix; 0,3178m3 --%100

Garden Soil Mix        0,07945 -- %25----158,9kg
Perlite                         0,07945-- %25----6,4kg
Peat Moss                   0,09534-- %30----19,8kg
Vermicompost Mix    0,06356-- %20----16kg
Total:                                                        201 kg

Now, if I keep my weight on check, this total weight can be ideal for this pot. We won't compromise from nutrients and water, but will also keep it safe as much as possible. I guess this mix will hold 50lt of water at the time.

As wooden pot walls, I will use plywood. It contains chemicals to withstand moisture and sun exposure. So in order to keep soil out of this wood, I will burn the inside with a blowtorch. This is a method we used to do in our trellises before nailing them to soil. Better than using plastic...

Theory-crafting is not over. Now that we decided where and how to put things; there will be more upcoming. So stay tuned. You can follow the posts from my instagram @salixmediterra.