Condo living does not traditionally lend itself to certain, much loved summer activities — Gardening being one of them. But urban density is on the rise and avid gardeners who happen to be condo-bound, are finding creative ways to do their thing on balconies, patios and even in window containers.
Our condo boasts an impressive, nearly 500 square foot patio, so I really had no excuse for not having fresh, homegrown veggies on my plate this summer.
Because we had so much room to work with, building a large container planter was the obvious choice. Of course, we don’t have a table saw in the condo (for the condo board’s records) but luckily, my father-in-law is quite handy with tools and has time and a garage. We built the container in pieces at the in-laws and assembled it on site. This made it slightly more difficult, but not really. We built each of the four sides, then the bottom and the top, and assembled and stained at home.
The two wood varieties that looks best, in my opinion, are cedar or redwood. Both are gorgeous and resistant to rot. I selected cedar, to add some much need warmth to our all-concrete space. Stain or waterproof the wood if you want it to last, we used a Behr deck satin in “Natural”.
Cedar container, 8ft. L x 2ft. W x 3ft. T
10 8ft long cedar deck boards, scraps for trim
Nails for nail gun; staples for staple gun
Waterproof decking screws
Plastic lining for vapour
Weed barrier lining
Behr deck stain in “Natural”
Soil, “Triple Mix” 1 yard bag
Note on soil: See if you can find a service that delivers. We ordered 1 cubic yard bag and had it delivered to the condo loading dock. There we filled buckets to bring to our unit. This may be less ideal if you are in a high rise, but for us it was a much better solution than bags.
Table or power saw
Heavy duty construction adhesive
There are some additional things to take into account if you are building a large planter for a condo garden.
1. Condo rules and outdoor space structural integrity: We are on ground level, so for us this was not a concern, but a planter like this is HEAVY, and at 800 lbs, may not be the best choice for a potentially unstable balcony. Make sure your planter is not blocking a portion of your door or fire escape, and make sure you run all decisions by your condo board.
2. Choosing plants: Different vegetables require different amounts of sun, and a large overhang or condo balcony above yours may not allow enough light for a sun-dependent plant like tomatoes. Is your patio or balcony windy? Gardens on higher floors may need heartier plants because of high winds. If you’re worried, start with herbs, as they are forgiving and don’t need much space.
3. Drainage is key: We left gaps in the cedar planks that line the bottom of the planter and then stapled in plastic to act as vapour barrier. Originally, we were going to line the bottom with rocks, but later discovered it is expensive, heavy, and not necessary. A Home Depot rep suggested reusing Styrofoam packing peanuts. We finally settled on reusing the plastic plant trays, turning them upside down, poking holes in them and lining the bottom.
By: Real condo dweller, Jennifer Myers
Anyone else out there container gardening?