5 Ways to Create an Ugly Balcony Vegetable Garden


With all the hoopla in the garden blogosphere about ugly vegetable gardens, I didn’t want all my container gardening buddies to be left out of the latest trend in vegetable gardening: embracing the ugly.

Being the psychic that I am, I inadvertently posted three effective, though not necessarily pretty, ways to fit more plants in a small space on the same day that Robin Ripley posted her (contentious?) thoughts on unkempt vegetable gardens. Colleen responded to Robin’s post with a passionate defense of vegetable gardens, any kind of vegetable gardening, and photos of her own less-than-perfect vegetable garden. And now people all over the gardening blogosphere are proudly posting photos of their own weedy or overgrown vegetable patches. As always, the inimitable Mr Brown Thumb has an interesting angle on the whole story for those that are interested.

So what should you do if you want to get in on this action and plant your own ugly vegetable garden? I have 5 ideas. If you have additional thoughts, be sure to share them in the comments.

Use Food Containers as Pots

I’ve been reusing fast food cups as pots to transplant young seedlings. They’re great for seedlings you want to plant deeply because of their tall, narrow shape. All sorts of take out containers could be used to grow plants. Herbs are especially well suited to these smaller “pots.”

Jury Rig Trellises & Stakes

First, I just want to point out that I said “jury rig” and not “jerry rig.” That’s an important distinction to my brother Ben. Now, on to the actual plant supports. I suggest using recycled materials. For example, here are instructions on how to make a trellis out of bicycle tires, bed springs, and an old ladder. And you could reuse all sorts of items to stake your plants. How about your kids’ unused hockey sticks?

Grow Your Plants in Potting Soil Bags

This is about as easy as it gets in your effort to have an ugly vegetable garden. To grow vegetables in a potting soil bag, poke a few holes in the bottom of a potting soil bag, and make a slit in the top. Plant your seedling in the slit and away you go! A related idea is to grow potatoes in a trash bag.

When Weeds Arrive, Cultivate Them!

A story my aunt often tells me about her first forays into gardening involve watering and fertilizing weeds. Apparently my aunt sowed some seeds in a little patch of dirt next to her patio. She dutifully watered that patch. And low and behold, something sprouted! My aunt was so proud, she kept on tending that patch. When a neighbor came over to visit, my aunt showed off her little garden, but was horrified to learn that the plants she was caring for were actually common weeds.

I say the definition of a weed is up for debate. If one sprouts in your vegetable garden, and it looks pretty, allow it to stay. It may suck away nutrients from your plants, and it may harbor pests, but that’s life!

Cram as Many Pots As You Can Onto Your Balcony

Don’t try and create pleasing places to rest your eye. The name of the game is to fit as many plants as you can in your space. With this in mind, keep an eye on what your neighbors put out for the trash company to haul away. You’ll need shelving units, old benches, chairs, kitty litter buckets, etc. You’ll be able to use these items to spread your vegetable garden up as well as out. Be sure to leave a small path so that you can squeeze through your plants to water and harvest them.

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