To be a successful container gardener you must choose the right plant for your situation. Balconies are often windy, so anything you plant should be able to stand up to the breezes. The amount of sunlight is very important and will also influence your choice of plants. Sun-loving plants – which includes vegetables – need at least four to five hours of sunlight each day to grow successfully, so check the amount of sunshine before spending money on plants that may not be suitable. Containers must have free drainage, otherwise your plants will drown. Most pots and tubs have one or several drainage holes 1–2 cm in diameter.
Ordinary garden soil is usually unsuitable for pot culture because it does not drain well and tends to set hard. Proprietary potting mixtures, which are available from garden stores and nurseries, are open, porous mixes which are very satisfactory and have the added advantage of being free from weed seeds, soil pests and plant diseases. Special potting mixes like orchid compost, African violet mix, cactus mix and bulb mix are available too.
For the best quality potting mixtures look for those that meet the Australian Standard, usually shown as a ‘five ticks’ logo. This guarantees that the potting mix has been produced to the highest possible quality. Cheap potting mixtures are just that: cheap. They are rarely a bargain. When potting up most plants, don’t be tempted to put a small plant into a large pot with the idea of saving yourself some work. Plants do not thrive in over-large containers – some even prefer to be crowded. It is best to move a plant into a slightly larger pot when the previous one fills with roots.