Plants add a great deal to our quality of life -- from cleaning the air we breathe to keeping us in touch with nature. Fresh, home-grown herbs and vegetables not only taste so much better than supermarket produce, they're convenient, and you know exactly where they came from and what was used, or not used, on them.
While hydroponic and vertical gardening systems have been developed to maximize the yield in small spaces, starting a balcony garden needn't cost much. Start with the right materials and choose plants that are right for your conditions, and you'll soon be eating from the pots on your porch.
Start by planting the right plants for the amount of sunlight you have. Most herbs and vegetables require six to eight hours of direct sunlight a day. So what do you do if you have just one balcony and it doesn't get that much sun? Choose edibles that can take partial sun/shade (three to six hours of sun in the morning or early afternoon) or light shade (two to three hours of direct sun or highly shaded all day).
Partial shade herbs include cilantro and parsley (both prefer cooler weather), dill, bee balm, spearmint and chamomile. Light shade herbs include garlic, chives, peppermint and rosemary. Partial or light shade veggies include lettuce, broccoli, green onion, collards, cabbage, peas, carrots, strawberries, beans and sweet potatoes. Remember that pale-colored surfaces increase the light your plants receive and plants with short-growing seasons usually need the full six to eight hours of light per day.