Local master gardener offers tips for balcony or deck gardens

Some of Barbara Stock's potted plants on her deck. (submitted photo)



Have you been wanting to grow plants but can’t due to either only having a balcony, not being able to get out into the yard or not sure what plants should be where? 

Well Barbara Stock, a member of the Prince Edward County Master Gardeners (PECMG) group wanted to spread her knowledge of planting in containers for a deck or balcony as she has resorted to her deck for her plants.

“Because I’ve been a gardener for 75 years and a Master Gardener for 30 years, one of our mandates is to give gardening advice to the general public,” expressed Stock. “One of the things we’ve been doing is we go into Smilies (Independent) garden centre in Trenton and we spend some hours helping people choose plants. I think anybody that is a Master Gardener knows people go in and choose plants and they see pink flowers or blue flowers and they don’t necessarily know enough to put the right plants in the right place.”

When setting up a balcony or deck garden, Stock said there are important questions to ask.

  • Is your deck in full sun, full shade, early/late sun, is it windy?
  • Look at leaves: shape of plant now and throughout summer.

    A balcony garden.(Submitted Photo)

  • Do you want flowers or colour? Height or movement? Scented?
  • When do you use your deck? Only evenings or all day?
  • Have you dark/light siding or glass?

Stock, one of the founding members of Master Gardeners of Ontario expresses the importance of having containers on your deck or balcony and what plants should go where.

“I am quite badly disabled so the containers are something I can have on my deck and easily look after where as I can’t mow or anything like that,” Stock stated. “I think people don’t always think the same about containers, they think they see annuals like the pre-made colored boxes and plants and they buy them, and they can prove quite expensive. Where I have plants like hostas on my deck which gets shade. so in the winter I take the hostas out of the pots and put them into plastic pots and put them in for the winter. Then the next spring I just take them out put them back in the pots with some fresh dirt and so I have some hostas and things like that. I don’t have a lot of flowers on that deck because it’s all shade and of course the sunshine is needed for flowers.”

Among the main growing points when selecting containers, Stock explained the the benefits of containers with reservoirs.

  • Having a reservoir means that there is always water available to plants, this is particularly important, so your deck isn’t constantly getting wet from plant watering. It also means you don’t have to water so often.
  • Or just choose something from your cupboard, old teapot, dish, vase, saucepan anything that holds a plant or two or more. Make sure it has drainage holes.
  • Make your own as there are lots of suggestions on internet.

Stock went on say if you only have a balcony for plants to make sure if you have a windy corner to not buy fuchsias and to make sure to choose your plants carefully.

“If you live in town sometimes people have a balcony for plants but if your on a balcony maybe you have a windy corner so you don’t want fuchsias,” revealed Stock. “And there’s a difference between buying a waved petunia which doesn’t need dead heading and will just go on flowering and buying regular petunias which are cheaper but you have to dead head them. Well if you don’t want to spend the time dead heading your not really gonna get any flowers so I think you have to choose more carefully, which I think most gardeners do but I think there are a lot of people who don’t choose as carefully as they should.”

Good plants for shade:

  • Coleus – there is a wide variety of coloured leaves, remove spent flowers for best results.
  • Hostas – hardy perennial can be planted in garden in fall or heeled in to have again for next year.
  • Sweet potato vine. Lime green leaves look good in shade.

Good plants for sun:

  • Succulents and Sedums- wide variety of shapes and colour. They need less water and some have flowers.
  • Petunias- the Wave variety doesn’t need dead heading and is less straggly but has fewer colours.
  • Scaevola – fan shaped flowers that cascade, likes heat
  • Nasturtiums- Still lots of time to plant these seeds in late May. Lots of varieties such as Alaska bushy, variegated leaves lots of colours. Whole plant is edible, leaves a little peppery, flowers can be filled with cream cheese, seeds taste like capers when pickled, great for children to grow because seeds germinate quickly, about 10 days.
  • Lavender- full sun leaves and flowers are scented. Use for lavender sachets in Autumn to scent clothes all year and discourage moths.
  • Scented or citrus plants geraniums discourage mosquitoes.

 The PECMG group normally has a plant sale in Metro the week after the Victoria Day weekend and they get lots of questions asked there. This year unfortunately because of COVID-19 the PECMG wasn’t able to attend the store to have a sale, as well as the children’s garden award has been cancelled. 

Stock went on to explained exactly what a Master Gardener is and what it takes to become one.

“I think a lot of people don’t quite understand what Master Gardeners do,” Stock said. “I mean, you have to pass a test just to join the group and once you join the group then you have a two-year university course to do to be able to call yourself a Master Gardener. Then on top of that you have to do a minimum amount of volunteer work every year, it’s a very much long commitment to being a Master Gardener and we do have 20 at the moment but some of us are getting up there in years, and trying to get new Master Gardeners to join the group, well it’s just not for everyone.”

Fortunately for the PECMG group they have a website to ask any gardening questions you have you need answered.

“My attitude to gardening is,” said Stock. “If you can put soil into a plastic bag then you can have plants.”

To visit the PECMG website please visit pecmastergardeners.ca