Balcony growing - tips & tricks

Krone

Mame
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I would like to open a thread with tips, trick and ideas regarding balcony / terrace bonsai growing.
What are your experiences, what is your set-up, how do you protect your trees during the winter, what are the main challenges, how do you water your trees if you have balcony without water drainage, when is enough sunlight, and so on...

I am still a beginner, I would like to collect as many experiences from you guys as possible.
 

Brian Van Fleet

Pretty Fly for a Bonsai Guy
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When I grew on a balcony, one challenge I had was very one-sided sun exposure (requiring lots of rotating trees). The other was heat gain from a lack of air flow. I used drip trays under my benches so water didn’t run down onto the apartment below ours. It was not easy.
 

Clicio

Chumono
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My experience has been similar to Brian Van Fleet. The main problem is lack or air circulation, specifically in a tropical country where proximity with walls that get hot very fast will dry leaves in a matter of hours.
I have some problems with pests also, due to the same poor air circulation.
 

my nellie

Masterpiece
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Same as above, here also.
Growth inferior than expected due to the one-sided sun exposure.
Imposing restriction to the number of trees/projects wanted.
Frequent chemical cleaning of floor tiles from salt residues.
However, no matter all the fuss, I love doing bonsai on the balcony :)
 

Krone

Mame
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At which floor were you guys living? I would assume that this is also a factor.
 

petegreg

Masterpiece
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11th floor, East directed balcony. Protected from the hottest mid-day sun at least.

Very first thing is to know your climate and microclimate. Then you can select species suitable for your environment.
 

Colorado

Mame
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I had a 4th floor west-facing apartment that was kind of tucked in a nook, making the air circulation even worse than it would have otherwise been.

I did my best to make it work. Jade and p. Afra didn’t miss a beat but I fried a gorgeous Colorado Blue Spruce that I was gifted. Ugh! Wish I could have that one back.
 

JimmyBeefshank

Sapling
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Balcony grower here, for a little longer at least. Projected completion date on our house isn't until June, actual completion date? My money is somewhere in September.
I'm in Ann Arbor Michigan, zone 6a. I'm on the second floor facing east, full morning sun and shaded from the hottest part of the day by the guy upstairs. Notable wind tunnel effect though, there's no lack of circulation here.
I disassembled a few pallets and built a cantilevered shelf system to maximize bench space and help me get some more sunny real estate. I also use a lot of nursery containers with strong curled lips that can be supported with basket hooks. With space so limited you have to use every horizontal and vertical inch. I can only keep my smallest and my newly acquired stuff here because I also need room to start seed and propagate annual and perennial cuttings for my business. Everything else goes to our property and gets planted in the ground.
Here are some pics of my balcony set up.
 

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Krone

Mame
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Do anyone have any experiences with some kind of auto watering systems when not at home for 2 or 3 days?
The obvious issue is that balcony usually doesn't have a water connection :)
 

penumbra

Chumono
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Do anyone have any experiences with some kind of auto watering systems when not at home for 2 or 3 days?
The obvious issue is that balcony usually doesn't have a water connection :)
For a limited number of plants you can use water wicks and a bucket of water. It is a very easy and inexpensive solution. Water wicks are available at some garden supply stores and on Amazon.
 

Krone

Mame
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Will try this. Do you need to bury one side of the rope into the soil or just put it on the top of the soil?
 

BobbyLane

Omono
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Do anyone have any experiences with some kind of auto watering systems when not at home for 2 or 3 days?
The obvious issue is that balcony usually doesn't have a water connection :)
i just top dress with chopped spagnum moss, i also use organics in my soil mix for extra moisture retention.
 

JimmyBeefshank

Sapling
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Organics and sphagnum mulch here too. I also have a tendency to choose deeper pots than most.
I have often daydreamed of a home built 5 gallon timed drip irrigation system that I could fill up each morning but it would also have to be battery powered, ie super inconvenient. Such is apartment life though eh?
 

penumbra

Chumono
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Will try this. Do you need to bury one side of the rope into the soil or just put it on the top of the soil?
I have tucked the wick into the soil both on top and sometimes underneath through drainage hole. Works amazing.
 

Krone

Mame
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@penumbra how deep should i tuck it? And i assume that you don't have any pictures of this?
 

penumbra

Chumono
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Sometimes I have placed a wick in the drainage hole before potting and other times I added it latter. When tucking it into the top of the soil I like to have a couple inches in the soil if possible.
 

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