Balcony gardening challenge

Hi there,

I just go over the part where I apologize for not keeping up with blogging. It happens too frequently and maybe it means that this is the actual frequency that fits my lifestyle.

Ok, down to business. Today I wanted to share a project with you that I have fallen absolutely in love with: gardening!
Yep, I am trying to grow our own veg on our balcony this year. You saw this one right, I will be balcony-gardening because we don't have a yard and getting myself an allotment was too big of a challenge for me. Also, a piece of soil somewhere across town did not really match our current lifestyle. The mister is not exactly fond of the great outdoors so I will be on my own on this one. At least for now. I showed him my current setup and talked him through seeding and planting and he did get interested. Let's hope that constant exposure will finally win him over. He did like the idea of having your own produce, though.
I posted my whole history on gardening earlier, you can find the original post here. The window garden I started last year did not go all that well: everything died and I think it was because the soil I chose was not good enough to support the plants with nutrients.Since then, I moved to another city and in with my boyfriend. Our apartment has the luxury of two balconies, one facing south and one facing north.

Current setup: I am using both balconies, but I am concerned about the light that is available. The south-facing one may mean my plants will suffer from heat in summer, the north-facing one can be too dark and nothing will grow there. We will have to see, it's one big experiment, right?

Potting: I chose smaller containers that I can move around to protect the plants from scorching heat or dark if needed. It may mean some serious shlepping around but hey, I also try to get fit again ;)

Soil: my parents not only gifted me with tomato plants and a bell pepper, they also kindly provided me with the blue hanging baskets you can see in the pictures. To top it all of, they also threw in a 60 litre bag of good, humus-rich soil. A big THANKS goes out to them. That soil should nourish the plants well for four weeks before I have to start giving them fertilizers, which I intend to make myself.

Now what did I plant so far: 
The north-facing balcony is accessed through the kitchen so my kitchen herbs are there. It has one large hanging basket containing a baby bay bush, oregano, thyme, rosemary and some petunia and lobelia for color. Furthermore, a cucmber plant and some radishes joined that balcony yesterday and I seeded out some chrysanthemum for a splash of color in fall.

The south facing balcony has four tomato plants in a brown basket, three normal sized and one cocktail tomato. Also standing on the ground: a pot with carrots and some peas and a container with arugula.The peas will be planted into a different container soon, but since they are producing nitrogen, I thought they could enrich the soil for the carrots for a bit before bringing them over to their own pot.
In the hanging basket I have another cocktail tomato, basil and a bell pepper.

So far, everything is growing nicely, the petunia in particular as well as the peas. The tomatoes had an encounter with some sort of bird which cost them some of their twigs but it looks like they are recovering. Fingers crossed for them.

Some issues to think about for the future:

Water! Balcony gardening means that you have to water your plants a lot. Luckily, we live right next to a canal so I can always get water from there but the canal is not easy to access and I would rather keep that as the last option. I tried some rain-collecting using buckets and that went ok, but did not yield all that much. I will try to "invent" a more efficient water collection system in the future. I also collect cooking-water now.

Fertilizing. We are on a bit of a budget here so buying fertilizers does not appeal to me at all. Starting a compost will drive the mister over the edge so that is a no-no as well. Thanks to youtube, though, I came up with a few ideas. I am a coffee drinker so I currently collect used coffee grounds and next to that, eggshells. Both you can obviously apply directly to the soil for fertilizing and I will give that a try. I also saw a video where someone used kitchen scrap, blended them with a bit of water and poured that to the plants, sort of a liquid compost. Maybe I can try that, too. My major concern is that the soil needs to have sufficient bacteria to provide nutrients to the plants and since its all growing in baskets and pots I am not sure how well the microbial fauna develops. I am seriously considering digging for worms... but not quite yet.

We will have to wait and see how things are developing, I guess. Of course, any advice is highly appreciated so let me know your experiences and ideas on balcony gardening.

That's it for now. Later!