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Herbs and cover for a west facing balcony

Firstly, I'd like to offer my thanks to the Gardeners' World readers and forum users. About 4 years ago I asked for advice on the best cover for a neighbours conservatory wall, and received amazing advice (Jasmine, which worked perfectly) - Thanks again!

This time I'm asking for advice on behalf of my friend - a young woman who has just purchased her first home (a small flat with a west facing balcony). I'd like to help her with some practical elements (including establishing a useful herb garden) and thought I would ask the GW forum for advice:

She has two requirements:

- There is a metal grille (with holes to allow light through) which runs from the floor to the top of her balcony. We think this is a 'design' feature, but it's quite ugly so would like to grow some evergreen cover over it. Ideally, the cover would be ever-green, fairly hardy, not need direct sunlight (west facing location) and able to be established (if not start flourishing) now. If it could also have some flowering elements or pleasant scent, that would be perfect. As always, we can compromise on any of the above , I just thought I'd set out the challenge in full!

- Estabishing a herb garden. I plan to build her a floor/wall standing balcony greenhouse, but would really appreciate some advice on herbs that will thrive in the above conditions? We'd like the herbs most useful for cooking (parsley, mint, sage, basil, bay etc) but again would like to establish the garden this year and make sure we pick herbs that will do well in an English climate.

Any advice gratefully received!

Many thanks in advance GW readers,



  • Two mportant factors - does it get any sun at all and how windy is it?

    The Mediterranean herbs, rosemary, lavender, sage and  bushy thymes will struggle with no sun at all, but will cope with a reasonable amount of wind. They need low nutrient, gritty compost and not too much water. Sage and creeping thymes may cope with a degree of shade if they also get some sun, and so will marjoram/oregano which also has pretty flowers that bees and butterflies love. They are hardy, won't like being in a greenhouse.

    Parsley and mint don't mind shade but would suffer from drying winds. Both will also be dying back soon, mint completely so, so it might be best to wait for spring to get them established. They like richer soil and some moisture but are also hardy.

    However, if you want to make a start now, a cheap and easy way is to buy a pot of the culinary herbs from the supermarket and either split them and repot or just repot into something much larger. There are dozens of seedlings in each pot and they will grow into decent plants given some space. If it is in a warmish area you could maybe try coriander too. You will need to harden them off before putting them outside fulltime.

    Basil is in a class of its own. It hates cold, wet, dry, wind, only thrives if every thing is 'just right' and then gets covered in aphids. If it didn't taste so wonderful, no-one would bother with it! Except for high summer, if we get one, it is best inside the kitchen on a warm windowsill in bright light, not too much sun, no draughts, no radiators! Water as soon as it starts to flag. It is the only one that might need a greenhouse.

    Last edited: 09 October 2017 10:56:57

  • Many thanks for the response Buttercupdays, and my apologies for the delayed response, I've been travelling for work.

    The flat balcony is on the second floor, not above the treeline and close to other buildings so will be reasonably protected from the wind. The balcony does get some sun but as you would expect more from noon onwards/towards the end of the day.

    Thanks for all the other suggestions - Will do!

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