Balcony Buds: Growing in Tight Quarters
Growing on a balcony or terrace can produce some great cannabis, but there are some environmental factors and strain choices you should consider before you begin.
Have you ever wondered if it’s possible to grow cannabis on a balcony or terrace? There are many reasons to do it, but there are many issues you must first cover. I’ve been growing cannabis for more than 22 years, eight of which have been on balconies and terraces. In this article, I will share my experience and guide you through getting started on this rewarding hobby.
Balcony growing gives you many of the advantages of growing outdoors. You have access to sunlight, ventilation, and water. Yet, a balcony isn’t stealth enough; cultivar choice is limited, while pests, molds, and other environmental factors can ruin your crop.
Alternatively, you can choose to veg indoors and flower outdoors.
To grow on a balcony, you must consider:
Know Your Area
Before you begin to grow, you must check who and what is around you. I like to hang out on my balcony and look around at different times of the day. I observe how busy the area is; are there neighbors; how many people hang out on their balconies; and if there are any businesses around me. If I can see people in the area, then they can potentially see my cannabis.
Next, measure the space that you want to grow your cannabis. Measure the floor space, rail heights, and any walls you may share with neighbors. If you are growing in an area with business buildings, it is best to measure their viewing angle. These measurements help determine the types of cultivars, number of plants, covering needs, pot sizes, and techniques you can use.
How Are My Lights
Deciding where to place your cannabis depends on how much direct sunlight your area receives. I aim for a location with four to six hours of direct sunlight, and I use supplemental lighting. Having more daytime light will give you bigger plants and bigger buds.
However, many different lighting schedules grow cannabis just as well. I like to provide my plants with at least 16 hours of optimal lighting. I have used other lighting schedules with good results, but they are not the best choice for beginners. I’ve found alternative lighting schedules work on most strains but not all.
Covering up supplemental lighting is tough and can bring unwanted attention. It’s best to check when sunrise and sunset occur, then time your lighting schedule when you need extra light. Blackout materials can cover up the lighting, but they require removal to allow sunlight to get to your plants. Another option to consider is vegging indoors and using the balcony for flowering.
What Cultivars Should You Grow?
You can grow any cultivar you wish, but there are some things to consider when choosing one. Cultivar choice depends on your area, airflow, lighting, care, height, and many other factors. I prefer to use indica-dominant hybrids as they tend to stay short. Sativa-dominant hybrids usually grow fast, big, require training, and demand attention.
The more you can cover up your balcony, the more various cultivars you can choose. Select cultivars that are suited for your climate conditions, outdoor, or greenhouses. These cultivars are genetically suitable for balcony growing and will ensure a good harvest.
Balconies that suffer from low light conditions should consider sativa or autoflower cultivars. Typically, a cultivar that does well with screen of green (SCROG) and other techniques is a must-have. Picking the appropriate cultivar will ensure you grow large cannabis plants that give you a fat harvest.
- Three Ways to Supercharge your Cannabis Yields
- 7 Things to Know Before Growing Autoflowering Cannabis
- Early-Season Outdoor Cannabis
Keeping Your Grow Invisible
Having a successful balcony grow requires keeping your activities secret. Staying undetected takes some planning but is achievable for anyone. We already know our area so we can begin to plan out how we want our balcony to look. Jump online and search for balcony privacy. That will give you some quick ideas on how to cover up your grow, set a budget, and keep your balcony looking nice.
I have chosen a variety of covers like plants, sheer curtains, and blackout curtains to keep my cannabis hidden. I like to grow bamboo, pampas grass, Miscanthus Giganteus, butterfly pea, nasturtium, jasmine, and Malabar spinach. These plants produce edible flowers, have a pleasing smell, and are beautiful. Creating a balcony with privacy will keep your grow stealthy and an appealing place to be.
Oh, That Smell
There is no better smell than cannabis, but not everyone enjoys it. The more cannabis plants you have, the more powerful odor there will be. Usually, 10 plants or less aren’t a problem as the wind will blow the smell away. However, having more than 25 plants becomes noticeable quickly. One way to decrease odor is to stagger your plant growth cycles. You can have some finishing flower, some in veg, and some sprouting. It is best to pick cultivars that aren’t narcotic, hash-heavy, gassy, or have a skunky smell. Cultivars with lemon-lime, candy, nutty, pine, and fresh smells will decrease noticeability.
In my opinion, unpleasant odors carry on the wind farther, are off-putting for some, and may bring complaints from neighbors. Alternatively, you can add plants that cover up the cannabis smell. Some choices are sage, rosemary, mint, peppermint, and basil. I like to mix these varieties to create an overpowering smell. However, these plants can create added work for your garden and are not as aromatic as some suggest. A good rule of thumb is for every cannabis plant in a five-gallon (19-liter) pot to have three non-cannabis plants in a one-gallon (four-liter) pot. I have also found essential oil diffusers help a lot and allow you to save space. For every five-gallon pot, use two essential oil diffuser sticks. Essential oil diffusers are cheap, small, and can be placed anywhere.
What About the Rain?
When growing outdoors or on a balcony, the most important thing you should do is check the weather. Checking the weather predictions for the day, week, and month is essential. Many times, I have been caught out by storms destroying a crop when I wasn’t prepared. Collecting rain allows you to have a free source of water on hand. However, being an urban grower, I often question what is in that water. In many areas, rainwater pH is not optimal for cannabis, can cause your plants to be waterlogged, and may cause future problems. A way to combat too much rainwater is to lift your plants. I have put some wood on the floor and extra tiles to raise the plants to prevent pH fluctuations, waterlogging, and overwatering. Making small changes and preparing will ensure you have better control over your cannabis health.
Soil choice is straightforward — use any quality organic soil. For me, I make my soil and only use organic inputs. I find using the Clackamas Coots recipe is best for low-maintenance growing. However, you will occasionally see worms jumping out of the pots around rainy times of the year. So, the choice is yours on the type of soil you want to use, though all of them work. Remember, if you don’t reuse or re-amend your soil it can pile up quickly. Pick a soil that you can get many grows from, can be used for other plants, and can be re-amended.
There are many things I have talked about but there are some minor parts I didn’t cover. When you begin to grow you must get something with wheels to move your plants around. Currently, I use a pushcart to move my plants in and out of the balcony. You will encounter challenges using your balcony, but there is always a solution. Growing cannabis on a balcony is just as easy as any other place as long as you prepare, plan, and think ahead. I hope this helps you jump into the growing community and happy growing.
Written by Luis Cordova | Plant Biotechnician, Pharmaceutical Scientist
Luis holds a M.S. in Plant biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Science. He is a long-time cannabis grower He has put his focus on breeding cannabis and development of organic soils for tropical regions. He loves how much the industry has grown and changed. He hopes to pass on new and old knowledge to all growers across the world.