Balcony gardens compliment condo life

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel


Published December 24, 2012


While moving into a condo can mean less time spent on landscaping maintenance, residents who are interested in gardening can still turn their condo balconies into a vegetation oasis. With just a little work and effort, resourceful residents can use their balconies to grow vibrant gardens.


John Scheifel of Fort Lauderdale always had a garden in his backyard, so when he moved into a condo, he didn't plan to stop gardening. While his space is limited, Scheifel said he's still able get his hands in the soil in his condo garden, which consists of an herb garden and various plants, palms and ferns.

"It's so easy. Once you get your system up, you've got it made," he said. "If [condo residents] knew how to do it, I think more people would."

With more than 20 years of condo gardening experience on his balcony, Scheifel said his condo association only advises him to make sure no water drips down to the unit below. To prevent that, he recommends using square saucers to catch any excess water.

Attorney Lisa Magill of Becker & Poliakoff P.A., which specializes in condo and community association law, said excess water spilling down on neighbors below and too much weight on the balcony are just some of the reasons why a

Fort Lauderdale resident John Schiefel has become an expert on gardening techniques for people looking to transform their balcony into a high-rise oasis.

board of directors may want to regulate what owners place on their patios or balconies.

"The association typically bears responsibility for the structural maintenance and repair of the balconies," she said.

Scheifel said that when residents start a balcony garden, it's important that they use big pots so that plants don't dry out quickly. He also uses a water-drip system that has tubes from a main line regulating how much water the plants can receive. His condo balcony faces north but still gets enough sun to have a thriving garden.

"I always loved playing in the dirt and I'm still able to do that," he said.

Another challenge for condo residents wanting a garden on their balcony can be the weather. Open balconies can get windy, but Chuck Nicholls, president of the Equality Park Garden Club, said plexiglass can be used to reduce wind.

Condos located by the beach and Intracoastal Waterway can also be subjected to saltwater elements, which can be harmful to plants. Nicholls recommended focusing on native plants because they've grown accustomed to the environment and can withstand the wind and salt.

For residents looking for gardening advice, Nicholls' garden club offers free consultation services and hosts meetings at 7:30 p.m. on the third Wednesday of every month at the Pride Center, 2040 N. Dixie Highway in Wilton Manors. Memberships are $20, and meetings feature a variety of gardening experts who offer tips on various botanical gardening methods.

"Most of the speakers we have, there's something you can learn that you can adapt to your balcony," Nicholls said. "The purpose is to educate people on what gardening they can do. There are some great things you can do on your balcony."