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Stone/cob/maybe something else garden box

 
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Location: Provo, UT
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Alright everyone, I am a DIY/building stuff novice. I've read a bunch of stuff, and done nothing so far.

In attempting to rectify that, I've been considering building a garden box. I live in an apartment with a mostly south (and a tiny bit west) facing balcony. This is where I think the garden box should live. Now, in trying to utilize local resources, I've run into a dilemma. Utah does not have vast wood reserves. I might be able to recycle something, but I sort of like the idea of pioneering some techniques that utilize what I could find on a short hike--and thus start creating techniques that are affordable and region appropriate.

In Utah, we got rocks. It really should be our slogan. I can think of few places in Utah that lack an enormous reservoir of rocks. We've also got some soil, and even a little straw. So I thought perhaps forming some amalgam of rocks and limed cob might work out pretty well for a small project like this. I'm aware that cob and rain don't get along super well, which is fine because we don't get much. And it seems like a lime plaster might be able to prevent some of the more adverse effects.

Ok, now that I've proposed my semi-book-learning-but-zero-practical-experience solution, I'd love to hear from some of you. Are there things I haven't thought of? Are any of you aware of some vast resource I've ignorantly missed? Be as critical as you must with perhaps a little kindness so you don't scare me away.
 
pollinator
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Go for it, mistakes will teach you more, well done for starting
 
gardener
Posts: 349
Location: Japan, roughly zone 9b - wet and warm climate
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A few things to consider -

- You mentioned rain being a rare danger. Does your balcony have a roof? That would help mitigate the direct fall.

- Check your balcony's weight limit. A lot of them are not designed to hold a very heavy load. Stones might make this extra important.

- Be sure your planter has drainage and ideally drains into the balcony gutters or another solution.
 
Kyle Clawson
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L. Johnson wrote:A few things to consider -

- You mentioned rain being a rare danger. Does your balcony have a roof? That would help mitigate the direct fall.


The deck has a ceiling, so it only gets water when it storms. However, that also means it dries slowly, which is something I need to take into consideration as well.

L. Johnson wrote:
- Check your balcony's weight limit. A lot of them are not designed to hold a very heavy load. Stones might make this extra important.


I've emailed my HOA about it, but haven't received a reply back. They want a plan for the balcony, but I can't make a plan without a weight limit. Ugh.
Let's say I do have a weight issue, are there any materials you can think of that would work better? I'm certain I could gather some trees branches or bark from downed trees and weave them together or something. If all else fails, I think I'd be ok constructing out of non-bushcraft materials. However, I just want to stretch my creativity and increase my eco-level if possible!

L. Johnson wrote:
- Be sure your planter has drainage and ideally drains into the balcony gutters or another solution.


I've been brainstorming on how to do this. I might have to covertly feed a line into the gutter on the side, as the balcony floor doesn't have gutters.

Here is a short video I whipped up to showcase the balcony:


Extra information about the design:
The balcony is about 4' long, 10' wide, and 9' tall. The railing is plastic and I don't trust it. My overall vision is either a 2' long planter boxes on the outside edge or one 1' planter along the outer edge, and a 1' planter next to the wall. Maybe some combo of the two. Either way, I'm planning on growing vine plants on trellis to maximize the vertical space. Since there isn't much sun, I was considering grabbing a grow lamp of some kind. The deck is in near-perpetual shade--I believe I get 2 hours of sun on the summer solstice.

Anyway, that's the full plan. Comments on any of it are welcome.
 
L. Johnson
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Location: Japan, roughly zone 9b - wet and warm climate
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Interesting challenge.

It looks like the floor is concrete, so I'm assuming the weight limit isn't going to be a big problem. Compared to a slab of concrete a few planters on that balcony will be peanuts, so to say.

The drainage is maybe not that big of a deal. If you put trays under your planters like indoor plants the water will eventually evaporate away. But it is something to observe as you go. You don't want your plants to be swimming.

I'm personally most experienced with wood, so I can't really speak to other materials. Though I think stone or cob could work. Fabric planters are an option, especially for vertical growing.

The light is going to be the biggest challenge. Plants will grow, but very slowly, and nightshades and fruiting plants like tomatoes probably won't flower. There are some suggestions here - https://www.thespruce.com/grow-vegetables-without-full-sun-4150681
 
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