The Building

Consider the whole building when creating a balcony garden

One of the biggest differences between traditional backyard gardening and container gardening is the role of the building. Gardeners with the luxury of using the earth as a canvas rarely give nearby buildings a second thought, except for issues of shade and space limitations. But for container gardening, considering the potential effect the garden has on the building is a key part of creating a successful garden.

Container gardening can potentially damage buildings in several ways:

  • Water damage from run-off or leaky hoses
  • Stains from soil, water, fertilizers
  • Structural damage due to excess weight (especially important with rooftop gardens and window boxes)
  • Aesthetic damage from untended plants and containers
  • General damage from gardening activities (e.g. dragging tools around, increased use of area, etc.)


Whether you own your own house or are a renter you need to take precautions to prevent such damage from occurring.

If you rent, it's usually a good idea to tell the landlord your plans, and even confirm his/her permission in a letter. Share your plans, get input. Use statements like "I love this building and I just want to make sure I don't hurt it." Always ask permission when considering gardens in public areas.

You are a tenant farmer, an urban serf. The lord is all powerful and must be appeased. So, with that in mind, start small and ask gently. And don't be afraid. Thy landlord may be a gardener, or just a fan of fresh tomatoes.