As soon as spring arrives, there’s no stopping – everyone wants out! Also the plants. With our tips, the balcony becomes a pretty local recreation oasis.

So far, spring has only been very sporadic – which means that I leave my balcony garden in hibernation for a little longer. But if – hopefully – the first spring-like rays of sunshine soon warm up our minds, I’ll be looking forward to getting my balcony fit for summer again. My balcony is small: A table, two chairs, a small grill, some small pots and two big oleanders just have space. But in autumn I got another Ikea bargain: a bamboo plant holder which I can attach to my window shutter – and which is supposed to blossom this summer.

I like uncomplicated plants that are not too sensitive and yet give me pleasure with their flowers and fruits. Here are five of my favourite varieties.

Nasturtium

Nasturtium is probably the most colourful and uncomplicated plant you can buy on a balcony. The plant likes the sun, but also thrives in the shade. It grows quickly and is very compatible with other plants. The colourful flowers are really nice spots of colour on the balcony, which can bloom into autumn. And best of all, the petals, which have a delicate sharpness, are edible and taste excellent when sprinkled over a salad, for example. You can already plant nasturtium now. Put two or three seeds together in a small pot or in a flower box and cover the seeds with soil, moisten with a little water.

Tomatoes

If you don’t expect too much from the harvest, tomatoes are very grateful comrades on the balcony. With a bamboo stick as a climbing aid, the plants grow quickly and beautifully, and I think that it does quite well on the balcony. Important: The plants do not tolerate frost! So if you have already bought seedlings, you can keep them in small pots on the windowsill until the beginning of May and then plant them on the balcony. Tomatoes love the sun, and if they get enough of it, you have a better chance of harvesting your own tomatoes in late summer. Between April and June, seedling markets take place all over Switzerland. Anyone interested in special varieties should visit the Pro Specia Rara tomato seedling market, for example.

Gossip poppy

The red, bright flowers spread a particularly good mood in summer. Poppies can already be sown in pots that are not too small. When the plants are about 15 cm high, a root ball has formed which can be carefully planted or replanted. Nothing looks more like Provence on the balcony than a few delicate poppy blossoms blooming between lavender plants. (Lavender is very uncomplicated, most of the plants you can buy at the DIY store survive the winter without any problems).

Thyme

I planted thyme seeds two years ago and lovingly tended them on the windowsill until I replanted them into a pot at the end of April. The plant has grown very easily and has survived two winters without any problems. I always have spice plants such as rosemary, sage or thyme on my balcony – these are usually plants I buy in a DIY store. If they don’t survive the winter, I replace them again. But when I pick leaves from this one small thyme pot, the year after year is a particularly beautiful feeling.

Chili

Last summer I bought a chili seedling from Beat Heuberger’s shop in Zurich. Heuberger is what you might call a real chili aficionado. Especially practical: You can also buy his seedlings in his online shop. He advised me well – I decided on a Peperoncino Fiorentina, an ideal chili plant for the balcony. I was overjoyed to see the small pods getting bigger and redder. I carefully dried the harvested pods and then soaked them in olive oil. Small tip: Chop the chillies and pour oil over them, but only so far that about half of the container is full. Wait until the chilli peppers have settled and then add more oil, so the chilli oil becomes more intense.

Tips and tricks:

Beware of frost! If it gets icy again and the temperatures drop below zero, it is advisable to put the pots in the flat overnight. If you feel like growing small plants at home or in the office, you can do this easily with seed kits. I think the Ecobags are especially pretty. The bag is 100 percent compostable and can therefore be completely transplanted outdoors. The sacks, in which you can grow tomatoes, basil, spinach or rocket, for example, are available from 11.90 francs at Globus.

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