Starting a Balcony Herb Garden: Can Seniors Do It Too?

In the golden years of life, finding simple, enriching, and manageable hobbies is key to maintaining a healthy spirit and an active mind. Gardening, a time-honored activity that connects us directly with nature, is not only a source of pleasure but also a means of self-expression and accomplishment.

However, space constraints often pose a challenge, especially for seniors residing in urban settings or assisted living facilities. This limitation has given rise to the popularity of balcony herb gardens—a small, personal haven offering both aesthetic pleasure and practical returns. In this guide, we explore the step-by-step process by which seniors can cultivate their own flourishing balcony herb garden.

Step 1: Assessing Your Space

Before you plant anything, it’s vital to understand the environment of your balcony. Observe the amount of sunlight the area receives daily; most herbs require at least 4-6 hours of sunlight. Also, consider the exposure to wind and any existing structures that can provide support or may obstruct sunlight.

Step 2: Choosing the Right Herbs

Select herbs that you enjoy and will use. Some easy-to-grow options for beginners include:

  • Basil: Requires warm temperatures and plenty of sunlight.
  • Mint: Grows aggressively; best planted in a separate container.
  • Parsley: Prefers partial shade, making it suitable for balconies with less sun.
  • Rosemary: Thrives in sunny, drier conditions.

Step 3: Picking Appropriate Containers

Herbs are versatile and don’t require deep soil to thrive, making them perfect for container gardening. Consider pots with drainage holes to prevent waterlogging. Also, remember, different herbs have different water needs, so individual pots are better than one large container for multiple species.

Step 4: Using High-Quality Soil

Invest in a good potting mix that provides adequate nutrition and holds moisture well. A lightweight and well-draining soil are paramount to the health of your herb garden.

Step 5: Planting Your Herbs

You can start herbs from seeds or buy young plants from a nursery. If beginning with seeds, follow the sowing instructions on the seed packet. For young plants, transfer them to prepared containers, ensuring not to overcrowd them to give each plant enough space to grow.

Step 6: Watering Wisely

Balcony gardens can dry out quickly, especially in the summer. Most herbs prefer slightly damp, but not waterlogged, soil. It’s crucial to water them regularly but ensure the soil is well-drained. Too much moisture can lead to root rot and other complications.

Step 7: Regular Pruning

Regular harvesting or pruning encourages more growth and helps create bushier plants. Remove dead or yellowing leaves to maintain plant health and prevent disease.

Step 8: Monitoring for Pests and Diseases

Be vigilant for signs of pests or disease. Natural remedies like neem oil can be effective treatments without resorting to harsh chemicals that might harm your plants or your health.

Step 9: Enjoying the Harvest

The best part about having an herb garden is enjoying fresh herbs. Regularly harvest them to use in your cooking, for making teas, or simply for their aromatic presence.

Step 10: Preparing for Winter

If you live in a colder climate, consider which plants can survive the winter outside and which ones you’ll need to bring indoors. Some herbs like rosemary are more resilient, while others like basil are sensitive to cold.

Creating Accessibility

For seniors, it’s important that this process doesn’t just cater to the garden’s needs, but also to your own comfort and safety. Consider these tips for an accessible and safe gardening experience:

  • Elevated Planters: Reduce the need to bend or crouch.
  • Comfortable Tools: Ergonomic gardening tools can reduce strain on your hands and joints.
  • Easy Watering Solutions: Soaker hoses or drip irrigation systems can eliminate the need for heavy watering cans.
  • Slip Prevention: Ensure the balcony floor has a non-slip surface to prevent accidents, especially after watering.

The Therapeutic Touch

Beyond the culinary delights that fresh herbs offer, the act of gardening itself is therapeutic. It’s a form of exercise that promotes flexibility and mobility, and the attention and care it requires provide a sense of responsibility and purpose. Not to mention, the joy of watching your plants grow is an unmatched satisfaction.


Starting a balcony herb garden as a senior is not just a pastime; it’s an investment in your health, happiness, and well-being. It stimulates the senses, rewards patience and care, and can even provide a social activity if shared with friends or family. As you tend to your little green companions, you’ll find they, in turn, care for you—nourishing your body, mind, and soul. So, embrace your green thumb and let your balcony herb garden blossom into a sanctuary of scent, taste, and life.