Newly Registered
Posts: 4
Joined: Fri Apr 10, 2015 5:46 am
Location: United Arab Emirates

Growing vegetables on a balcony in the hot Arabian Gulf

:cool: Hi everyone! I am currently living in the United Arab Emirates. It is essentially the desert, and the summer is rapidly approaching (even though it is only April). The temperatures are now getting up to 100-105 degrees (the hottest time of day is at 4pm, and I get afternoon sun). I have a balcony, and I have been trying to grow some vegetables on my balcony.
I have not been too successful with certain aspects of growing vegetables over here. The seasons (as I am familiar with them in Penna.) are a bit accelerated here. I have a fig tree, eggplants, tomato, mint, strawberry and a lime tree (small limes).

The Issues
-The fig is fine, some leaves have dropped (probably from the 'winter') but there is no fruit.
-The strawberry is brand new and seems to require a lot of water.
-The lime tree is very slow moving on producing fruit.
-The eggplants are new as well, but they seem to be losing a little color from when I got them a week ago.
-The mint is basically fine.
-The tomato has been my biggest concern. Its leaves are starting to yellow and curl...they have plenty of water, and are in the sun a lot but I am thinking it may even be too hot for the tomatoes.

**Overall, things aren't horrible, but they aren't great. On top of the veggie concerns, I am wondering:
-is the sun too intense?
-is planting the veggies in potting soil bad for drainage?
-do I need more sun, less sun, more shade, plants inside, etc.?

Environmental factors
-temps up to 105 by 4 pm for the next month (April)
-temps up to 125 by 4pm May to August
-hard water (I do have cool water)
-afternoon sun hits the balcony (6 hours maximum)
-I can make shade, if need be
-plants are in various sized pots with potting soil or sandy soil
-my balcony is off the living room (with big tinted windows), so I can provide some filtered air-conditioned sunlight inside

I do have some plant food I brought from the states. It is 'Jack's Classic' Acid Special 17-6-6 with micronutrients (for acid loving plants). Now, growing up in the Penna. woods, I am not used to using a lot of plant food....things just grow.

-What can I do to help these babies grow and produce fruit/veggies?
-Should I use the plant food for any of these plants?
-Is the potting soil okay, or should I change it out/alter it in any way?
-What are your opinions on the extreme heat?

Thank you, thank you, thank you

Green Thumb
Posts: 532
Joined: Sun Jan 13, 2013 6:52 am
Location: South Africa

Sounds damn hot! So to start; your plant food is so high in nitrogen you might find nothing fruits because of it. You need a better balance between the potassium/phosphorus and nitrogen.

Also, tomatoes and eggplant don't set fruit in very high temperatures. You're already getting to over 40C so that might be a problem. If I remember correctly the lime also might struggle to set fruit and maybe event the fig too.

I suggest some shade during the hottest part of the day. I think in your environment cooling the temperatures is more important than direct sun. Some general light should be enough.

Oddly, I thought the mint would be the worst off as it needs cool and wet conditions. What kind of mint is it?

Potting soil is perfect and I would keep it but replant the trees every couple of years in new potting soil. Feed every 2 weeks for liquid fertiliser or every few months of solid, slow-release fertiliser. I would go out and look for a an organic balanced fertiliser like 3:2:3.

Newly Registered
Posts: 4
Joined: Fri Apr 10, 2015 5:46 am
Location: United Arab Emirates

That sounds good. Do you suggest I bring the eggplant and tomato in sometimes (even though the inside is air conditioned)? That all sounds great, though. Thanks!

Posts: 14100
Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2013 8:32 am
Location: Hawaii, zone 12a 587 ft elev.

If you grow tomatoes then you need to choose heat resistant varieties. There are a few around that can handle the low 100's. The others will not set in the heat and will require huge amounts of water just to stay alive.

I suggest since you seem to have researched your climate well that you plant the tomatoes during a cooler time of the year. In hot climates, summer is our winter off season.

The problem with heat and balconies are that the farther up you are in the building you will have more drying from the wind and if the balcony faces south or west you will get max sun and heat, especially off of concrete and brick.

I think you were planning to do hydroponic gardening. You can do that with a dutch bucket system, but might be less work to use an earthbox instead. There is less adjusting for nutrients and the reservoir will keep your balcony cleaner and as long as the reservoir has water, the plants should not dry out.
Strawberry and mint can be grown indoors, they can take partial shade
limes are slow, calamondin and Meyer lemons are faster. My Bearrs lime only produces one crop a year and it takes 9 months to mature. Calamondin cycles 3-5 times a year often having blooms and limes on at the same time. Meyer lemons produce 2-3 cycles a year.

Make sure your pots are big enough. An indeterminate tomato should have an 18 gallon container not a 5 gallon bucket to accommodate its' large root system.

Double pot smaller pots and group them together so they will be able to shade each other and increase humidity. Cover the pots with foil or reflective material or paint them white so they reflect more heat.

Newly Registered
Posts: 4
Joined: Fri Apr 10, 2015 5:46 am
Location: United Arab Emirates

Wow...great response. I really appreciate you help. I will look into the dutch bucket system and the earthbox, to see which will suit my balcony.
I will say that the mint is kicking butt outside, so it must be a heat resistant variety. Good to know about the limes. I was really hoping for some figs, but they just aren't fruiting. I'll reevaluate my pot sizes, and adjust accordingly.
Thanks again!

Green Thumb
Posts: 358
Joined: Fri Mar 14, 2014 4:06 pm
Location: MD Suburbs of DC, 7a

I'd be hesitant to bring any fruiting plants inside. They need direct sunlight (or an artificial light source that will give the right light spectrum) in addition to water and food to set and grow their fruits (or veggies). The direct sunlight is required for the photosynthetic processes to occur so manufacturing of sugars can happen. Another possible option is an agricultural cloth that allows enough sunlight to get through for photosynthesis and perhaps provide some shading. You might want to ask around your area if there are nurseries there. They would be your best source of local knowledge and ideas.

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