Lower floor or higher floor

Justine_London(5b-6a On.,Can.)July 1, 2006

Hello again:

I have the choice of floor also. What to do? this building is 24 floors high right smack dab in the downtown. My zone is 6 and I've heard the winds can be a problem on the upper floors.

Help me decide you experienced "cliff dwelling" gardeners.

Thanks greatly, Justine

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jenny_in_se_pa(USDA7 Sunset 32)

Hi Justine and welcome! :-D

I am on the 18th floor and I will say that about 90% of the time, it's not windy up here. More often than not, I'll see the trees swaying mightily down on the ground whereas there's barely a breeze up here. When it does get windy, I make sure things are secured, although I have generally done that anyway over the years (particularly by grouping containers, etc). It only takes a couple knocked-over plants and blown-over chairs to figure it out. LOL

I think in all fairness, the degree of windiness will probably depend on where you live and which way your balcony faces (or where it has exposure). In my case, my building is facing NE and there are apartments on both sides - the front (NE) and back (SW). And specifically in my case, I am on the western corner (end balcony), so it's open along that side (whereas on the opposite end of my balcony, there is a translucent glass partition that separates my balcony from the one next door).

I have found that in general, since the jetstream moves from west to east, then most of the breezes will cut across the western end of my balcony. However with my locale being on the atlantic coastal plain and not far from the ocean, we often get the effects of Nor'easters (storms coming up along the east coast), particularly in fall and winter, and the winds will come right at my balcony from the NE.

So hopefully you will consider these types of things when you select. In particular, the one big benefit of being up higher (at least for me) other than the view, is the fact that I get unobstructed sun in the morning, which helps with being able to grow sun-loving plants fairly well. Whereas if I were down lower, I wouldn't have that much sun facing the same way (due to obstruction from trees, buildings, etc). Also, being above the trees helps to pretty much eliminate the possibility of squirrels (which I am sure plague those lower down in my building due to some english oaks planted against the building close to the lower balconies). A drawback might be when the elevator goes out and being forced to hoof it! :-o

P.S. Yes, insects and birds find their way up here! Pigeons... ugh (had to once again chase a pair away)! But also hummingbirds in my case!! :-D

    Bookmark   July 1, 2006 at 6:48PM
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DrHorticulture_(Z3 Central Saskatchewan)

Sometimes upper floors are warmer at night when it is clear and calm (not sure if this holds true for downtown). It might extend your growing season by several days, especially in the fall.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2006 at 3:19AM
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jenny_in_se_pa(USDA7 Sunset 32)

From my experience, the upper floors are warmer, 24/7, 365 days of the year (heat rises)! LOL Even in winter, the only time I need to turn on the heat is usually during a blizzard (usually in the form of a Nor'easter where the winds slam against my balcony and windows) and/or if the temps drop down into the single digits ° F.

With a building like that (looks like poured concrete like mine), it'll absorb the heat from the sun during the day and release slowly at night so there is definitely a microclimate in any case.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2006 at 7:44AM
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Go with a higher floor...better re-sale value. You can alway tie off a plant to the railing if it's getting too blown around.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2006 at 12:23PM
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Justine_London(5b-6a On.,Can.)

Thanks to DR. H, and again to Jenny and Patrick for your comments!
I just saw a gardening show from Toronto and they were talking balcony-gardening. Apparently since we get such a constantly cold winter here in SW Ontario, Canada, our balconies respond like the mountains....you know ....the snow stays on the peak! You loose one "zone" for every 5 floors, the furtherup you go the colder it gets. My zone 6 becomes zone 5 on the 5th, zone 4 on the 10th, zone 3 on the 15th, and so on. I'm going to consider this.

Oh yeah and Patrick...I'm renting not purchasing.

And Jenny, I do hope to get birds...not just pidgeons!

Dr H, I guess up north the rules change...zone 10- I envy your world!

I'll post my decision.

great (balcony) gardening to all, Justine

    Bookmark   July 4, 2006 at 8:34AM
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DrHorticulture_(Z3 Central Saskatchewan)

That doesn't sound right to me. Temperatures are supposed to drop about 1°C every 40-50 floors or so, and even that is more prominent in the summer. I spend my winters out in Saskatchewan (not so envious now? LOL) and the coldest air usually pools near the ground at night. But living in a big city might skew things a bit (from the asphalt heat).

    Bookmark   July 4, 2006 at 10:03AM
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jenny_in_se_pa(USDA7 Sunset 32)

I have to agree with drhorticulture. It's what they call the "Lapse Rate", where on average (give or take due to how much moisture is in the air, etc), the temp will drop about 1° C for every ~153 m elevation. Definitely not "Zones" worth of temperature loss! Ie., even on the top floor of the building you want to move into, it would be a negligible loss from ground level if that. If anything, the heating of all that concrete during the day (whether from the sun or from the heat coming from individual units - particularly since heat rises) will actually warm the area and release that warmth at night.

Because of the way I face, I do get the Nor'easter snow though (from this past February - with a redtwig dogwood prominent and perennials in all the buried containers):

A good insulator but again, due to the microclimate, it goes away much quicker than the same amount on the ground! This is something that I have to always be cognizant of because my container plants will often sprout in spring earlier than the ground-planted ones due to the smaller soil volume and ability to warm faster.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2006 at 10:36AM
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Agree with both Jenny and drhort. I don't live quite so high (6th floor), and I'm in the west (Denver), but my balcony has the same orientation as Jenny's. No buildings to compete, and the one tree that's finally tall enough to give me a squirrel problem (first time this year -- Ponderosa pine), still make my normally zone 5a between 5b and 6 due to the microclimate. Also, the plants placed along the brick wall have a warmer environment than the ones along the railing, so that's where I put my cold sensitive plants. All spring and summer flowering bulbs get planted in October and lined up against the wall, together with perennials in pots that don't give the kind of insulation I'd like. I may have to wrap them in bubble wrap and/or burlap, but I can grow anything here that's labeled zone 5, even 6.

As for wind, that is a problem, can't deny it. It sometimes blows things around, but I've planted wind-resistant plants at the west end where the wind is more severe. My western exposure is open to winds coming from the mountains, no obstruction to slow them down, and we have winds in the winter at ground level of up to 65 mph. So up here they're even stronger. That's why I wrap some of the perennials in winter.

My two cents, so take it for what it's worth.

I'll be interested to see what you actually do.


    Bookmark   July 4, 2006 at 11:45AM
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Justine_London(5b-6a On.,Can.)

Well, well, well, very interesting indeed, I'm not going to worry about temps. or winds. My plants will tell me if they like their new home or not.

Dr H. in zone 10 does winter vacations in Sask?

Jenn in zone 7 gets snow coverage in Feb?

Posiegirl has a view to die for!

I've now committed to 7th floor, less elevator time, good view and a great deal on a never yet occupied unit(bldg. is 2 years old). This is happening fast, I get posession of the apt on July 18th, I'm off to pick up boxes from the movers. Now to pack!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'll drop in to the forum with photos when I move in.....
thanks to all, Justine

    Bookmark   July 8, 2006 at 8:36AM
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jenny_in_se_pa(USDA7 Sunset 32)

Wow that was fast! Good luck with the move and do stop by when you're all settled. :-D

    Bookmark   July 8, 2006 at 10:24AM
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I lived on the 8th floor in Hawaii, very windy. I'm afraid of heights so it was a HUGE challenge for me even on the 8th floor. Tally HO!

    Bookmark   July 23, 2006 at 7:00PM
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radagast(US east coast)

Good luck with the move, and nice views!

    Bookmark   August 11, 2006 at 4:06PM
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