balcony gardening for a first-timer
You might be wondering what a zone 8er is doing in the Minnesota forum! Well, a good friend from Minnesota asked me for some gardening suggestions, and I let her know that I get most of my tips from gardenweb... Only, I hang out in the Texas forum more often :-) In the time she gets down to registering and asking her own questions, I thought I might get her started by making an introductory post on her behalf -- it's weird how I'm so excited about her interest in gardening!!
She's a first-time gardener near Minneapolis, and has limited space -- an east facing apartment balcony that gets sun from morning to early-afternoon (I'd guess about 6 hours or so.) She'd prefer to start from seed: annuals, or perennials that are likely to bloom the first year, and that do well in containers. In addition, she's thinking of buying some houseplants.
What's the optimum time to start outdoors from seed in zone 4, and which flowers are forgiving and rewarding for a beginner? I have had good luck with marigolds, portulaca, profusion zinnias and dwarf cosmos here in Texas, but I'd rather have her rely on your experience/advice than that of zone 8. She doesn't have an indoor light setup, but can she start some seeds indoors in a well lighted window? Again, timing and specifics of plant names will be much appreciated.
Thanks so much for any guidance you might have!