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You are what you eat, but you can also eat what you sow

September 29, 2012

…even if it’s on the 14th floor of an apartment in the middle of Sydney.

Having now been to three balcony gardening forums and workshops put on by the City of Sydney as part of their Green Villages initiative, I’ve caught the edible balcony gardening bug! The workshops have not only been inspiring and entertaining, but really useful too. I’ve gotten free plants, a worm farm so I can produce free organic fertiliser and reduce waste going to landfill, and lots of precious precious advice and tips from experienced gardeners who don’t use too much jargon! All this with no car (the worm farm was a bit of a workout to carry on the train… but then I’ve not set foot in a gym since high school, so it’s probably good for me).

mint coming back to life after I let it go too wild

So what’s growing? Basil, thyme, red mustard (for salad), rosemary, oregano, lavender, daphne, sweet jasmine, chives, dill, spring onion (just lop off the root ends of the ones you buy and stick em in soil!), mint, a dianella (courtesy of these guys), lilly pilly, and, less successfully, radishes and lettuce (nobody’s perfect!) in my second worm farm tray that’s not ready for use yet (not all pictured). I’ve still got plenty of glass space to fill and I’m thinking of starting a vertical pallet garden as well. When I heard Indira Naidoo, inspirational author and amazing person overall, was thinking of getting some Japanese quail, I must admit I got very excited! I’m also keen to get a small pond, as Cecilia Macaulay of Balcony Garden Dreaming suggests – not just for aesthetic value, but because I’d love to start growing lotus, and have a nearby water source (given that we have no hose or outside water source).

Since I’ve been trying to keep my balcony “garden” cheap, I’ve also repurposed a lot of food containers as my drip trays, which make watering easy and also hold my pots up well. All you need is a single-hole-punch and some garden twine, and you’re good to go. In the top picture I’ve even tied half a strawberry container over my dill seedlings I’m trying to grow, so that they don’t dry out so much (important, since our balcony is very windy a lot of the time!). Inside, I’m growing chilli and dill from seed in egg cartons, which were thoroughly wetted and wrapped in old bubble wrap (the ends are open to let air through). The egg carton “cells” will be planted straight into the ground, where the cardboard will break down. The bubble wrap helps things stay moist so I don’t have to keep watering, and also help keep things warm to promote growth.

…and I promise the next post will be a recipe. I just happen to be having more fun getting my hands into soil at the moment :) Let me know if you have any tips – I have a west facing, windy balcony, although it’s starting to get about 6 hours of sun now…maybe I’ll try some tomatoes and lime…!

10 Comments leave one →
  1. September 29, 2012 8:28 pm

    How lovely! I don’t even have a balcony, but I still manage to fit in some plants on a windowsill. And they do pretty well. Best of luck with your little garden!

  2. September 30, 2012 4:26 am

    Zo I am so impressed! What a beautiful balcony you have now with all that growth! Ugh nothing beats picking fresh herbs when you need them. I totally envy this because, although we have the garden space for anything, without daylight (and with 3 feet of snow) we can do nothing! I’m looking into light bulbs for growing indoors – not sure if they have to be specific bulbs or just really bright ones but I am too hooked on fresh herbs so go a whole winter with no window sill pots.

  3. peasepudding permalink
    September 30, 2012 9:45 pm

    Fantastic that you are getting and edible garden growing on your balcony! You don’t need the gym anyway.

  4. October 1, 2012 1:13 am

    L: I bet your herbs probably do better actually! I have to water mine so often from all the wind, and they often look a bit forlorn being buffeted about.

    C: Hmm, maybe try growing mushrooms? I hear you can sprout some types of herb seeds – basil for example would probably do quite well, but it might be hard to track down large quantities of unsprayed herb seeds for sprouting.

    P: Ha, I definitely could be more fit, even if I don’t need to lose any weight!

  5. October 7, 2012 3:09 am

    Wonderful! I loved reading about your balcony garden!

  6. October 21, 2012 4:18 pm

    Your garden is gorgeous Zo. I LOVE your creative re-use. x t.

  7. October 30, 2012 10:24 pm

    Looking good Zo! Very impressed that you’re not letting apartment living hold you back :D

  8. November 11, 2012 9:16 pm

    This is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen! I don’t have a balcony, but now I want to get a place that has one just so I can do this! I’m curious to learn more about worm farms, though. Was it that all about?

  9. November 11, 2012 9:51 pm

    Jeff: Haha, thanks! A worm farm is many things…literally it’s a specially designed box/house for thousands of worms that you “feed” with your kitchen & garden scraps. It’s especially good for apartment dwellers as the box doesn’t take up much space, but you can expand it or have several if you do have a large garden. The worms then speed up the composting process so at the end you get free, all-natural fertiliser for your plants. Here’s a quick 3 minute video that explains why it’s good for the environment too: http://recyclingweek.planetark.org/media/householdcomposting.cfm

    Thanks for stopping by, and love your blog :)

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