Sunday, March 1, 2009


One of my New Year's Resolutions was to start a balcony garden. That was in January.

Of course, a balcony garden doesn't just come together. It takes a lot of prep work, and that's something that's kept me busy this past month--too busy, in fact, to make those pants I've been wanting to make. Because our space is so limited, starting a balcony garden isn't as simple as putting a seed into a pot and hoping something grows. If you want to try something similar, take a look at what I've done so far.

Seeds: I drew up a quick 'n dirty map of our little balcony, and decided which plants would go where. Needless to say, a lot of our initial plant ideas (eggplants, bell peppers) had to get the axe as I prioritized which veggies I wanted and which ones we'd actually eat. Once I knew what I wanted to plant where, it was just a matter of picking out the seeds. I know most of the plants, especially the herbs, are available as plants, but I can't help it if I like the challenge, though--and besides, once the days start getting shorter again, in October, the plants all die. This way, I could conceivably get two or even three years' worth of plants out of one packet of seeds.

Space: Because we live in an apartment, we don't have much space for plants, not to mention that some plants, especially tomatoes, are rather stinky as they grow. Fortunately, we do have a (small) balcony, and fortunately, I'm pretty handy with power tools:

The top shelf will be for the tomatoes, and the bottom shelf for zucchinis and cucumbers. I'd also built a little raised platform for holding the carrots, and the strawberries will go into a planter that will hang on the balcony. The herbs will be kept inside--the cats seem to enjoy them, and they do make the apartment smell nice.

Fertilizer: I've always wanted to try composting. Alas, I'm finding out that composting doesn't work so hot when you start in the middle of February--it goes, but slowly. But the weather is warming up, so hopefully by the time the hypothetical seedlings are ready to go into their real homes, we should have some nice, rich dirt. There are some excellent sites out there that explain balcony composting. Also check out Simple Makes on my blog roll.

Starting up the seeds: I made a bunch of newspaper seedling cups, and managed to fill about 2/3 of them before I ran out of potting soil. Then I set them in the windowsill, and now it's just a matter of waiting. I'll get another sack of dirt next week, and seed the rest of the plants--a week won't matter that much.

There are some conflicting opinions as to whether you should take off the newspaper. I will, because I'll be using pots and not actual ground--I'm pretty sure that, in the ground, the worms and all those other fun things will chomp up the newspaper pretty darn quickly, but I've discovered that even in the compost heap, newspaper lasts a surprisingly long time.

So there you have it: four afternoons' worth of work to prepare for a whole summer of harvest. It's not really that much work. I chose to spread it out during the whole month because I have other things to do, amongst them spoiling my cats.

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