in spring of 2008, we built one large planter (to hang on our balcony railing) out of some found/salvaged soft wood. that year we grew mint, chives, and basil in our balcony planter, and we officially caught the urban-gardening bug.
last year (2009) the planter started to give a bit from the weight of the soil and a year's worth of slow decomposition (soil + water + time = decomposing wood), so we reinforced it with some plywood pieces along the bottom. at the same time, chris built us another planter out of salvaged/found plywood and we expanded our urban gardening adventures. we grew chives, mint, and basil in one planter; and attempted nasturtiums and morning glories in the other planter. we spent hours building an elaborate fishing-line trellis for the nasturtiums and morning glories to climb. we attached it to the planter and to the top of our balcony; planted our pre-started seeds into the planter; and waited for the beautiful climbing vines to begin. they didn't. instead, over a matter of days, starling came and clipped off all the nasturtium and morning glory sprouts. we tried some visual and auditory starling scare tactics, with no luck. we gave up on the trellis and vines. we did still have success with the basil, chives, and mint. we also had some success with thyme and cilantro in pots on the balcony. although, our basil got aphids and we made the mistake of bringing it into the apartment, and aphids transferred to a few of our indoor plants. the removal process has been long, and tedious. but we think we finally got them all.
this year, our original planter (circa 2008) was looking pretty rough. i was not very confident that it would make it through the season without the sides falling off, leaking its contents onto the driveway/balconies below. we spent last sunday on the balcony, inspecting, repairing and rehanging the planters. the original planter required some serious repair/reinforcing, but it's much more structurally sound now :)
we emptied out the old soil (for fear of aphids) and filled the planters with a mixture of pro-mix and organic compost to get our balcony garden started for the year. we bought all our seeds and soil from halifax seed this year, and we've been very impressed with their wealth of information and the time that they spent helping us in store. they've also got great tips on their website, including seed starting/sowing dates.
we planted the spinach seeds which will get one whole planter. the chives wintered over well and have started to come up again already. we'll start our basil indoors this week. and next month we'll sow the parsley, thyme, and coriander outside. our balcony doesn't get great sun exposure, so we're limited in what we can grow there. but, we're going to try some hot peppers indoors this year, on the shelf/ledge of a south-facing window.
if all goes well this year, we'll have:
- chives for using fresh
- basil for using fresh and for making pesto
- parsley for using fresh and drying
- cilantro for guacamole and salsa making
- thyme for using fresh and drying
- spinach for eating/freezing
next year we might even try to secure a plot in a local community garden that's just a few blocks away from our apartment.
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