Humble adventures in urban gardening

Last year, I started my first balcony garden and loved it. At first I thought I was going to forego the garden this year, but the thought of a grey, dull balcony on a sunny summer day just did not sound appealing to me.

So here I am again, ready to get my hands dirty. I was a newbie (still am), and of course I made lots of mistakes.

Here are some of the things I worked with last year:

1. My balcony is very windy, so I was constantly working to keep my soil healthily moist.
2. My balcony faces north, so sun exposure isn’t as ideal as a south-facing balcony. Unless I move, there’s not much I can do. Luckily, I get part of the West sun so the afternoon sun sustains my plants fairly decently.
3. My containers were decent size but I think my plants could have benefitted from bigger pots.
4. I started my seedlings later in spring, which meant a later harvest.
5. I grew tired of the gardening chores by August, so I wasn’t as attentive near the end.

Despite my blunders, I did enjoy harvesting cherry and vine tomatoes (one plant even grew taller than me!), basil, mint, cilantro, and arugula. This year, I’m adding radishes, beets, hot peppers, Thai basil, and marigolds to the original crops. I’m considering more, but I think I have to keep myself contained before I go a wee bit overboard. My balcony isn’t that big!

As you can see, my urban garden is pretty humble. I don’t believe in spending a whole lot of money for planting stuff. I think gardening should be as accessible as it can be to encourage more people to discover their green thumbs which leads to a healthier environment. The only things I spent money on were for soil ($12), containers from the dollar store ($12), lavender and Thai basil seeds ($6 for both, which didn’t even grow!), starter plant for mint ($1.49), and a trellis for my tomatoes ($1). A friend sent me a big package of seeds that will last me ’til eternity and I used seeds from organic cherry tomatoes from my salad.

I’m also thinking of starting vermi-composting (composting using worms) to give my plants nourishment. Last year, I added dried seaweed (ground), epsom salt (diluted in water), used tea leaves, and ground eggshells to the soil every few weeks and the plants responded well to them. Imagine what good, yummy compost can do! I didn’t use any fertilizers because…well, I’m not a big fan of it.  I can’t justify paying a ridiculous amount for shipped worms so I’ve contacted local people who raise for worms for personal use to see if I can buy some from them. Plus, I don’t want 30-50 LBS of worms and castings. I have nowhere to put that.

I am reusing the containers, trellis, and have a ton of seeds left. I did buy a few more seeds, and of course soil. I used toilet paper rolls and used coffee cups for seed starters, and saving used cans as containers. I’ve offered seed exchanges, but to be honest, almost none of my friends/coworkers garden so I have no one to exchange seeds with :(. (If you’re in downtown Toronto and want to do garden/seed exchange, just leave a comment below.)

Last thing, something I am looking forward to is finally growing beets. I just love beets!

Anyways, thanks for stopping by. Here’s to a healthy growing season and hope to hear about your gardens soon.


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