Celebrate the culture of agriculture & share skills (Growing! Cooking! Eating!)

Progressing towards an edible balcony

Two years ago I moved from a house-and-garden in Victoria to a small ground-floor apartment in New South Wales (Australia). I'm missing my compost heap, veggie garden and flowers, but enjoying the challenge of balcony gardening and learning about a different climate - milder nights, shorter winters, sunnier days all round, and generally a less extreme climate than Melbourne, but with high humidity throughout summer.

My goal is to have a balcony stocked only with edible plants, plus a couple of things that have emotional significance (two frangipanis that were a gift, for example, although eventually they'll need to find a patch of ground somewhere).

As it's winter here, it's not a good time for impressive photos of lush foliage, but here's a picture to give you a bit of an idea of what I'm working on. To date, there are two types of parsley, also sage, rosemary, thyme, coriander, chilli, chives, brahmi, mint, oregano, a miniature kaffir lime, carrots (I hope), ginger, lemongrass and a strawberry plant. Also pansies (edible) and a hydrangea (not). Oh and the tub of primulas that were a gift... Any suggestions for other things that would work?

Our property is only to the edge of the balcony; the overhanging tree fern, palms and giant strelitzias are on common property. We like them because they give us shade and privacy, but they have the disadvantage of cutting the light down to the herbs and veggies and this will limit what can we can grow.  

There's a new 'gardening group' in the apartment complex and we are establishing a more extensive herb garden on a large common area. We are dreaming of raised garden beds and veggies, so that may be material for a future post too.

I do hope that the next photos I put up will be a bit more exciting. And also that my tiles have been cleaned by then!

Views: 134

Comment by Jennifer on July 28, 2014 at 9:41am

I had to look up brahmi and now I'm super curious. Do you use it as a culinary herb or more as a homeopathic aid? Regarding shade-friendly plants, Dean asked a similar question recently that I reposted on HOMEGROWN's Facebook page. Folks had some great ideas!

Comment by Pam Joseph on October 22, 2014 at 4:59am

Sorry there's been such a delay since I posted. Life got away from me a little bit.

I haven't tried the brahmi yet, but it's supposed to be good as a tea to help with memory. I'll let you know how it goes...if I remember. :)

Thanks for alerting me to the suggestions in response to Dean's post. These are really helpful. The hanging baskets that you see on the balcony rails get a reasonable amount of sun, although things do tend to be a bit leggy. I've had success with parsley, basil, coriander/cilantro (currently harvesting the seeds) and thyme.The pots on the table do very well - I think they get enough sun, plus warmth from the rendered walls. We get midday-to-afternoon sun.

My attempt at carrots has been an abysmal failure, but I think the soil was poorly balanced for this crop, which didn't help. The strawberry is doing ok for leaves, but the fruit gets to a certain point and then shrivels up.  I'm planning to put in a couple of pots of cherry tomatoes that I can move around to follow the sun.

But the really good news is that my worm towers (under the flower pots) are doing very well, full of squirmy wormies, all look very happy and healthy. For details on how to build these, go to the Milkwood Permaculture site: Milkwood Permaculture . If that link doesn't work, Google milkwood worm towers. I am trying with narrower pipes than they use, for my pot size (my pipes are about 4"/10cm diameter), but seems to be staying healthy so far. I use a pair of wooden chopsticks to put the veggie peelings in and to toss the composting bits every few days to aerate them.

Everything's resting now, but I'm about to re-plant so I'll post more when there's something to see. Thanks for all the suggestions! :-)

Comment by Jennifer on October 23, 2014 at 10:33am

Pam: Thanks so much for the update! Radiant heat from the patio does seem useful, and planting things in pots that can chase the sun seems very smart. And what good news about the worm towers! I haven't tried those myself, but I'm interested. Beside sizing down the pipes to match your pots, do you have any other tips/secrets you've hit upon yourself? 


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