Balcony Gardening Basics

I’m not sure if this counts as a hobby or something more important, like a crucial life skill, but gardening is my favorite past time in spring, and I’m pretty fond of it during the rest of the year too. As per some of the common Singapore property insights, a backyard is one of the most prominent feature that people look for, when buying or renting a place. 

Since I was small I’ve loved working in the dirty dirt and playing with worms. I’ve kept backyard gardens in other homes, but I live in a third floor apartment now, so it’s a bit trickier to keep a garden. I’ve managed to have a respectable garden growing on the balcony all last summer and fall, and several of the plants (tomato, basil, broccoli, squash and garlic) have survived the winter indoors just fine. I keep three compost bins on the balcony all the time, covered with old heavy fabric to retain as much heat as possible and encourage microbial decomposition. The first bin is for raw household food scraps (vegetable rinds, bread crusts, old fruit), coffee grinds, leaves that appear from nowhere on the balcony; I cover this stuff with potting soil and stir it up every few weeks. Also, a fat squirrel visits daily and helps reduce the overall biomass. After two or three months, I transfer the decomposing goodies to the second, bigger bin, where I let the pile sit for a good six months, before moving it to the third bin, where the worms live.

I’ve been balcony composting since I moved into this apartment, a year and a half ago, but I only started vermicomposting six months ago. The worms are fantastic, they break the already-rich soil into high quality “black gold,” full of nitrogen and phosphates and everything baby plants need to thrive. I like to give the worms cold shots of espresso from time to time, and imagine them crawling around the espresso thickened soil, having wormy parties. The outdoor worms tend to stick together in a ball in the center of their bin (which is covered, and up against the building), but they also have some lucky brothers and sisters living inside the apartment, in the big tomato plant pot (also known as the worm’s “winter palace”). These guys have been self-procreating like crazy and I’ll soon be spreading them around in many small pots once I get the spring plants going.

I don’t know what I’ll actually grow yet this year. Colorado is a tricky climate for certain fruits and vegetables; even in summer it’s dry here. I’ve no luck with such delicate herbs as mint, anise and lemon balm, and I’ve killed two orchids, despite caring for them with special foods, lights and misters; it’s just too dry in the Rocky Mountains for jungle plants. The tougher vines-tomatoes, broccoli, basil, and spider plants, (which I have growing all over the apartment)-I’ve had more luck with, and they bring a lot of joy (and oxygen) to our home.

Rich soil is only the beginning of spring gardening, but it’s essential. I re-purpose plastic and paper containers (yogurt containers, cat litter buckets, coffee pots, etc) for plantings, and this year I’m thinking about having a spring plant sale, only because there’s not enough room in the apartment or balcony for all the plants I hope to grow. Call this gardening post one; I’ll write another one with more tips and photos of this year’s seedlings. To close this post on spring hobbies, here’s a line from a song I learned a long time ago that sings the praises of healthy soil:

Thank you dirt, thanks a bunch. Thanks dirt, you made my lunch.

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Janice Morgan is the head writer at Gonzagala. She loves writing as much as she loves her seventeen cats! Her articles on nature are well appreciated.