Autumn is definitely here. I know this from the many alarming creaks and groans coming from the boiler now it’s finally switched back on. I even got the hot water bottle out the other night. So it seems like a good time to post these photos of the balcony garden we grew this summer.
So my two big New Year’s resolutions this year were:
- Learn to dance and get more exercis
- Grow some vegetables on our balcony
It’s best to draw a discreet veil over No. 1 – I’ve been taking ballet classes since January, but I’d wouldn’t really describe anything I do there as ‘dancing’. But resolution No. 2 was a huge success, mainly because of a lovely lady called Naomi who runs this awesome gardening blog.
She is a gardening genius who I met via her blog, and she offered to give me some advice on how to grow stuff on our balcony, in exchange for using the photos in her upcoming book.
This was what we started with:
Nothing natural except for all the dirt on my bike.
And this is where we ended up!
Naomi was a huge help, giving us seeds, soil, and lots of useful advice. Not to mention taking all these awesome photos.
These tomatoes grew to about 6 foot before we chopped off the top, and were incredibly nice (they’re called Gardener’s Delight). We also grew tumbling bushes in hanging baskets which yielded hundreds of tomatoes, but the vine type were definitely the tastiest.
These were the tumbling tomatoes and some parsley (and my messy hair).
Not sure how much of an overlap there is between the sewing blog world and the gardening world, although I know that Emily of The Bottermann Empire has a rather impressive balcony garden. If you are interested, this is what worked for us (on a sheltered SW facing balcony).
- Vine and bush tomatoes grew like anything
- Salad leaves, although we did get a pesky bout of manky caterpillars on them
- Herbs including parsley, mint, thyme, and oregano
- Jalapeño chillies – not grown from seed, but we got loads of fruit off one plant
- Rhubarb! That’s what I’m clutching in the second photo down
This is what didn’t work so well:
- Coriander just grew about 3 inches, flowered and died
- We had some great purple bean seeds, but the plants didn’t flourish for some reason
- Peas are really pretty and tasty, but didn’t yield that much in a wine box
- Tromboncino squash grew like mad but didn’t product many veggies
- Beetroot were great for leaves, but the roots were a bit small
This is beetroot in an old wine box. I tried loads of places to try and get a couple of these, and eventually struck gold in a local deli. (Top tip – only really posh wine comes in these boxes, so don’t bother asking at Morrisons. Even Majestic turned me away.)
If you’re interested in doing container or urban gardening, I recommend checking out Naomi’s blog Out of My Shed, as well as the small-space gardening blog Vertical Veg. I also bought The Bountiful Container, which was very helpful but not really aimed at the UK which makes all the buying recommendations a bit useless. It’s great for ideas though.
I can honestly say that growing these plants has been one of the highlight of my year. I can’t believe how rewarding it is coming home from work and checking out which seedlings had grown an extra inch, and whether our tomatoes had started to turn red. I don’t think we’ll be self-sufficient for a while yet (or ever, unless we turn our spare room into a hydroponic growing pod) but just having fresh herbs and salad leaves makes you feel remarkably proud/smug.
Thanks to Naomi for all her help, and these lovely photos!