Aliciouslife: My Balcony Garden – First Steps

When Mr A and I had been searching for a new apartment in 2012, we specifically looked for a place with a balcony, because we wanted to be able to sit outside and I also had this romantic idea of trying my luck with a tomato or basil plant.

Fruit and veg you’ve tended to and grown yourself always taste so much better than what you can buy at the supermarket…or the farmers market…or anywhere. There’s nothing better than sitting in the late afternoon sun, picking a tomato straight from the plant and biting into its warm, juicy flesh. This, if nothing else, is luxury. This, if nothing else, is also healthy and sustainable – especially if you water you plants with rain water (something I’m unfortunately not always able to do). This is also something that can be achieve very simply – if you have a window that gets a lot of sunshine, you won’t even need a balcony and will be able to grow your tomatoes, basil, peppers and arugula on the windowsill or a shelf.

We moved to our current apartment in early 2013 and by May we had a pretty well-stocked garden, eventually eating home-grown herbs and vegetables until October. Last year’s yield turned out similarly successful, even though we were away for all of August and my best friend got to harvest – for taking care of our apartment.

While I am still getting excited about each green sprout finding its way through the soil, Mr A got a little confused by the plethora of greens (and pots) on our balcony last year, complaining he couldn’t even sit there enjoying the evening sun without having to move half a ton of “stuff”, let alone setting up the barbecue.

His complaints may not have been completely unjustified.

Balcony garden 2014: Everything's growing.
Balcony garden 2014: Everything’s growing.

Therefore, I’m leaning towards a more efficient approach this year – with hopefully similar results.

I am still planning on growing a variety of tomatoes and herbs on our balcony garden, along with chilies, capsicum and maybe an eggplant for good measure, only do I want to reduce the number of containers and find spots for them where they won’t be in anyone’s (read: Mr A’s) way.

Reusing takeout coffee cups and sushi containers
Reusing takeout coffee cups and sushi containers

Yesterday I started sowing out the first seeds of heirloom tomatoes, capsicum, chili and herbs (basil, Thai basil and parsley). Over the next couple of weekends I will continuously move the little seedlings to (individual) pots and as soon as it gets warm enough I’ll start putting them outside for the warmer hours of the day. By May I will have moved them out permanently – along with what has been spending winter inside: our raspberry and black currant bushes (which will be moved to a bigger – joint – container), strawberries, three terracotta windowboxes with herbs (those are living on windowsills in the stairway right now) and my avocado, fig and plumeria trees.

Planters with a view Planters with a view

In April, just like every year, I am also going to shop at Raritätenbörse (Rare Plant Fair), which takes place over the course of a weekend at the Botanical Gardens of the University of Vienna. And just like every year I will rock up with a list of things I want to buy – and leave with a lot more (always fearing I will kill some of the plants, therefore feeling the need to buy a few more “just in case”).

In past years, I’ve almost exclusively shopped at the stall of Arche Noah, a foundation promoting agro-biodiversity by cultivating heirloom varieties of fruit and vegetables to ensure their survival. Apparently, “The ARCHE NOAH Seed Bank is one of Europe’s biggest private collections of cultural plants, maintaining over 6.000 accessions of rare vegetables and grains – many of them are not to be found in any other places any more.” How great is that?

Their plants are usually rare and always organic and you can buy them either online, on fairs or at their garden near Langenlois, some 80km from Vienna, where Arche Noah also offers guided tours as well as deep, insightful information. They really know their shit.

Needless to say, their stall at the Rare Plant Fair is always crowded and I always make sure to visit on Friday, the day the fair opens, so as not to miss out on something I have decided I “need”.


Are you growing any sorts of plants (edible or not) in your apartment yet? What is your experience? Green or black thumb?

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