I suddenly had the opportunity of setting up my own little veggie/fruit garden a few months ago when I settled down under and I was very much looking forward to raise baby plants. To my opinion, there is no greater satisfaction than growing your own fruits and vegetables. It’s funnier, cheaper, healthier than any trip to the supermarket. The only thing I am sad about now is the harvest. After watching your babies grow for weeks, it’s harder than I thought to let them go!
Now, being a total balcony garden noob allowed be to do many trials and errors, and I am here to share the little knowledge I gathered over the last few months. Just some basics but truly essentials, hopefully it will avoid you some painful fails. If you think about other gardening 101 tips, please leave me a comment!!
1. Get a worm farm, it’ll come handy. Additionally to provide you on-demand free natural fertiliser (worm tea and castings are like gold for your plants) you’ll reduce your contribution to global warming. Because organic waste is producing methane when degrading in landfills, it is really important to avoid throwing it away. What your worms can’t eat can be composted the classic (and even classy) way. In Australia, most councils offer composting workshops and provide you a complimentary composting bin when you attend – this is to say how primordial it is for the community. Plus it’s super fun and rewarding, I’ll tell you more about it next week as it is enough information to make it a post by itself.
2. There is an Osmocote potting mix for every need. Some plants require acidic soil (like berries for instance), some others don’t and are really forgiving. Seek for advice at your local Bunnings or nursery or wherever you get your seeds / seedlings before buying, it will avoid you poor yield and disappointments.
3. Not all pots are created equals. You have normal pots, and self watering pots. And all self watering pots are not created equals either. I found that the basic self watering pots idea very attractive ( (like the Eden ones, claim to be water and time saving) until I realised it just made my citrus trees roots to rot with the stagnant water trapped in the reservoir. I am now very careful to not having their reservoir full most of the time. They drink very little and don’t like to soak their roots in water in between refreshments! On the other side, the small pots’ reservoirs are drying up very quickly making them as good as non self watering pots… That being said, I recently adopted GreenSmart self watering pots from GrowSpace for optimal yield and water saving. Dan from GrowSpace obviously had some serious skills at growing stuff with these pots himself and gave me plenty of advice to get the most out my pots. I planted already grown up strawberries and blueberries in 2 small pots, and capsicum seeds in a big one. My berries are doing well – but not producing any fruits yet, and my poor capsicum grew very well from the seeds, but their growth had been seriously slowed down by an attack of aphids and caterpillars. Nothing that seems to have to do with the pots, which are very easy to set up and truly save water – since the water is added directly into the reservoir where the plants just drink what they need. Check out GrowSpace website for training and education workshops, these guys are super nice and knowledgeable!
4.Growing from seeds is very difficult for certain plants. I gave up on growing coriander from seed under Australia’s harsh sun and I did not even try to grow the berries from the seeds as apparently it’s well known to be a a real challenge otherwise.
5.Follow the seed package instructions. There are instructions on distance between seeds, depth and seasons, and they are not here to fill the blanks…Also, depending on what you want to grow you may not need to buy seeds, but simply use the seeds in the fruits that you ate! I grew my chilli this way very easily.
6.Check for competition. Once plant lice and caterpillars settle in and get out of control, your tears won’t save your babies. Don’t ask me how they get on balconies at the first place, I have no idea. But to prevent them to settle in, you can lightly oil the leafs for caterpillars to prevent them to lay eggs, or rub the leafs with soapy water if lice are having a party there. I lost a chilli plant, a few lettuces and my baby capsicum because of these hungry fellas. I can’t even blame them, everyone has to eat!!
7.Every plant likes to be pruned and trimmed differently. Ask Google, they’ll thank you later!
Happy gardening everyone!!