After many years of helping my dad in the garden and being able to walk right outside and harvest fresh, organic veggies for that night’s dinner, moving out and into an apartment 4 hours away with zero yard of my own was difficult. Even throwing my veggie scraps in the trash rather than in a compost bucket makes me cringe. We will most likely be renewing our apartment lease for one more year, so we decided to make due with our small balcony for this spring’s gardening season. The spring planting itch was getting too strong not to!
When we moved in we purchased a few 20-gallon Smart Pots with handles for easy(ish) transport if we decided to move out. We have a container of leftover kale from winter that is still going strong, but everything else we had planted croaked when the North Texas temperatures fell into the teens (RIP rosemary). So this spring we begin anew!
Even if you’ve never dabbled in gardening, a balcony or patio garden is the perfect place to start. Many plants grow great in containers and are easier to tend to.
For our spring balcony garden, we narrowed it down to a few containers:
- (1) 20-Gallon Smart Pot for our 3 kale plants that survived winter
- (1) 20-Gallon Smart Pot for carrots
- (2) 16″ hanging baskets for cherry tomatoes
- (1) 16″ hanging basket for a lettuce mixture
- (1) 9″ x 28″ rectangular cedar planter for rosemary, mint, and basil
- (1) 10″ terra cotta pot for a hot pepper
To avoid staining the concrete of your balcony or patio, consider placing the Smart Pots in 21″ clear plastic liners. This was important for us because we are renting, so we didn’t want to discolor the concrete on the balcony. We also use these Soil Moist Mats in the hanging baskets to retain moisture in the soil since they are prone to drying out faster than the other containers. Grow lights are important to consider using if the area you choose doesn’t get a whole lot of direct sunlight. We utilize them because our balcony only gets sun in the summer. Our kale loves them!
Soil is the most important part of the garden because it is the only place the plants will get all of the nutrients needed to grow and bear fruit. Rather than buying commercial potting soil and never being quite sure about what might be in the bag, we mix our own with a classic recipe:
- 1/3 compost mixture (we mix half Earthgro Organic Humus and Manure and half Back to Earth Cotton Burr Blend Organic Soil Builder)
- 1/3 peat moss
- 1/3 vermiculite to loosen the soil and help retain moisture
- A few handfuls of Espoma Organic Garden Tone Herb and Vegetable Food mixed in
Now that the basics are down, on to the fun part! What exactly did we plant?
- The kale from last year is Winterbor; we have always had great luck with this variety in South Texas and it is doing well in North Texas, too.
- For the carrots, we planted Scarlet Nantes seeds. This variety of carrot is sweet and uniform, perfect for eating fresh or storing (and especially good for munching on straight out of the garden!). Make sure to break up clumps in your soil before planting the carrot seeds or you might end up with some funky carrots at the end of the season!
- In the hanging baskets we planted Tumbling Toms cherry red tomatoes and a mixture of “gourmet baby greens” lettuce seeds. The tumbling tom variety of tomato is perfect for hanging baskets because they don’t require as much space as a regular tomato and they cascade down the sides of the basket making for easy harvesting.
- For the herb container we planted three herbs we cook with quite a bit: rosemary, mint, and basil. When deciding on herbs to plant, think about what you will use the most when cooking. Fresh herbs from the garden are delicious, and I am drooling thinking about all the refreshing mint mojitos we will be having come summertime!
- Last but not least, we wanted a hot pepper plant. But not just any hot pepper plant. We use a lot of jalapenos, but one small pot was not enough space to produce all the jalapenos we use. So we decided on a Thai pepper. We aren’t entirely sure on the variety yet because we used a seed from a fresh Thai pepper that we bought at the Asian supermarket. Those babies are spicy — just what we were looking for! We took fresh, mature seeds and germinated them using the paper towel method. We have since planted them and we will keep you updated on their progress. We aren’t entirely sure it will grow in Texas, but we hope so!
Happy gardening! What are you planting this spring?