Gardening

Fresh Bread attempts gardening: Greening the Balcony

Way back in December when I started this blog (wow, it’s only three months old! December feels like SO LONG AGO!) I had visions of making it all about food: eating it, cooking it, discussing it and growing it. I even said as much in my opening post and my about me page. Well: I’ve sort of done that. But this blog has become hugely focussed on restaurant reviewing with a little bit of cooking. It’s time to talk growing food.

I should preface this talk of gardening by saying: I kill everything. Mint! I’ve killed mint! How does one kill mint? It’s a weed for chrissake!

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to tell you how to kill mint. Never let it be said the Fresh Bread food blog can’t enrich people’s lives. To kill mint:

  1. Strip nearly all of its leaves to make mojitos.
  2. Forget to water it.
  3. Repeat.

Hey presto! Dead mint. You can thank me later.

So I’ve established I’m a novice gardener. For Christmas due to some carefully dropped hints, I got a Bunnings voucher and The Edible Balcony book by Indira Naidoo for some inspiration. I live on the sixth level of a relatively modern apartment block. It gets moderately windy up here and the balcony is south-facing. I invested part of my voucher in two plants at Bunnings: a thai basil and a thai chilli.

The thai chilli plant is already covered with chillis which are proving medium hot. I have, so far, only added a couple to minestrone soup to give it a bit of background oomph. They worked well. I can see when it wants a drink, because its leaves start drooping. So far, I haven’t killed it.

The thai basil hasn’t got a strong thai basil flavour (it’s a Floriana cut and cook version). In fact, it tastes like regular old sweet basil. But a large big box hardware retailer couldn’t lie to me, could it? I’ve been throwing it into everything: pasta sauce, on top of home made pizza, rice paper rolls… I’d show you a photo but I’ve denuded it of a lot of its leaves and it’s looking a little sad. (I’ll show you a picture when I eventually kill it, of course!).

So two weeks passed with me tending to the thai basil and thai chilli, and neither had died yet. Time to add to the garden!

I got some pretty cool pot holders (wow, that’s a sentence I never expected to type in my twenties) from Bunnings as well, in the process draining the rest of my voucher. The next step was getting some mint, rosemary and sage cuttings from Mum’s garden last weekend in order to take this balcony garden to the next level.

Mint, rosemary and sage cuttings

LHS: Sad looking mint cuttings. RHS: rosemary and sage cuttings.

There seem to be two, or maybe three schools of thought on cuttings. One is: keep them in a glass of water until you see roots, then plant them in potting mix. The other is, plant ’em straight away (root hormone powder also sounds like a good thing – I didn’t have any) and keep them well watered. I was too impatient to wait so I chucked them straight into the pots. Let’s see how these cuttings go. If I’ve killed mint once, I can do it again.

Is there somewhere on the net that has really active gardening forums? I’d ideally like an Australian based forum with lots of newbie questions in which I can lurk and read to my heart’s content. Suggestions welcome! (And any other balcony gardening suggestions/herb comments also very welcome!).

Edited to add: since I wrote this post and had it sitting scheduled to be posted, I read this great post by Fatbooo about beginning his own balcony garden! Check it out. I like that both of our posts mainly revolve around attempting not to kill our fledgling plants. I look forward to checking in on the progress of his herbs too!

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4 thoughts on “Fresh Bread attempts gardening: Greening the Balcony

  1. Yay! Growing your own edible stuff is cool. Good luck!
    Here’s a good Aussie website with lots of questions for lots of vegies and herbs. Each plant has it’s own forum:
    http://www.gardenate.com/plants/#P
    And now I should get back to doing some work and stop wasting time reading blogs. We have timesheets to fill in this arvo 😉

  2. I’ve missed the boat since you appear to have killed the plants.
    Take a cutting from a woody part of the plant (rosemary, thyme, bay), dip in honey, and then plant straight away. Remove most of the leaves to prevent moisture loss.
    With the more ‘succulant’ type plants (mint, basil etc), stick in water which you change daily until the little roots form. Then plant.
    Best not to harvest from them until you can see new growth coming up. So during this period, you will have to keep buying those herbs from the shops!
    Good luck with the new balcony garden – maybe keep the cuttings/herbs on the windowsill until they get established.

    • Thanks for your tips! I didn’t know that about honey, very interesting!

      I’ll have to do an update on the garden. The sage appears to still be alive, but I pulled out all the others because I got impatient. Bought some $1 tubes from a market and I am now sustaining lemon thyme, vietnamese mint, and parsley, which all seem to be doing quite well. I had also bought a thai basil but the DAY after I planted all the tubes in bigger pots, Melbourne had this huge frost/wind snap, and basically… the basil didn’t survive. So I’m giving up on it, too finicky going into winter!

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