Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Mary, Mary, quite contrary

How does your garden grow?

[Image Source: Lifeonthebalcony]

Does this sound familiar? You watch a gardening show on TV. You feel a rush of inspiration to create your own living sanctuary and within days you find yourself at your nearest nursery procuring some seeds and plant them in the garden or on your balcony in pots.

And then......

Those of us with 'black thumbs' remember to check the new garden when we need some coriander for that Thai curry for dinner, only to discover a wasteland where once a herb garden once stood.  

If you're keen to start a garden, learn from the mistakes of others (like me) try these tips for growing a successful herb garden or balcony garden:
  • Start with a site assessment. Is it sunny? What do you want to grow: Herbs? Tomatoes? Flowers? Do some thinking before you start digging or buying seeds or seedlings.
  • Work with what you've got - enhance what you love or hide what you don't like. Ugly fence? Use bamboo  fencing. It's cheap and hides things well.  Bamboo in pots also hides ugly unattractive walls or neighbours' windows and provides a lovely "green screen"
  • Keep it simple.  Don't try to grow every vegetable you love. Do a bit of research on what grows well in your area/soil/terrain and work with what you have. If you have a shady area and you live in Sydney, your tropical frangipani tree probably won't be very happy.
  • If you're unsure of how things will grow, try planting hardy herbs such as Thai coriander, garlic chives etc.
  • If you have a balcony, think about the weight of lots of heavy pots. Use plastic instead but make sure you have good drainage.
  • Use mulch!  It keeps moisture in. Or one canny trick we've seen is to use pebble tiles attached to mesh. Pop them on top of your pots to 
  • And don't forget to water, especially if your plants are in pots.  They dry out really quickly and need TLC especially as the weather warms up.
  • Use your vertical space. Fences, balcony walls are all waiting for some living things on it. Use shelves, hooks etc to make things grow upwards.  Unless you've just spent $100k on a sandstone fence or travertine tiled wall, in which case you should just make time to stare at it. A lot.
Here are some blogs and articles which contain some tips on growing a balcony garden (and many tips apply to a normal garden too)

Plants Forever will be starting at the Lane Cove Public School Food & Farmers' Markets on Sunday 16 September where you can buy seedlings and other potted delights.
[Image Source:]

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