I’m a balcony gardener. It’s what happens when a love of all things green, the desire to grow some of your own food, and the reality of living in a city apartment collide.
It starts innocently, I find. Just some plants to have some green on the balcony when I look out and to shield from some of the heat of the tropical sun.
Then it tumbles into distraction. What herbs and food can I grow? Which would I use most? What do I want in my limited, elevated kitchen garden? How can I shuffle things in this small space to cater to the varying sun and water needs of what I’m trying to grow? What might want to grow in these conditions in the first place? Why does it always rain after I’ve watered? Why couldn’t the guy who came to clean the air conditioning unit on my balcony garden be more careful? Those are my seedlings! Why do the birds like to pick and throw my basil leaves on the ground? I mean, I’m happy to share, but could you just pick one and go with it? Is my butterfly pea vine really trying to climb the entire building? Will my neighbors mind? I think the pandan is getting burnt again. Why is my chili pepper plant taller than me, flowering, and yet no chilies? How many varieties of mint is too many (I have five!)? Is that interloper sprout something I should keep? What should I plant next … and where should I put it?
You’d be surprised how many healthy plants you can fit on a small balcony. And once you do, you get the joy of the kitchen garden. Fresh herbs for whatever you’re cooking. Homemade herbal juices and teas and the joy of experimenting with different combinations. The childlike glee of squeezing lime into various juice concoctions and watching them change color (yes, that really happens). Watching your seedlings sprout and grow and feeling like you are growing with them.
And then there’s the human part. Communing with others about your respective gardens, plants, struggles, and triumphs. Swapping secrets and techniques, plant sources and compost. Trading sprouts and seedlings and growth updates. And feeding your friends the flavors of your garden.
Most of us aren’t full time farmers. Instead, we chase other professions with other pressing demands in this world of simultaneously increasing digital connectivity and personal isolation. Willingly or not, we find ourselves measured and measuring on the scale of busy-ness, where things like gardening are seen as luxuries we don’t have time for. And, yet, we do have time.
In many ways, having a garden is all about time and connection. Time to pause and enjoy blooms, to breathe deep and smell herbs, to notice and watch seedlings grow, and to sit with the flow of nature and connect. Connect to nature, to green, to your food source, to growth, to learning the quirks and preferences of each plant, and to other people. And connect to yourself - to taking yourself out of yourself and sitting with your plants and their needs. And connect to creativity - to building deliciousness with what you have and the satisfaction of growing, harvesting, and enjoying.
Weekend market chats Good people, good produce, and The joy of new plants