03. August 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Uncategorized

I have this ongoing bucket list of things that I want to get done this summer. I actually make a list every year, and I feel like this year I might have bitten off a bit more than I can chew. Oh well. It happens to the rest of us. I haven’t been spending as much time in my container garden as I should have, because I’ve been busy trying to get ready for my big crazy trip to Europe in a couple of weeks! Though I will have someone coming over to take care of my feline and water my plants, I couldn’t find someone who was quite competent enough to take care of seedlings, so I’m going to have to wait until I get back to start my winter garden. In the meantime though, I’ve decided to add a bit more chaos to my pot and make my very own terrarium! I’ve always wanted to make one, it’s been on the bucket list for ages, and I have no idea why I haven’t decided to actually make one until now, because they’re actually ridiculous easy to make! You don’t need an environmental science degree (though think about the kick ass terrarium you could build if you had one!), and you don’t need to be a botanist! All you need is a wee bit of imagination, and a few directions, and you’re well on your way to creating your very own miniature earth environment.

Okay, so first things first, you need to know what you’re going to plant your little garden in. I’m a big fan of fish bowl-like containers myself, but you can really use anything your little heart desires, as long as it’s clear of course, because the whole point is to see the different layers. It’s a decorative piece. Flower vases are great too, but remember, because this is going to be a part of decor, the more interesting it looks the better. Next, grab yourself some pebbles. I just head outside to my neighbors’ garden on the ground floor, she’s wonderful. You only need about an inch, enough to just cover the bottom of your container. This is your drainage level.

The next thing you’re going to want is a bit pf charcoal. I’m not entirely sure what this is supposed to do, I’m not a scientist. But it looks cool and it’s supposed to be in there, so in it goes! This is just a thin layer, not as thick as the layer of pebbles beneath it. Next, you’re going to put in some soil. Now, the soil is supposed to be deep enough that it takes up roughly 25% of the container. Next you’re going to plant some miniature variety plants, not plants that are going to take over the whole house! Pick one that are hearty and make sure you arrange them in a really interesting manner so it catches someone’s eye. Finally pour in just enough water to moisten the soil. If you pour in too much, you can cause the plants to start rotting, and you don’t want to do that. So it’s better if the plants and soil are a tad too dry than too moist. And there you have it, your very own terrarium! Have fun!

23. June 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Uncategorized

You must think that because I write a blog on container gardening that I must be some sort of green thumb! I hate to say it, but you couldn’t be more wrong! I started writing this blog in the Winter of this year because I really wanted to encourage myself to get out there and learn more about growing my own food and how to beautify my home using mother nature. Now that we’ve just come out of Spring, and we celebrated the first day of Summer a couple of days ago, I’m beginning to have some serious potted plant envy. As you know by now, I live in an apartment building, and I actually live on the ninth floor. Though my building is considered a low rise, the apartments are quite large and the ninth floor is sort of like being on the twelfth floor for others in the area, it’s great. We’ve had a handful of spectacular days out here on the west coast, days that were warm enough for me to take the ‘ol Macbook pro out to the balcony to let my legs get a little bit of sun. And it was on one of these glorious days that I looked over my left shoulder one afternoon, and I noticed that my neighbours had a stunning display of tropical plants growing not only on their balcony, but in their apartment also. I was immediately jealous, and I peeked over at my two very lonely houseplants wondering if it wasn’t time to make some additions to the lonely, domestic collection of two.

For whatever reason, I have always had far more success growing a high yielding garden or container garden, than houseplants. In fact, I think but for the two plants that are living in my dining room right now, I have managed to murder every single house plant I have ever owned! I’ve even offed a few cacti over the years! I know, I know, how hard is it to keep a desert plant alive, right? It’s embarrassing, and I think there are several reasons for my lack of green thumb. Number one, I completely forget that they’re there. I’m out in my container garden quite often, weeding or picking whatever ingredients I’m going to need to make a meal. But I pass my poor houseplants on a regular basis without even realizing that they they’re there. They can be half dead, their leaves desperately reaching toward the light, and I’ll actually pick them up, move them aside, dust around and underneath them, all without giving them water or a little TLC. What can I saw, my houseplants are just not getting the love they deserve.

I’ve decided to turn all of this around, and start researching the absolutely best house plants available. My space needs some more greenery, and I also want to freshen the air up in my apartment, and the absolute best way to do that, other than picking myself up a five hundred dollar air filter, adding a few more plants here and there will help clean out any impurities in the air. I would also like to create a more peaceful, tranquil environment within my home, bring a little bit more balance to it. So for the next few posts, I’ll be sharing my research with you on unique and funky house plants that are easy enough to take care of that you won’t need to hire an executive assistant to manage the maintenance full time, yet challenging enough that you’ll actually enjoy fussing over them every now and again. So stay tuned and check back with us often!

Hello fellow green-thumbers! We’re in the midst of spring, and you should be cleaning out those winter pots, and redesigning your new spring container garden. If you haven’t started yet, don’t panic, you’ve got time! If you live in a cooler climate like me (I live on the Canadian west coast), mother nature is on your side. The unseasonably warm weather hasn’t arrived yet, so I have at least another month to get my seedlings in the soil.

Last week I made a trip to my local nursery to pick out a couple of pots to replant two very overgrown houseplants, and the moment I stepped inside, I was accosted by the unmistakable aroma of rosemary, thyme, mint and a myriad of other delicious herbs. As I meandered through the nursery, I started making mental lists of all the wonderful summer dishes I could serve guests inspired by herb garden. While this wasn’t going to be the summer I learned how to become a chef, I was certainly going to throw some stellar dinner parties.

I usually plant my herbs near the end of planting because they grow so quickly, and I used them to decorate pots, but I decided I was going to get a heads start this year, so here’s a couple of the herbs you’ll find in my herb garden:

Rosemary 

Not only is rosemary a wonderfully ornamental herb, there are literally thousands of recipes you can use it in. I use it in a lot of my Moroccan and Mediterranean cooking. It’s an incredibly hardy plant, and perfect for me because I don’t get as much sunshine as other parts of the country.

Thyme

This plant is slightly more delicate than rosemary. It takes only takes a week to germinate and you need but a thin layer of compost on top. It will survive through the winter, and can last up to 4 years! At $2.99 for a few stems in the supermarket, the plant will pay for itself in one use.

Basil

If you love to cook Italian, you would be remiss not to include this in your herb garden. Basil is a very fussy plant, and must be planted after the frost, so I will most likely be planting it near the end when the weather finally warms up. When you do plant it, make sure it gets as much sun as possible, and that the soil is rich.

Anyone can go to a local nursery and pick up a bag of soil for their burgeoning garden, but composting is another matter. If you’ve been following this blog at all, you know that this is the year that I’ve decided to start my first container garden. Because I only decided a month ago to start up my garden, I didn’t have compost for the first Spring plant, however, that hasn’t stopped me from starting one for the winter months!

Indoor composting is a heck of a lot easier than you might think. Compost piles get such a bad wrap because of their potential to smell like something died! And it’s true. When I used to live in the Burbs, if you walked within a few steps of my compost pile, your hair would curl. But wow, did it produce some amazing fruits and veggies! The decomposition of organic matter is not going to smell like a rose garden, we’re talking dead things here. It of course all depends on what you throwing into the mix. If you’re tossing out bones and bits of meat, not only is your pile going to smell, but you’re going to end up with the entire cast of the Jungle Book (minus a half clothed orphan) in your back yard.

There are several indoor composting methods, but my absolute favourite, and the one that creates the best soil for me is by way of Vermicomposting, using worms. Oh, don’t squirm, worms are cool! If you’ve ever gone digging around in your back yard and come across red worms, you were probably working with some incredibly fertile soil and just didn’t know it! So, now we know that we need red worms for a compost success story, what’s next?

First, you’ll want to work out how many people you’re providing for (don’t worry, this post will not require you to eat the worms, that’s next week!). There’s a loose formula that I’ve always sort of followed. Again, stop panicking, there’s no math involved, and figuring out how much compost you’ll need is not nearly as complicated as learning how to become a Federal air marshall. If you’re composting for 1-3 people, a lb of red worms is sufficient. If you’ve got a family of 4-6, than you’ll want 2-3lbs of red worms. As far as container size goes, you’re looking at something that’s got dimensions in or around about 15″x2″x3.5″, conveniently, small enough to fit under your kitchen sink if you so wished.

Okay. Container? Check. Now, it’s time to find some bedding for your worms. You can’t just toss them into a bucket and expect miracles to happen, so head outside and find some organic material like leaves, or even bits of recyclable paper for the worms to feed on. It’s their waste that creates the fertile soil that you will use later to plant your garden! There’s a little more to the process, but that should be enough to get you started. Check back next week, and we’ll go into a little bit more detail about why vermicomposting is the best method, and how it works!

Living in the city has its perks. The restaurants, the night life, the shopping, being in the middle of it all can be fabulous. But the other side of that coin is the added expense, you sacrifice space for a fast-paced lifestyle and you probably live in an apartment building alongside hundreds of neighbours. I live in a great apartment, overlooking the water, but I also have several hundred balconies that face mine, and on a warm summer day, when I want to lounge around in my outdoor space, I’d rather not have a million pairs of eyes bearing down on me! So being an avid gardener, I decided that this summer it was high time to create a little privacy for myself, using mother nature’s finest ingredients!

You need to do a little planning first before you start your privacy screen project. Just as an interior designer would, it’s a good idea to sketch out the outdoor space you’re working with and what you want to accomplish. Next, you’ll want to do some measurements:

1) Measure the height of your space. If you’re like me, your neighbours balcony sits just above yours. You want to make sure that your space still feels open and not claustrophobic, so accurate measurements will help you decide what to plant.

2) Next, it’s time to access how much sunlight your balcony gets. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, before you plant anything,  if you know how much light you’ll have, you can then determine what to plant. Not only that, but if your privacy screen is in the wrong place, or too eye, you’ll have no sunshine for yourself!

3) There are several different structures that you can grow your plants on, like a lattice. But using a planter is a much easier and more versatile option. There is always the concern of putting extra weight on a balcony, so planters are a great option, plus, you can rotate plants in and out.

4) Now the question is, what do you plant? I’m a major fan of bamboo. I love how it looks, and it reminds me of my travels through the vast bamboo forests of China. Unfortunately, it gets a bit of bad wrap because it can be quite and iinvasive plant in a regular garden, but in a balcony garden, you’ve got nothing to worry about, it won’t have the opportunity to run rampant! I also adore Gardenias, they’re hearty, the flowers are fragrant and they grow anywhere from two to eight feet, which is perfect for a balcony. Plant your Gardenias in the early Spring, and by October, the roots will be immune to Winter’s unforgiving bite.

When my better half steps into the kitchen, mere moments later, there are any number of aromas that come wafting out, over the dining room and throughout the house. There is nothing more I love than coming home to my house smelling like basil, garlic and rosemary. In our house, all of our fruits and vegetables are organic, and when we can, we try to make most of meals from our little balcony garden.  For the last couple of years, we’ve had a small herb garden on the window sill in our modest kitchen. But this season, we decided to expand a little, and see how much we could cram into a window box.

The first thing you need to know about growing an herb garden, is that they need plenty of light and sunshine (and plenty of TLC!), and after that, it’s a piece of cake. You can plant your herbs in just about any time of container, provided you’ve cut some holes in the bottom of it. Get creative and have fun with it! I’ve planted my basic in cut up milk jugs. When you buy your soil, regular potting soil will do, and you only need as much soil as the size of the container.

I generally keep it a rule not to mix my herbs together. When I’m cooking, I need organization, so one herb per pot works best. You can, however, mix herbs together. A word of advice, planting either mint or rosemary in the same pot as another herb isn’t a great idea because both of those plants are rather aggressive, and will most likely take over the pot. It’s best to plant them separately.

To give your herb garden a little more character, and to help you remember which herbs are what, it’s a good idea to label your herbs. Until I figure out how to become a chef, and learn to discern all my herbs by sight, without obvious photo markers or labels, I am going to forever mix up coriander with parsley!

Make sure your herbs get plenty of water, at least once a week. In the dry months, you will probably have to water them a couple of times a week. I live on the rainy West Coast, but even in the summer months, my herbs get watered twice a week, and never in direct sunlight, as the soil will burn.

If you follow the above steps, you will surely have yourself a beautiful and bountiful herb garden, and if you start now, you will have a plethora of choice for those delicious summer salads.

When I first started my container garden, I didn’t do a whole lot of research into what sort of soils I needed for my pots. I always just figured that using regular old garden soil would work just fine. Boy was I wrong! It was taking forever for my veggies to grow, and being a naturally impatient person, I was growing concerned that my green thumb was turning into a deep purple, yikes! What I needed to understand, was that my garden is living organism, it needs to be nourished, and nurtured. And at the root of every shoot in my garden is soil. And as it so happened, it was the wrong soil.

Container soil 101? Don’t use the same soil used in outdoor gardening soil for your container soil. Outdoor soils are substantially clay-based, and clay is highly dense. The reason this is detrimental to container plants is because clay soil leaves little room for oxygen, and can inhibit root growth in a small space. Consider using a commercial potting soil or perhaps what we like to call a soil-less potting soil. A nourishing potting mixture should consist of organics and minerals. The organic elements can be things like sawdust, wood shavings, and peat moss. Then, you’ll need minerals which can include things like granite sand, or pumice. You need to combine two or more of the aforementioned organics and minerals to create a nourishing and conditioning potting soil.

If there is one thing to love about container gardening, it’s the ability to experiment with everything you grow from soil, to fertilizer to plants. You get to be a mad scientist of sorts. I came up with my own concoction and  my tomatoes, strawberries and lettuce are thriving! There’s no measurements, I sort of just used a handful of each part. So get ready to get your hands dirty! Grab yourself a handful of fir bark, some ground pine needles (I actually did this with my mortar and pestle, but you can probably buy this pre-ground), a handful of peat moss, 1/4 ounce of triple superphosphate. Mix it all up, so everything is spread evenly throughout and voila, you have your first potting soil. Happy planting!

Blueberries are undoubtedly one of the most significant fruits in the human diet. If you are learning how to become a nutritionist, you are well aware that understanding the importance of anti-oxidants can never be overstated. Every wonder why blueberries are so good for you? Blueberries contain anthocyanin, which not only produces the rich and vibrant indigo colouring of the blueberry, it is a substance with anti-inflammatory properties that serve to soften arteries. Blueberries are also rich in vitamin K, which is one of the main reasons why I drink a blueberry shake almost every morning. Vitamin K is key for aiding in the absorption on iron, and for someone like me who is often anemic, that is very important. They’re also very high in fibre which helps to control cholesterol and aid in digestion. So, now what we’ve convinced you that blueberries are your bodies new best friend, let’s learn how to grow our own little anti-oxidant patch!

Growing blueberries in a pot is much easier than you would think, provided you have patience. Blueberry plants adore acidic soil, blueberries require light, free-draining acidic soils, with an abundance of rich organics to help them succeed. The plant will do best if the soil has a pH of between 4 and 5.5, similar to that of rhododendrons. The pH should be monitored every year or so, to monitor the acidity.

It’s always a good idea to plant at least two varieties to ensure cross-pollunation occurs. And make sure to plant them in the largest pot possible. They can yield fruit for years, but to do so, they will need  ample space. Make sure the pot is 2/3 full of regular potting mix, with the top third being an acid rich potting mix.

Blueberries need a LOT of sun. It’s very easy to overestimate the amount of sun your plants get. If you don’t work from home, you may not be aware of the weather changes from the inside of your cubicle! Blueberries need at least 6-8 hours of sunlight a day. So it’s important for you to calculate how much sun your balcony is getting on a daily basis.

Don’t be shy with water. Blueberries need a great deal of water. In a drier climate, they may not be the most environmentally friendly plant, so get your buckets out and catch yourself some rain water! Make sure the soil is always moist, but not soggy. Along with water, fertilization is important, but not too much. Twice a year is fine, and I like to do mine in the late winter months or early spring.If your blueberries live on the balcony, you might have to protect them from feathered thieves. Drape them very gently with a light sheet, or netting (mosquito netting works great). And most importantly, keep them warm. If you live in a climate with bitter winters, wrap the pots in burlap, and nestle them against outside walls of your building and keep them out of the wind.


If you’re a college student, both your time and resources are probably fairly limited. If you don’t live on campus, you probably live in a fairly small space because that’s all you could afford. Perhaps you share a house with several room mates, or maybe you live in an apartment building. It matters not how much space you have, as long as you have a little outdoor space, you can have your own little urban Eden. Container gardening, with a little time, and some patience, is a rewarding and delightful way to grow your own food. I am the organizational queen, and there is nothing I love more than creating unique and awe inspiring spaces, so when I started  doing research for my own balcony garden, I was really keen on creating a unique and beautiful space for all those who spent anytime on my sky high balcony. So, I embarked on a serious hunt and pursued all the best resources as if I were searching for a top online college. I had so many questions. What do I plant? When do I plant, and more aesthetically, what do I plant my seeds in?  Lucky for me, there is an entire community solely dedicated to designing apartment gardens, and thankfully, I was able to educate myself on what containers work best for my space. Here are a few things to consider when designing your own balcony garden.

Clay & Terra Cotta – I adore the look of terra cotta, and there are plenty of benefits to using it in your garden. It’s relatively inexpensive, and comes in a myriad of shapes and sizes. Unglazed pots are quite porous, which is both beneficial and detrimental; A porous container allows for more air circulation and because this requires a more vigorous watering routine, in the summer months, this feature ensures that your roots maintain a cool temperature. The down side, because of it’s fragility, in the winter months, it’s likely to crack with the expansion of water within the soil.

Plastic Pots – There are two major drawbacks to using plastic. The first, is it can be difficult to find interesting looking pots, and when you do find unique designs, they can be on the pricey side. The second issue, is that if the pots are coloured, they tend to fade rather quickly after constant sun exposure. Other than that, plastic is practical, wonderfully durable, and long-lasting.

Wood – Everyone loves the look of beautiful wooden planter. It’s earthy, intricate, and esthetically pleasing. However, wood can present a few issues that clay and plastic don’t face. Wooden planters are really heavy which can be a problem if you have a weight restriction on your balcony. Another factor, is that wood, if not treated, will rot over some time. Redwood or cedar are naturally decay resistant if you are really set on having wooden planters become a part of your urban Eden.

 

 

 

24. January 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Uncategorized
The food revolution has arrived, and people are standing up and taking notice. There has been an awakening of sorts in the food industry. More people are taking an interest in putting real food into their bodies; Organic, free range, holistic, fresh, and hormone free. And to ensure their food is all of these things, more and more people are not only finding the importance of growing their own food, but they’re enjoying it!
Urban dwellers, like myself, are at times intimidated by the idea of planning and planting their own gardens. Because we live in a concrete jungle of sorts, we often find ourselves feeling somewhat disconnected from nature, and it’s far more convenient to take a trip to the supermarket for our produce, rather than taking the time to grow it. Wouldn’t it be more convenient to take a couple of steps to your balcony, or window sill, and snip fresh vegetables and herbs to dress a beautiful salad for friends and family? Of course it would! So before you start, there are a few questions and points you need to access what you need.
 
1) Access the space you plan to work with and make precise notes about how much sunlight your balcony will receive throughout the day. Also note how much shade, or partial shade your plants and vegetables will be exposed to. This will help you determine what plants will be more successful.
 
2) Determine what climate you live in and the length of your growing season. It’s essential to know how long or short your growing season is and how temperature and weather conditions will affect what you’re growing. For example, if your containers run the risk of being exposed to freezing rain or snow, such conditions are not only hard on the plants themselves, but they can crack your pots.
 
3) Time for some homework! There are tons amazing resources out there to help get you started. The Small Budget Gardener is a great resource for people just starting out, or students looking to grow their own food on dime. Succulent Container Gardens is another fabulous book that focuses on eye-catching designs to spice up your green space. 
 
4) Now the fun part! Time to figure out what you want to plant. This is a great opportunity to not only plant veggies that you like, but to try growing foods that you don’t usually eat! Ever wanted to try pickling or making jams? Why not try growing some berry plants.