Small space gardening tips: How a self-confessed ‘non-green thumb’ grew a vegetable harvest on her balcony
Ah, the joy of digging your hands into the soil, planting tiny seeds, and watching them grow into full-fledged vegies – I’m sure it’s like parents watching your children graduate, but you’re allowed to eat them so it’s much better!
Now, with the cost-of-living skyrocketing faster than my ego when I nail a TV segment, I can’t help but wonder: is gardening a luxury or a cost-effective life choice?
I have been very open about my love for plastic pot plants much to the chagrin of my plant-mum colleagues. Yes, I’m looking at you Kahla Preston.
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However in 2022 when a single iceberg lettuce jumped to $12 each in Queensland thanks to inflation and floods I started to think about growing my own.
This year the cost of living nudged me further to DIY and then finally vegies from supermarkets started to taste, well, like nothing really – I was buying more expensive vine ripened tomatoes just to get a flavour hit. I knew it was time to get my hands dirty.
I was given a Vegepod that is now parked on my large balcony, giving me the green light (pun intended) to explore this gardening journey without dedicating an entire backyard to it.
I like that it’s on wheels, I’ve got it connected to a hose and a timer so it self-waters (because seriously I couldn’t be trusted to remember to give my plants a drink), plus the shade cloth protects my green babies from the scorching Queensland sun, wind and bugs.
But, for those who don’t have sprawling outdoor spaces, there are options aplenty, from raised garden beds to potted plants.
Alright, let’s talk money, honey! Setting up a gardening space isn’t cheap. For a Vegepod like mine, you’re looking at around $300 to $400. Another option is a raised garden bed which can range from $29.99 to $400 depending on materials and size. Or you can use plastic pots, grow bags or an old bucket which can be cheaper still.
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All of these balcony farming options require potting mix, seeds and fertilisers. So, I’m not going to lie, the set-up is expensive. It may make you question if it’s worth it or not.
But hold your horses – or should I say, hold your hoes? Once you’re set up, the recurring costs are minimal. Seeds are cheaper than a latte, and the joy of plucking a ripe radish from your own plot is priceless. Plus, no more last-minute runs to the grocery store for wilted lettuce. Who’s winning? You are!
Let me tell you, there’s nothing like biting into a vegetable you’ve nurtured from seed to plate. The flavours are as vibrant as my wardrobe, and knowing that no pesticides have gate-crashed the vegie party? Divine!
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I planted tomatoes, rocket, butter lettuce, chives, basil, coriander, cucumbers, bok choy and radishes. One month in and my rocket is super peppery, my butter lettuce amazing and the bok choy is so tasty I don’t even want to cook it – I’ve been eating it raw!
I’m probably going to ditch the cucumbers after the first harvest because it takes up so much room, and the tomatoes are flowering but no red taste sensations yet.
And then there’s the unquantifiable aspect – the swelling pride of harvest. Imagine walking out onto your balcony, with your morning cuppa in one hand and a pair of shears in the other. You snip off some basil leaves, pluck a few leaves of lettuce for lunch, and head back into the kitchen. It’s a humble harvest, but it’s YOUR harvest.
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So, is it cost-effective? Initially, your wallet might scream louder than I do when someone tries to touch my microphone. $500 is a tonne of salad.
One garden expert suggests it will take a year to for you to grow enough vegies to break even for the set-up costs, but then it’s all gravy. Over time, the garden starts paying you back in bundles of fresh produce and the kind of smug satisfaction money can’t buy.
I was amazed that with something like bok choy and lettuce you simply snip off and they keep regenerating. OK you might already know that but I’m new to this!
READ MORE: How to make self-watering plant pots out of plastic bottles
In the end, growing my own vegetables is incredibly satisfying and feels like I finally have a hobby. It’s only taken 50 years. Who knows, I may try baking next? Probably not.
As a non-green thumb, I am amazed at how much joy it brings me. My plants have heard more of my serenading than my husband has. And while I can’t speak for the plants, I know I’m relishing the whole experience.
The author was gifted the Vegepod but her review has not been swayed, she’s really that into it.