Gardening Diaries

I've started my balcony container garden and am really excited about it. Last year, my Mom helped me plant tomatoes, peppers (Yellow Bell and Caribbean Hot), and herbs (mint, basil, & cilantro) and it was a success. I vlogged about it here and will probably do another video when the setup is complete.

I've decided to try something new this year in terms of watering methods. Enter the sub-irrigated planter (SIP). If you've ever seen an Earthbox, then you've pretty much seen this technique. Instead of the traditional method of watering plants from the top down and wasting tons of waterusing tons of drainage holes, SIPs utilize capillary action and water plants from the roots. You can read more about their virtues and stay up to date on everything SIP HERE.

Earthboxes are neat and work wonderfully, but they're also out of my grad student budget. So, I searched the internet for some DIY plans and found the blog of a couple of folks in Chicago who were making their own SIPs out of tote boxes and buckets. Sweet! You know the MacGyver Gal in me was very pleased. A quick email to the Green Roof Growers and a tour was scheduled on my last trip to the Windy City. Bruce, Art and Heidi were kind enough to show me around their lovely gardens and impart some of their SIP wisdom. I was so amazed at their setups and couldn't wait to get started on my own.

The gang's all here... and Heidi is taking the picture :-)

I have a decent sized balcony with measurements of 10' x 12'. On it are my A/C unit, a gas grill, and a small, repurposed Korean BBQ set that I use for dining. That sounds like a lot, but I have plenty of space left over for containers. So far, I'm going the two 5-gallon bucket route to plant my bigger items like tomatoes and eggplants. Peppers will be in smaller buckets or in a one 5-gallon bucket with insert design, and herbs and lettuces will be in window boxes and kitschy containers like melamine bowls and deli containers.

Here's my stash so far...

Store-bought (all but the last 2 came from a local nursery) starters:

1 Sweet 100 Cherry tomato
1 Yellow Pear tomato
1 Big Beef Champion tomato
3 pk La Roma tomatoes
1 Fairy Tale eggplant
3 pk Hungarian Wax pepper
1 Chocolate Beauty pepper
1 Garden Salsa pepper
1 Lemon Basil
1 Sweet Basil
1 Sugar Baby watermelon I killed it. RIP, Sugar Baby :-(
1 Peppermint
1 Spearmint

Started from seeds:
2 Black Beauty eggplant
4 Sugar Baby watermelon These died too :-(
12 Roma tomatoes (I planted a lot of seeds thinking most of them would die. Boy, was I wrong! Some of these will be Freecycled.)
Lavender (I think I overcrowded them, so they're on their way out.)
Sweet Basil (These are still infants.

I wasn't too pleased with how Cilantro looked in the big box stores or my local nursery. I purchased some from the supermarket today for dinner and will see if I can get some of these cuttings to root. If this works, I won't feel so bad about killing all those watermelon plants.

A friend of mine gave me a "Salad Garden" from our local Farmer's Market. It came in one of those cute, seasonal, plastic ice buckets and contains a Bell Pepper, green onions, radish, spinach, and some type of lettuce. It also came with duplicate seeds and an additional set of carrot seeds.

Speaking of gited items... In addition to growing my own veggies on my balcony, I'm also working with a local community center to grow fresh veggies for their food pantry. Art and Heidi started us off with 2 7-gallon buckets. Thanks, guys! I'll donate the eggplant, and most of the tomatoes, I started from seed to this garden. This is a project that is very dear to my heart, so I will designate special post to it in the upcoming week.

Phew! That was a lot to take in, so I'll have to update you on today's garden shenanigans in a later post.

Up next in the Gardening Diaries... Lessons (somewhat) Learned


  1. I'm so far from a green thumb. Matter of fact, my thumb is red. I'm in an apartment, with a small balcony. I may try my hand at gardening when I finally have a house. I love the idea of donating to the community center. Fresh fruit/veggies are so expensive!

  2. LOL @ red thumb. I can grow tomatoes, but can't manage to keep a cactus alive. *shrug* You could try growing a small planter of herbs on your balcony. Mint, for example, is darn near indestructible.

    I'm excited and nervous about the project at the community center. If this works, lives will be changed. OK that was a bit dramatic, but it's basically true :-)

  3. Oooo! I'm looking forward to your garden updates!

    You're so right about mint and anything that's in the mint family for that matter. It keeps on giving!


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