COLUMN: Spring gardening project helps keep balcony green

NANAIMO – Gardening craze a labour of love.

Spring inspires the gardener in me to get out and create a green space to relax in.

Last year I moved from a space that only had back stairs to grow a garden to one with a balcony.

The stair railing was ideal for draping tomatoes plants over so they grew down. The number of steps also created more growing space.

Many people told me it was too bad that I didn’t have a balcony or more space to grow vegetables. Yet, those stairs worked great because they not only allowed me to spread out plants, but because of the elevation, it allowed me to let the plants use the railing as a trellis.

This year I have a balcony, but it comes with the difficulty of having a smaller space than my previous place.

I didn’t let that stop me from trying to cram as many plants as I could into the area. The challenge was creating a vegetable and herb garden that still allowed me to have a place to sit and enjoy the view and fresh air.

The solution was to hop on board the vertical gardening craze.

I recently picked up a great gardening book from the Rotary Club of Nanaimo’s book sale about pocket gardening.

After some digging on the Internet, I found the most amazing site – www.cripsgreen.com – that not only has great ideas on how to grow plants, but also conserve water and energy in your home.

It also has great tips on how to create a herb garden self-watering system from upcycled plastic pop bottles, which I am thinking of trying later this summer when the hot weather hits.

My herb garden is the latest endeavour to grow food for my kitchen in the little balcony without taking up too much floor space.

I knew I needed to grow up, not out, so a cool idea from the Internet gave me the skills to create an awesome herb garden.

It starts with a cloth shoe storage unit that is meant to be slung over the back of a door. I filled each pocket with dirt.

To tie the unit to the trellis I needed to remove the last two rows. A little bit of yarn looped through some holes cut into the cloth with a pair of scissors secured the unit to the trellis.

Next came the herb plants. It was a nice collection of thyme, basil, sage, mint and other varieties.

Now that my herb garden is planted and ready, I need to concentrate on trying to figure out what vegetables would work best for container gardening.

What I love about gardening is how connected I feel to the earth. There is something about moving your hands through the dirt and feeling the coldness of it. And there is always the joy of watching plants that you have seeded grow into plants or bloom.

It is calming and rewarding. There is nothing like sitting outside on the balcony full of beautiful plants on a hot summer day. It’s beautiful to feel the breeze on your skin and catch the scent of lavender, basil and mint in the breeze. During the hottest part of the day it’s nice to sit back and drink a cool glass of lemonade, close your eyes and just breathe in the salty Nanaimo air.

Growing plants reminds me of my childhood. My mother always had a vegetable garden in the backyard every year.

She would allow us to plant peas, carrots, radishes and lettuce. I remember being able to go out and pick fresh peas and carrots from the yard.

There was nothing quite like eating fresh produce we grew ourselves. The food I buy from the neighbourhood market never seems to have the same taste as the food we grew ourselves, but maybe that was because it took so much labour for us to grow it.