cilantro

Growing Goodies on Our Balcony

On a dreary day in May (Chicago has had plenty of dreary spring days), I ventured out to the newly opened City Grange garden center to find what I could grow on my balcony.

When we moved into this apartment last summer, I did not make an attempt to grow anything beyond some flowers, but this year I wanted to try growing vegetables and herbs. Even after taking a small space gardening class at the Chicago Botanic Garden, I was not entirely sure where to start.

Luckily, City Grange is there to help people like me figure it all out. Unlike Home Depot or other garden centers where it is next to impossible to find an associate, and then an associate that actually knows what they are talking about, at City Grange I was immediately greeted and offered assistance. And boy did I need it!

I explained what kind of sun I get, what floor we are on, that we don’t have a hose, and how much space we actually have to grow. After some discussion I left with:

  • Romaine
  • Garlic Chives
  • Kale/Red Kale
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Cilantro
  • Sorrel
  • Calendula
  • Strawberry
  • Milkweed

Plants 5

I also left with potting mix, seaweed fertilizer, and probably the greatest find of all, a pig watering can.

Not all of my plants were meant for human eating. Milkweed is an important food source for monarch butterflies. I also planted the calendula 1. because they are pretty and 2. because I needed a cross pollinator for my strawberry plant.

My planting vessels ranged from one reused pot from last year, two new self-watering pots from Target, and an upcycled metal pot and basin I got at a garage sale for $3. I drilled some holes into the pot and basin and they were ready to go!

Plants 4

After some time, my little plant babies started to get acclimated to their new home and started growing big and strong (except for the garlic chives, they are not feeling it).

Plants 2

I got my first calendula flower, which looks like a little marigold and a bloom on my strawberry plant.

Plants 3

The cilantro, mint, and oregano have been prolific and I am often harvesting almost every week. I have been drying the oregano and also using it fresh.

plants 1

Almost two months later my plants have been doing amazing, except those darn garlic chives. I have had fresh romaine and sorrel salads, kale in my smoothies, and fresh cilantro on tacos!

This experience has been much better than when I tried to grow herbs from seeds. If you are in the Chicago area, I highly recommend checking out City Grange!

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Herb Garden Failure

I have something to admit.

I have now failed twice on our herb garden. First, we tried growing kitchen herbs from seedlings and they never made it.

Then we tried starter plants.

The cilantro was the first to go.

cilantro

Slowly others followed suit.

herbfailure1

Our apartment just does not get enough direct sunlight. Between the 3 story buildings and the leaves on the trees, there was only a very tiny bit of time where we got any real sun.

herbfailure2

At one point I started transferring them all outside to our fire escape when the sun started to lower in the late afternoon. It was not enough sun, but it was the best we could do with our location.

After a while of attempting that, I had to come to the conclusion that our second attempt at starting an herb garden was not successful either.

Unfortunately, our herbs destination will not be on our dinner plates, but instead in the compost bucket. Womp womp. I just had to accept that our space is not conducive for growing herbs that require good sunlight.

There will not be a third attempt at an herb garden. Now I need to focus on the other plant issues I have…

 

pokey failure

I am pretty sure this guy is suffering from a drainage issue

 

Herb Garden: Take 2

We were a little too optimistic when we started growing herbs from seeds earlier this year.

After some promising seed sprouts, they kinda just stopped growing.

Even though we were disappointed that we could not keep a few plants alive, we decided to try again. This time with herbs already grown and ready to go.

herb garden 2

For our herb garden: take 2 we are going to attempt to keep the following alive:

  • Peppermint
  • Sweet basil
  • Oregano
  • Cilantro
  • Curly parsley

 

herb garden3

Can you spot the dinosaur amongst all the plants?

 

I have to say, the peppermint plant smells amazing. I did not intend on buying it until I took a sniff and was sold. The night I brought them home, K went ahead and crafted himself a homemade Mint Julep.

Hopefully, we can keep these guys alive long enough to use with some of our local foods we will be eating this summer. Yum yum!