Planting a balcony herb garden

on April 15, 2017
Seattle, WA

Peter and I have bought a lot of grocery store bunches of herbs the last couple years: basil for caprese, dill for pickles, rosemary for beef roasts, and more. Not only are the herbs expensive, but they are also delicate, not very fresh, and often don’t last very long. So, with spring in full force in Seattle (re: lots of rain and random patches of sun) and a south-facing balcony, we wanted to start an herb garden.

Let me start by saying I haven’t grown anything in a very long time, and my experience with it is few and far between. When I was little, my neighbor was quite a gardener and each year around Mother’s Day, she would take my sister and I to a nursery to pick out flowers we would each plant in planters to give our mom. I remember the dirt, and the mist from the hose, and the metallic smell of some of the flowers.

The only other experience I have was for my first job gardening for an elderly Mormon couple, Anne and Alan, in Edmonds. Gardening had clearly been a longtime passion of Anne’s as she had won various Edmonds in Bloom awards. Their garden was truly beautiful, inviting, and slightly enchanting, even though I did not fully appreciate it at 16. Anne would have me pick the sticky, dry rhododendron heads of the shrubs, rake leaves, clean the bird bath out with a toothbrush, prune plants, and more. One day I used a shovel to dig out a particularly stubborn and deep-rooted fungus from one of the beds.

Other than the succulent I’ve been keeping alive since September that I’ve been watering every two weeks, that’s about it! Peter and I drove up to Sky Nursery on Aurora with minimal combined experience.

Unsurprisingly, the nursery was pretty overwhelming. There was a native plants section, and herbs section, many sizes of pots, and much more.

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Peter Piper planting a peck of prickled peppers (really, just Peter planting a pepper)

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We left with a flat of plants, some pots, a trowel, potting soil, and an outside thermometer. The weather ended up being quite nice and warm, so we spent the afternoon getting our hands dirty mixing potting soil with fertilizer, adding more holes to one of the pots, and planting and watering our new little plants. We planted all the varieties listed above, plus a ‘living basil’ we’d been keeping alive in water inside.

We did put a drainage layer at the bottom of the pots. I’m not sure if that was completely necessary or not, but I remember putting rocks at the bottom of the planters when gardening with my neighbor as a kid.

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The newly potted plants

It’s apparently still a bit early for some of the plants, especially the tomatoes and peppers, so we bring them inside at night so they aren’t exposed to too cold of weather.

As with sailing, I have A LOT to learn about gardening.

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