Growing Food

While still living at home I had a huge veggie garden. Fast forward a decade and I have no yard, barely any space, yet a desire to grow my own produce again. So, my balcony (which is tiny, and receives decent sun) will become my garden.

I'd like to grow herbs, green beans, broccoli (LOTS), cauliflower, sprouts and some other greens.

So I've got some questions:

1) Where can I cheaply obtain (or make) planters/pots to grow these in?
Ideally I'd like every one of them to be elevated/hang off my balcony rail or be vertical setups so I don't lose ground space on my balcony (it's tiny).

These kinds of things:
http://www.annies-gardens.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/planters-herbs-for-balcony-garden.jpg
http://uuldesign.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/greenbo-pots-railing.jpg

2) Are any of the foods I plan on growing not worth it (e.g. cost/time/effort makes green grocer the better option)?

3) Most economical place to buy seeds for these?

4) Any other tips/input is encouraged.

Thanks folks.
 
For a start, its not economical to grow your own food. You will always find it cheaper somewhere, especially if you include your own labour in the cost base.

If you want a cheap option, go for budget potting mix in styrofoan boxes. Its a great place to start.

If your really interested, google aquaponics and see how other people have jerry built no space garden beds.

Trouble with hanging baskets on balconies is the weight and the medium drying out. hydroponics is one way to avoid these two issues.
 
A couple of years ago while living in canberra (actually just outside of it) we had a small garden. We put an ad on Gumtree asking for free pots, and a nice lady gave us 30.
We also went to fruit markets, and was given unwanted styrofoam trays (like an esky)

You can also use seeds from veggies you buy at the supermarket..which are free.

Good luck and enjoy !
 
Richard, get a copy of that book by Indira Naidoo - The Edible Balcony. I had a flick through it and it's pretty good. Lots of practical stuff.
 
For a start, its not economical to grow your own food. You will always find it cheaper somewhere, especially if you include your own labour in the cost base.

Agree but nothing beats the satisfaction of eating your own home-grown stuff. It's also very therapeutic IMHO :D
 
Tobe, disregarding labour, I would have thought I could at least grow some (e.g. beans) more economically given the free, mammoth themonuclear fusion power source we orbit. Not so? Or were you referring to vegetables on average?

Kathryn, excellent input. I'll give it a go.

Scott, that books sounds like it was created to answer my questions. Thanks a million!

Jacque, you're right. One of my favourite things to do, even as a teenager, was enjoy an early morning coffee while watering my veggie garden.
 
I've moved around a bit lately interstate so I've collected pots from bulk rubbish pick ups as I've moved around. Ive even picked up nice decorative glazed terra cotta pots. Also noticed if you need saucers, you can pick up old plates from salvos for about 10cents each. I'm trying To propagate plants at the moment as a hobby. If I fail it won't hurt too much.
 
For a start, its not economical to grow your own food. You will always find it cheaper somewhere, especially if you include your own labour in the cost base.

.....

Ahh, yeah.... nahhh. And here is why...

So, you look in the fridge one day, "oh, darn... another spoilt tomato...' But you have a bright idea.... "I might just throw it into a corner of the yard and see what happens".... next thing you know.... free tomatoes.

Or, how about those pumpkin seeds that year you planted with your kids and a few months later were laughing around the dinner table that something can come from "almost" nothing....

Sure, some foods are a pain to grow, require a lot of tendering and regular watering..... whilst others just thrive and often with little or no help. Some food can be grown for next to nothing, including labour.... but if the "labour" thing is an issue for anyone, I would dread to be in your kitchen.... do you have a stop watch in there to make sure you're not overcapitalizing on the evening's meal? :rolleyes:

OK, as for seeds, I agree with Kathryn... Start with "free" (Ie. waste) seeds from your kitchen... you might be pleasantly surprised by the results ;)

Next, try some hardy herbs... Rosemary, mint, thyme, chilis... even lavender.

What to avoid: broad leaf's can be tricky. (i.e.. lettuce etc) They need lots of water, are susceptible to garden critters, generally don't like frost and wilt in harsh sun. But, they can be grown quite successfully with the right set up. Slow growers won't feed you anytime soon either... Ie. fruit trees, but they are a good long term yielder.... this means years.

Compost: start one! By using kitchen scraps that would otherwise go to land fill, you can create nutrient rich garden food.... for free!

Last comment: forget about the naysayers! Get your hands dirty, dig some dirt, enjoy some peaceful outdoor time, get back in touch with the food chain and who knows, you might even harvest something edible whilst actually enjoying the experience! We do, and we love it!
 
If your contacts are good you can eat fresh without ever having to grow anything yourself.

I have a few of these - senior citizens group 'market' my mother attends every Tues, which stocks about 4 or 5 veg at half the price of your local supermarket (i put my order in), the Greeks across the road who allow me to go there and help myself anytime (they have everything from Bay leaves to Figs to Mandarines and everything in between on their 1000sqm block), relatives, friends and THEIR neighbours :).

Asian grocer down the road sells local fresh veg at cheap prices too - not just Asian.

Anyway I get far more satisfaction doing wonderful things with the veg after it's been picked.

As long as someone grows fresh, I can source it. 'Out of season' is the problem, for everyone :(.
 
Don't know if all supermarkets do it but the one near my daughter lets you take the styrofoam boxes for nothing (as many as want). As they are a bit 'breakable' what about getting a metal set of shelves (non rusting) and sit the boxes on that. Using the height the shelves give you and if there are 3 shelves I reckon you'd fit around 9 boxes on it. A tray on the floor to catch the water which you can pour back into the top boxes.

Seeds -
Eden Seeds I think will send you a free catalogue which includes an organic seed section. 07 55331177 or http://www.edenseeds.com.au/content/default.asp. Also on the same number is Select Organic - www.selectorganic.com.au

Don't forget you can get a sprouter and grow mung beans, alfalfa etc. The above sells these seeds also. Ready to eat within a week.

Cut the bottom off a bunch of celery and sit in a saucer of water - it will grow roots - replant for a new batch of celery.

You can be clever and use the seeds from tomatoes and other vegies to grow your own but it is time consuming and you probably need more room than your balcony for drying out, storage etc. Probably best to buy plants ready to go from a nursery.

Good for you!
 
I don't need convincing about the economics of growing food. It just seemed the OP was expecting a huge margin between bought veggies and the shops.

I estimated my first egg cost me $400. Since then the price has probably fallen a bit, but I'm not sure how to charge out cleaning out the chook pen, rescuing them from the neighbours garden, or how much I'd pay for nicely enriched 'hot' compost and an hourly rate of sitting around chook watching at dusk, or what price to put on my daughter collecting her first egg and promptly trying to eat it, shell and all.

It's great being able to pop out in season and get parsley, or raspberries. It's expensive both in time and trips to hardware stores, nurseries and bookshops. But I call it a hobby, and it's a lot less than golf, or fiddling with cars.
 
While still living at home I had a huge veggie garden. Fast forward a decade and I have no yard, barely any space, yet a desire to grow my own produce again. So, my balcony (which is tiny, and receives decent sun) will become my garden.

I'd like to grow herbs, green beans, broccoli (LOTS), cauliflower, sprouts and some other greens.

So I've got some questions:

1) Where can I cheaply obtain (or make) planters/pots to grow these in?
Ideally I'd like every one of them to be elevated/hang off my balcony rail or be vertical setups so I don't lose ground space on my balcony (it's tiny).

These kinds of things:
http://www.annies-gardens.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/planters-herbs-for-balcony-garden.jpg
http://uuldesign.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/greenbo-pots-railing.jpg

2) Are any of the foods I plan on growing not worth it (e.g. cost/time/effort makes green grocer the better option)?

3) Most economical place to buy seeds for these?

4) Any other tips/input is encouraged.

Thanks folks.

Couple of things to watch out for IMHO

  • Small pots dry very quickly.
  • You can damage the balcony if you don't catch the water from the bottom of your planter (issue with styrofoam boxes with drainage holes)
  • I've had water from people aggresively watering their "balcony yard" above one of our aprtments pouring into our balcony (due to drainage pipe blockage etc)


1. Try the self watering pots like
http://www.bunnings.com.au/search-p...atering&searchType=any&searchSubType=products

I use several of these on our patio - works fine for veg.

The bigger the better though (esp if you want to go to dwarf fruit trees etc)


2. herbs - fine to grow, can't believe how expensive they are at the supermarket, and wilted too. Basil, oregano (mine have weedified itself), parsley, and rosemary (bush) are all very hardy. Parsley will self seed - only danger is that in the second year you will find them growing in every crack and crevice - they have some serious tap roots that can damage concrete and brick work). Bay trees will also grow in a large pot, as does kaffir lime. If you have a cooler shady spot, my favorite is perilla.

Also check brahmi, vietnamese mint, vap-ca (fishmint) and gotu kola. These grow better in a water tank (immersed) - we use a 60 litre storage tub.

Broccy and Cauli are a lot of work - and you'll share it with a lot of green larvae. Harvest the main floret (like the one you buy at the shop), but keep the plant in the soil. You'll get lots of little small florets you can eat coming out after. Let some of these go to flower and collect the seeds for next season. You'll need a BIG pot - deep roots.
Better choice is probably silver beets or "perpetual spinach". Very few bugs on them, needs no spraying or anything.


Beans - go for bush beans - not climbers.

Consider: Kale (better for cold weather though - not sure in Sydney - needs a good frost), Mustard, Snow peas


Capsicums - sunny, warm spot. Plant lives 2 to 3 seasons.

Snow peas - easy peasy, hideously expensive if bought

Strawberries - our plants grow better in pots than in the groung. Easier to protect form birds too.

Zucchini/Squash - better choice than pumpkins which will run rampant and take over your balcony overnight.

Celery - needs filtered sun. Related to parsley and can run rampant (seeds are small and goes everywhere once it flowers)

Tomatoes.

We're currently growing turmeric in pots too (coz our garden is too cold).

Consider other alternative greens that grow without much effort, such as dandelion. People treat them as "weeds" but they taste just like lettuce (albeit stringier - chop into small pieces). Also try chickweed and purslane. Very fast growing great salad greens. See sites like http://www.eattheweeds.com/



3. Free seeds as others have said (eg eat a capsicum or chilli, throw seed in a pot - you'll be surpirsed how many come up). Otherwise just buy the first generation, and collect the seeds at the end of round one. Dandelion, chickweed, purslane seeds come for free from nowhere - they'll just appear in your pot without you even asking for it.
For slightly more exotic seeds, we buy from
http://www.cornucopiaseeds.com.au/




4. Try babaco - we grow it in a pot, and it will probably grow very well in Sydney. Can multiply through cuttings.


The Y-man
 
Cut the bottom off a bunch of celery and sit in a saucer of water - it will grow roots - replant for a new batch of celery.

Oh yeah, forgot about that - all our celeray originated form this method (now they just self seed like crazy and pop up in all the neighbouring pots)

The Y-man
 
Y-man if you grow brocolli/cauliflower early in the season you don't get nearly as many grubs.

These days we don't actually "grow" them - we just get stuff popping up in our lawn from seeds that dropped the previous season (this also obviously means we don't mow the lawn, as it is our "veg patch").

The Y-man
 
Cut the bottom off a bunch of celery and sit in a saucer of water - it will grow roots - replant for a new batch of celery.

You can be clever and use the seeds from tomatoes and other vegies to grow your own but it is time consuming and you probably need more room than your balcony for drying out, storage etc. Probably best to buy plants ready to go from a nursery.

Good for you!

I've heard you can do the same with spring/green onions.(like celery)
or plant straight into the ground...as long as they have the roots

When we saved the tomato seeds, I put them on a bit of tissue to dry on the window sill, and then plant seeds and tissues after they are dry.
 
balcony garden


becomes

 

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