Thursday, October 25, 2012

Balcony Garden: Green Villages Talk

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to score a seat at the freebie gardening talk that the City of Sydney's "Green Villages" was holding at the Botanical Gardens. And even better than a free gardening talk is the that my balcony gardening HERO, Indira Naidoo, was one of the presenters. Squee *fan girl moment*.

Indira writes the blog Saucy Onion where she writes about gardening on her 13th floor balcony in Potts Point. Her garden is AMAZING - last year she harvested 70kgs of produce off her tiny twenty meter square balcony. And before she began gardening on her balcony she was a newbie gardener...just like me!

She's also the author of The Edible Balcony - an interesting and fun guide on how to get your own little patch of green urban paradise happening on your balcony. I've found this book INVALUABLE in getting my own garden happening...and it even provides recipes to give struggling cooks like me ideas of just what to do with ALL THAT LETTUCE that just keeps growing.

Indira was such a engaging speaker - I think everyone in the room fell in love with her as she shared funny anecdotes about her gardening efforts.  The worms in her worm-farm as referred to as her pets (that's city living folks - any living creature is a "pet" when you're not allowed to have a dog), stories are told about troublesome eggplants and jatz crackers are shared topped with her lovely basil pesto (basil direct from the garden thank you very much).

I took away some good tips from the talk:
  • put your pots on a movable support/base, so you can move your plants around as you need to (too sunny/shady - just wheel your plants to another spot)
  • if your pots are directly on the ground it's worth putting them on a piece of wood to stop the soil heating up from the bottom
  • use pots made of light material - you don't want you balcony to collapse under the massive weight of pots + soil
  • you can pretty much grow anything in a pot - you just need to try
  • when you edibles start to flower (like chives for example) it's best to leave the flowers to attract bees (though some flowers like chives go nicely in a salad)
  • bees are YOUR FRIEND! There are plants, such a zucchinis, that require bees in order to pollinate the fruit.
  • it's important that you "feed" your soil with something like Seasol. Soil is a living thing full of micro-organisms that are essential for healthy plant growth.
  • because your potting mix/soil has these micro-organisms make sure you wear gloves (and don't breathe it in) 
  • you can "maybe" reuse your soil once (possibly twice if you're a stooge like me) however growing plants in the soil/potting mix depletes all the micro-organisms. Pretty soon your soil is just "dead". 
  • so, if you can afford to start each new plant off with new (organic) potting mix
  • the "dead" dirt can just go into your green waste recycling bin
  •  because space is limited in your balcony once a plant is done fruiting for the season (like tomatoes for example) rip it out and plant something new.

We also had a chat from the Foundation + Friends of the Botanic Gardens who spoke to us about the botanical gardens and other stuff like "seed saving" which you can only do from Heirloom produce (so saving seeds from the plants you grow).  They also very kindly gave each person at the talk a seeding to take home - I was lucky enough to be given Thyme AND Rosemary...hopefully this rosemary will last the distance this time.

The last speaker was another gardening blogger (and permaculturist) Celia Mcauley of Balcony Garden Dreaming. Celia had a lot of technical knowledge but really pushed that our gardens such be a dreamy and welcome respite from our hectic city lives. Her big tip, put a chair on your balcony, sit down and enjoy your green space (oh, and much sure you mulch to keep the moisture in your pots).

Green Villages has a host of various workshops on offer. Check them out!


  1. Indira is amazing isn't she? I've often toyed with the idea of a balcony garden but still yet to take that first step! lol

  2. Sounds like a great talk! I have to say I give my zucchini a helping hand with pollination as the bees in my yard just aren't good enough! It's part of my morning routine... Feed the cats, feed the chooks, pollinate the zucchini!

  3. Helen - do it! Just start with one or two of herbs. It becomes addictive...I promise!

    Nic - I've been pollinating my zucchinis are you doing it? I use an old make up brush.

    1. That sounds very professional! I use my fingers, but it works!!

  4. What a fun and very interesting talk amongst like minded food growing people. Love the jatz with fresh pesto, yum! Sounds like you got some great tips!

    PS you are 'on' for olive picking, I will keep you posted! I am hoping to gather up a few people, cook some food, take some photos and pick olives of course :)

  5. Excellent tips and tricks! Having a balcony garden would be so much fun and beneficial for sure.

  6. Ooh this would have been awesome to attend! I've flicked through Indira's book in the Botanical Gardens shop. How very inspiring this event must have been. My balcony garden struggles with lack of light in some months and a decent dosage in others. So far, I haven't found a edible plant that thrives under my black thumbs and not-so-ideal environmental factors. But my peace lily, rubber plant and aloe vera are doing well.


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