April 21, 2009

balcony garden: pre-season

I took the day off today to celebrate the last day of unabashedly nice weather. I awoke without an alarm to a breeze blowing into my open window -- there are few things sweeter, no? -- and rolled out of bed to eat oatmeal with strawberries and honey. I drank a cup of tea on the balcony, rocking in my rocking chair, and read a chapter out of my book. In lieu of the hike I had originally scheduled for myself this morning, I instead opted to clean up my apartment, which at the last minute included cleaning out the storage space in my balcony. Up until today it's been cluttered with all of last season's dead plants. Awesome.

before: unkempt balcony garden mess

Because the garden died off slowly last fall, pots (most of them full of the dead plants) were put away in a trickle rather than in any sensible order. They were just piled up willy-nilly. So this morning I finally threw all the dead plants in the compost. What, you didn't know I manage to keep a compost bin, despite the fact I live on the third floor in a giant apartment complex, with no yard?

hidden compost pile

it's one of those Metro deals: if you live in the tri-county area you can buy a compost bin for $35, which is way cheaper than you can get one anywhere else. I've had it for two years.

garden goods

So. I pulled everything out (this is not even close to everything) and began siphoning the remaining soil into 5-gallon buckets set aside for this purpose. I'm sure there is something ill-advised about reusing dirt from last year's container garden, but I've been doing it for two years without issue. I have so many different plants that I can't imagine they all leach/add the same nutrients to the soil. And I have SO MUCH DIRT. If my entire balcony garden up and dies in the middle of the season everybody can point their fingers at me and laugh. In the meantime, I'm not buying potting soil.

ANYWAY. As I was emptying out the closet, I discovered, to my utter surprise, that the chive plant I had abandoned mid-winter as dead was living and growing, entirely in the dark. Now it's back out on the balcony rail. I'm hoping for the best. Plants are so amazing.

irrepressible chive plant

Chives again this season!

So now I have four buckets of dirt and a billion empty pots. The compost still needs turning but I don't have a turner so it'll have to wait. Otherwise, though, the closet is ready for planting time.

all better

I can't wait. I'm so enthusiastic about this year's garden, having learned a ton from my mistakes last summer. Two years ago I grew only tomatoes and some flowers on the balcony. Last year, though, I discovered the garden was one thing that, despite my depression, gave me great and simple joy. I went all out: tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, rosemary, strawberries, chives, mint, thyme, catnip, foxgloves, hollyhocks, morning glories, sweet peas. My aim was to make the balcony private from the neighbors. I didn't quite pull it off, primarily because of poor strategy. This year I plan on training the morning glories, sweet peas, and pole beans early in the season, to create a wall of foliage. Now I know more about the light on my balcony, and where to keep plants for the best placement. And I have a zillion more pots -- not to mention 30 pounds of soil. I CAN'T WAIT.

otherwise, today: a long and meditative drive to Sauvie Island, a few hours camped at the beach with a book, a delicious 90-minute riding lesson, sunburn. I did the dishes, washed and vacuumed the car, and wrote letters. It was a tremendous day off.

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