Big Changes #3 - Growing a Green Thumb

Something strange happened after I decided to buy a condo. I started nesting*.

I started to enjoy watching all those home shows on tv.

I started reading gardening books.

For the record, all the plants I've tried to grow/keep alive for the past 3 decades have died. I know nothing about plants or planting. I never helped in the garden when I was a kid (or an adult really) because I was too busy reading books or doing homework and no one made me go outside to pull weeds or get dirty. My only gardening memories consist of visiting my aunt and uncle's farm to help pick potatoes (rather my parents picked potatoes and I fed the tops to the neighbours' horse), or picking raspberries at my aunt and uncle's cabin, or being driven to some random middle-of-nowhere spot in the Alberta bush and told to sit and wait and not fight with my sister while my parents picked blueberries or morel mushrooms. I do not have a green thumb. At all.

But ever since this whole condo buying thing became real I have a new dream - I want to grow a balcony garden.

First thing I did was read the condo documents I was forwarded to see if pots are allowed on my balcony. I needed permission for the cat, but there was no mention of anything to do with the balcony. I am a bit concerned about weight, so I scaled back my plans and only planted what was easy-ish and edible (rather, what I would actually like to eat - eg. I don't eat tomatoes).

Secondly, I poured over some books from the public library to decide what I could handle planting. I found a couple books by Gayla Trail called You Grow Girl and Grow Great Grub particularly awesome (so much so I ended up buying them after my books were due at the library). She made gardening simple and easy - after reading them I figure even I can do it! I made a plan of what I wanted to grow.

Next up was a trip to Kuhlmann's Greenhouse just north of Edmonton. My mom always went there so I'm just keeping up tradition. I picked up some vegetables that were already started, and a couple seed packets, plus some potting soil. They have a pot exchange, which is basically just a big bin full of used pots people have dropped off free for the taking, and I walked away with some great finds. I planted all of this the next day.

I should've stopped there, but I didn't. Go big or go home, right? My second family donated three big pots, another book, flowers, more vegetables and useful advice. I had to go to Home Depot to get more soil to fill the pots, and also picked up a house plant. One more trip to Kuhlmann's to pick up enough filler for all my pots and voila - one balcony garden!


My orchid. I bought my mom one for Mother's Day and almost kept it for myself, so I figured I should buy one of my own. This is one plant I fully expect to kill. I figure once the flowers are finished it's a gonner.

My colleague gave me a cutting of her office spider plant. Apparently they're good for cats to eat and almost impossible to kill. I don't think I let it root enough and planted it too deep. I think it's dying already.

Catgrass. This photo is two days old. It's already an 2 inches taller and green. If anything, this is the plant that will survive my incompetence.

I want to get more houseplant to brighten up my place, but I'm out of pots and soil so that'll have to wait. Suggestions for easy to keep alive (and nontoxic to cats) houseplants are most welcome!


Swiss chard. I've never eaten this ever. Actually, I don't think I've ever even seen it before. But my garden books said it's tasty and easy to grow. Sign me up! Although I think I already killed it when replanting.

This is hopefully going to be scarlett runner beans (which I've never eaten or seen before either) and spinach (which I make myself eat to be healthy). I'd already planted the beans when my friend said they'd grow 6ft, so I hope they trail around the balcony railing. Otherwise I'm in trouble. I'm not overly confident this pot will mature into anything beyond potting soil.

Herbs, which I hope to take inside after the summer. That's peppermint on top (not really to eat, just cus it smells nice and looks good in a pot), lavendar (also for no purpose whatsoever), and basil (which I've never cooked with but there's a first time for everything).

Strawberries!! I love wild strawberries. I will be upset if I kill these. I might try winter them in my parents basement.

Zucchini. My friend gave me a seed, but my mom reckons it's too late to start from seed and my colleague doubted the success rate of just one seed, so I bought this little one. When I was planting it I noticed the stem was broken - not sure if that was me or the greenhouse. I'm a bit worried about this plant. I reckon it wont produce anything. This may be my second pot of wasted soil.

My blueberry bush. My favourite fruits are bananas, blueberries and cantaloupe, and only one of those grows here. Ever since I got bitten by the green thumb bug I knew I wanted to try grow blueberries. I had to get a blueberry bush, just had to. It was a bit pricey and I know it's a hard bush to grow in the ground, nevermind in a pot, but I'm going to try. This is my baby, my favourite plant. If it dies I shall mourn. If it lives I'm going to try winter it in my parents basement.

So far so good. If I get a handful of blueberries out of it I'll consider it a success worth repeating!

Garlic chives, donated by friends. Easy, tasty, and pretty when I forget to cook with it and it goes to seed. I might see if I can keep this alive inside too.

I don't generally like flowers and think they are mostly unnecessary, but my friends gave me the pink ones and I bought the violas to fill up the pot. They're pretty actually. I doubt their shelf life but we'll enjoy them while they last.

Just so you know I don't actually expect any of this to grow. I've never gardened before, I fully expect to kill everything by drowning or drought. But that's ok, for once I think I'm actually happy with the process as opposed to the product. Some stuff with grow, some wont. I'll get to eat something I'm sure. The most important thing is I'm trying, and I'm having fun. And that makes it all worth it.

Molly particularly likes the blueberries. That's my girl!

* I consider nesting a symptom of being girly. It's just ahead of applying make up, buying clothes that aren't on sale, wearing heels, getting a pedicure, carrying an expensive brand name handbag, watching romantic comedies, walking down the aisle and having babies. I wont allow it because I am a fiercely independent spinster-cat-lady-curling-librarian. Also I am not normal.


  1. You're brave to try an orchid. Notorious in their fragility. But you can't kill catgrass, for sure. Good work!

  2. Good luck with the garden! Looks great so far!

    Your friend is right about the spider plant, they are extremely hard to kill! I had one during university because I needed something green in my room & it survived overwatering & underwatering and the couple times a year I would go away for a week or two and abandon it!

  3. I remember going thru this exact phase in my life. My advice...use liquid fertilizer for the pots once a week.

  4. Cheryl, I killed the spider plant. That's the second one I've killed, the orchid is fine but I just can't grow spider plants!


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