Gardening With What You’ve Got
Having grown up with my backyard an actual forest and spent my childhood playing in streams and in dark woods, I can’t imagine my life without an outdoor component at home. I would move! Since adulthood, I’ve been gardening everywhere I’ve lived in some capacity, although it’s gone through plenty of different iterations.
I’m fortunate to have had a balcony for the past 8+ years here in Budejovice, and although north-facing
and almost constantly shady, it is perfect on the hot summer days of Central Europe when you can’t stand sizzling in the sun anyway, and I love the light summer evenings, sitting outside with a cup of tea and a book. Although a bit limited, this arrangement does okay for growing things that don’t need lots of sun. I have kale and Swiss chard out there which do moderately well — I’ve actually compared it to kale planted directly in the ground in full sun and I’d say it even does better! My lavender also doesn’t mind the shade too much.
I like to put flowers out (for the looks) but I have to “charge” them in the south-facing windows of the house for a few weeks first so they look nice and happy.
Over the last two years, I’ve been allowed to garden at a friend’s — my own little garden patch! Although the soil quality there is middling, it does a pretty okay job when the weather is extra sunny. I usually plant tomatoes and various squashes, sometimes some greens. The first year was wonderful across the board, the second year more challenging due to a tomato blight and the constant slug battle. This third season will likely be my last at this garden because my friends are moving, so it gets me thinking sometimes what’s next for my garden-ventures.
I long to have a garden of my own, at the place where I live someday. Nothing sounds more wonderful, but I realize with my current situation and other choices I willingly make, this isn’t altogether possible, even though it’s a little sad in some ways. Sometimes, things you want don’t intersect and you have to choose the greater desire of the two. I’m continuing my search for a private garden plot, although the fact that my dear friends water the plants for me while I go on trips will be very much missed — no way to replicate that!
This spring I’ve done a far bit of growing on my sunny windowsill. As I’ve detailed in my How to Start a Tiny Garden post, it is so easy to grow things which don’t need a ton of space! This year I have a robust box of mustard greens going and a couple radishes, which grow nicely in a long planting box. At the end of April I planted a second box of mixed lettuces, so I’m looking forward to them being ripe at staggered intervals. Here’s the current state of things — the mustard greens started to bolt so I removed them from between the windowpanes (a total greenhouse effect). Essentially, what one and two months of growth looks like on a windowsill.
Always lots of herbs on my windowsills as well: I constantly have mint, basil, parsley and chives going (the only really sensitive one being the basil, although parsley must not be forgotten either, but the other two are nearly unkillable)
The last way in which I “reap the goodness from the earth” without having to garden is foraging! This is a wonderful practice for people who love spending time in fields and forests, but feel like they don’t have the means to garden. All those nettle and dandelion leaves that nobody wants or cares about, full of vitamins and nutrients, ripe for the taking (following sustainable foraging practices, of course)! It is a beautiful thing.
And those are the many ways I garden with the means available to me at the moment. I think anytime you can get a container (no matter how small or what it is) in a somewhat sunny space, you can garden. I am also a firm believer that more gardening amateurs need to be posting about it! So many people are too nervous to share about their gardens because they feel like they don’t know what they’re doing. That’s the beauty of it, I guess; that none of us really know and it’s a giant trial and error process.
Do you garden? What does that look like for you?
PS, You might like How to Grow a Tiny Garden or Garden Patch Year 1 Recap.