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  • Ellen Mary

Balcony Gardening in North Carolina

The pandemic hit just as I managed to get a flight back to Charlotte, NC to see my husband. I was only intending to be here for a few weeks before getting back to the UK and down the allotment for a well planned season of growing. Of course, flight restrictions soon meant that wasn’t going to happen and I’ll be over in NC a lot longer than anticipated. We have a fairly large balcony just outside the gorgeous Queen City and are lucky with the views looking over towards the mountains with swathes of trees starting just beyond the brewery across the road. The sunsets are simply incredible. Balcony gardening wasn't exactly the plan for this year but us gardeners are pretty resourceful so mid lockdown, I saved many food containers, grabbed some containers from the local store before it was only essential items to be bought and started on my way to greening up the balcony. Yes, to make it green, yes to providing us with a small amount of fresh food (especially herbs) and of course, yes to helping wildlife but to be honest, it was mostly to help me. Lockdown in an apartment with no garden or allotment has been hard and the balcony has become my place to rest, tune out, get hands dirty and do something I love. It’s been a big learning curve! I have gardened on a balcony many times over the years from inner city small spaces to balconies over river views. Even small areas in Spain. And just like any garden, each balcony differs hugely. This balcony is about 5ft by 12ft which is pretty big considering the urban position. It is enough for a table, chairs, a few favourite plants to brighten things up, a small Vegepod and lots of smaller pots with vegetables and herbs. The easy to grow herbs such as Mint, Lemon Balm, Parsley and some Basil are grown so that when I am not here my hubby can look after them. Then came the salads and kale in the sanity saving Vegepod which I cannot recommend enough! I decided to try some new fruits and vegetables including the Chinese Snake Bean, Okra, Green Tomatoes and the Death Spiral Chilli Pepper! Ouch!! The most surprising issue is that as we are on the 6th floor it can get pretty breezy up here and both the conditions and temperature vary dramatically throughout the day. One minute its cloudy and strong winds, the next hour it is dry, blue skies and a sun trap. The good news is that the plants seem to be coping much better than me with the confusion of what to do. The pots are mulched, the Vegepod is secured (although its on wheels so I brought it indoors when there was a severe storm) and some of the bigger plants do get moved about, weather dependent - a benefit of lockdown means I can keep a check constantly throughout the day! Balcony gardening can be incredibly rewarding, there is something very special about maximising a small space and when I watched a bee buzzing around my Marigolds today, I was one happy gardener. No matter what space you have, no matter what is going on in the world - gardening really can give focus, hope and some inner peace.


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