Now that we have a huge south-facing balcony, we thought it was time to expand our garden. Last year we grew peas, jalapenos, and herbs with limited success. This year we have 3 heirloom tomato plants, hot peppers, green peppers, pole beans, broccoli, lettuce, spinach, carrots, flowers, and a herb garden all planted on our balcony in pots and containers. There are also a few squash plants that are growing from seeds left in the compost that I don’t have the heart to pull out. So far, the plants are all looking green and healthy. The balcony has a large overhang, so the plants don’t get as much direct sunshine as I would like, but the balcony railing has glass which is protecting them from the wind.
In addition to our balcony garden, we have a few other gardening experiments on the go. Inside the apartment we have a flowers planted in a Wally modular living wall system that we received as a house warming gift. We also have a hydroponic system with mint that I won in a silent auction. It’s made from a large recycled glass carboy that’s been cut in half and inserted into itself (they had smaller ones made from wine bottles that would be easy to make). I’m thinking of getting some fish to live in the bottom half.
The only gardening experiment that is failing is our urban bee keeping. When we won the farmer’s market raffle in March, we won mason bees from Balcony Bees. When I went to pick them up, I got suckered in to buying a home for them too, hoping to convince the bees to live on our balcony. The bees are mason bees that don’t produce honey, but pollinate flowers and are very docile.
The bees came in a box wrapped in toilet paper in a ziploc bag with ice in it. I was told to put them in the fridge until the beginning of April, when they would start emerging. Since we moved on April 22, we waited until then to let our bees out. We were a bit worried they would wake up in the fridge or die of hunger, but considering how cold the spring was it might have been better to wait even longer to let them out. A day after we put them on the balcony, I checked in the box to see how they were doing and one bee was emerging from his cocoon. Within the next 2 days, a bunch of the bees emerged (the males) and flew off. A week later the females emerged. None of them stuck around.
We received a second bee house (this one is made by Bee Diverse) for our housewarming and have been hoping that some mason bees would take up residence in one our two homes, but none have. I’m not sure what we did wrong. From what I’ve read, mason bees need a lot of warm sun. When they emerged from their cocoons it was still cold and their house wasn’t facing east and didn’t get direct sunshine, so maybe that was the cause. I’m still hoping that some bees will relocate into our homes, but if we don’t get any this year I’m going to get more cocoons next year and see if I can’t convince some bees to stick around.
We don’t have the outdoor space the Hirtle’s have for their garden, but it’s amazing what you can grow in an apartment with some pots, containers, and hydroponic systems. The real test will be later in the summer when our plants start producing food we can eat. Between our garden, the Fresh Roots Urban CSA we joined, and our weekly trips to the farmer’s markets, we’re going to be eating lots of fresh vegetables this summer.