There may be other things to do on balconies but on ours we’re firmly committed to growing plants. P., the wife part of our partnership, has her eye on flowers, foliage, colours, shapes and scents. My role is to produce edible produce and maintain the nutritional value of the soil.

During our time of incarceration (“excarceration” since we’re talking about balconies?), surprisingly, there seem to be fewer moments of conflict than when we have diversionary options, like going to the movies or Art Gallery. It seems easier to find common cause.

Porplems in the past have arisen from every possible origin. One is the durability of flowers, that, even after picking, continue to produce and thus may not be dug up. Most vegetables, on the other hand, once harvested, disappear from the places they have inhabited in the pots for the previous three or four months. The temptation to fill the individual gaps with more flowers seems irresistible.

Which is all right except for one of the basic features of pot gardens. While fertilizer and compost in an outdoor garden soak down into the subsoil for use by later plants, nutrition applied to pots can be seen daily after they have been watered, in the form of brown pools underneath, on the way to the drains. I have a routine of replenishing the nutrition after every crop has been harvested, which can turn into an insuperable challenge if individual spaces have been (surreptitiously) filled with flowers. These may not be dug up in order to mix in the blood and bone, dolomite, sheep manure, etc.

I am of course convinced of the value of companion planting but to end up with pots full of companions and hardly anything edible can be hard to bear. It would be unforgiveable of me to remove flowering plants.

P. has the whip hand of course. She is the cook and is in a position simply to avoid using what I have grown. This is not done out of spite I’m sure. (Or am I?)

These are a microcosm of the difficulties that can arise in the pursuit of self-sufficiency, however limited, from a balcony garden. In fact, I could say that balcony gardens are more fecund producers of difficulties than of vegetables. More of that later…..


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