Miniature Garden Update: One Month Later

So a little over a month ago, I planted my first miniature balcony garden, crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

Read: Miniature Balcony Gardening…in a 2-Foot by 10-Foot Space

Well as you might expect, there have been some ups and downs – but mostly ups. And for that I awkwardly give myself a hearty pat on the back. I think everything out there on that stupid-sized balcony would have been alive and well except for one thing…

I was bitten by the (figurative) travel bug and just had to spend a week and a half in Western Florida.

It didn’t rain much in Atlanta while I was gone so these poor lil’ buggas had to fend for themselves in the pseudo-wilderness. So with a clearer mind and slightly tanner skin, this is what I came back to:

  • Cilantro: A little brown and wilted, but salvageable
  • Basil: About the same as the cilantro
  • Mint: Growing like crazy, like it didn’t even miss me
  • Impatiens: Totally dead, like they never even existed
  • Begonias: One chuck of dead-ness and the rest hanging on for dear life. It’s a hanging pot. See what I did there?

So I cleared out the nasty crap to make way for new pretty stuff…ta da!

IMG_3929Second garden shopping trip to Lowe’s: Check.

Lessons Learned:

  1. My mini-balcony gets more sun that I thought it did
  2. Herbs are pretty low-maintenance
  3. Flower that like shade don’t like me…at least here
  4. Water bugs are terrifying

Ah yes…the water bugs.

So before I hit the road for Florida, I set my indoor plants out on the corners of the mini-balcony to give them the best fighting chance at life while I was gone. These were a half-dying chrysanthemum and a three-quarters-dying African violet.

(Side bar: Have you ever stopped to think how close “violet” and “violent” are. Typos can be really thought-provoking at this time of day.)

Anyhoo, my mini-balcony must have been greeted by a big gust of wind because I returned to find the chrysanthemum totally MIA and the African violet upside down on the deck. When I went to pick it up, cockroach-looking things scattered in all directions.


I slammed the balcony door shut and had to squash one with my bare hand to keep it from getting lost in the house. After a couple random chats with dog owners in the days that followed, I learned that these lil’ bastards are called water bugs, native to Georgia, and basically invincible. 
IMG_3934But trying to put the water bug incident behind me, I got myself prepped and ready for gardening round #2.

I was already missing all of the palm trees in Florida, so I picked up a mini-palm meant for indoor display to put on my coffee table. I’m thinking of installing a sandbox in the corner over the weekend. No really.
IMG_3944Without a doubt, those impatiens were dead as a doorbell and needed to be tossed into the trash. There was really no hope of reviving them.

Taking a page from “lessons learned,” I planted marigolds and celosias in their place. My mom always had marigolds in the yard when I was growing up and I remember them being pretty easy to take care. Plus, they’re orange and orange is awesome.

I’d never really seen celosias before, but their cuteness, colorfulness, and cheapness enticed me in the garden center that day. A little Googling informed me that they’re ornamental plants that are also edible…but I have yet to start snacking on them. They’re also named after the Greek word for “burned,” which refers to their flame-like shape.

That’s HOTTT.
IMG_3945I also finally got something to put into that orphaned blue flower pot in the corner. I thought a blue flower pot deserved blue flowers, but such are actually pretty hard to find. My favorite blue flower is the hydrangea, which reminds me of being back in Rhode Island…where they are EVERYWHERE!

I think these bushes are a little too big for my mini-balcony, but someday I’ll have these blue bastards in my yard.

So for the blue pot, I settled on a blueish-purpleish plant called “blue moon phlox.” Like my other new flowers, these things like sun so I thought they’d enjoy my mini-balcony. Since one of our balcony doors is busted and doesn’t open, I pulled the pot over in front of it so I can see and enjoy it from the inside!

IMG_3931One final gardening endeavor of the moment is sprouting in a sponge. While in Florida, we visited the historic and touristy town of Tarpon Springs, which was a sponge diving port for Greek immigrants in the early 1900s.

Sponges! Like what you scrub yourself with in the shower and wash your dishes with the sink…sponges!

It was a really fun town to explore, and apparently, it has the largest population of Greek Americans than any other town in the U.S. Real sponges from the gulf and handmade soaps line practically every store shelf down there, and I picked up one particular kind that’s called a “flower pot sponge.”

IMG_3932The Sponge Factory, where I bought it, recommended that I plant lima bean seeds or lentil seeds in my sponge, but I couldn’t find either of these for the life of my at Lowe’s. So I did a bit of research and found that radishes should sprout soil-less in a sponge as well.
IMG_3943I soaked the radish seeds overnight and then stuck them into the pores of the sponge. Randomly, earlier that day one of my work writing assignments was about the purpose of sprouting and how to grown your own sprouts. I love when work and life align.

Within just a few days, the radish sprouts began to grow! Who knew?!

While researching for my work article, I kept reading that although sprouts are super healthy, they also pose a risk of bacterial contamination. A sponge seems like the perfect place for bacteria to grow. So I’ve been a bit nervous about eating my sprout and have yet to try them.

But they do look pretty righteous, eh?

IMG_3977So that’s my gardening update…one month later. I’ll plant to write a two-month update right before my trip to Europe to say farewell to these little guys and wish them the best while I abandon them for three weeks. Or maybe I won’t get around to it and you’ll see an update about the epic plant death that welcomes me back to the states.

And oh! As of yesterday, I have one more addition to add to my mini-balcony! My parents went me this ridiculously fun gnome flag that would look perfect out there. Of all the gnome crap I have, this is my first flag. Now I just need to find a way to attach it to the side post…hmm.

Unlike my mom, who has to wait until after Mother’s Day to start planting due to fear of frost, some of my plants have been going strong – even after the one-month mark. The herbs, in particular, and growing like crazy now…faster than I can eat them!

Do you live in a climate where plants can thrive in March and April? How’s your garden holding up so far?

I have a feeling mine would rock so hard if only I didn’t travel…but right now, that’s not an option. So godspeed dear plants…I’ll do my best and you do the rest!