Adventures of a First-Time Plant Mom

It’s official. I’ve become one of those people.

Some people are obsessed with posting pictures of their babies on social media, and a choice few who view their pets as offspring do it, too. These people have always annoyed me, but lately I’ve decided that perhaps I should find a way to relate to them.

You know, by becoming overly obsessed with my plants. 

A single friend of mine started growing tomato plants on her apartment balcony a couple of years ago and referred to them as her children (mostly to be funny, partially to make a statement about stereotypes society places upon single people). She went so far as to call them her parents’ “grandplants,” which annoyed her parents to no extent. (I thought it was hilarious. I’m encouraging her to take a family photo with her plants and use it on her Christmas card.)

I loved her idea of creating a micro garden on her balcony, and I’ve carried the idea around in the back of my mind for quite some time. Warm weather rolled in about three months ago, and it’s only taken me that entire three months to get motivated enough to start a planting project of my own. Keep in mind, this is a huge deal for someone whose planting experience, up until this point, has involved buying one mum each fall and keeping it alive for approximately four weeks, at which point the level of commitment expected of me becomes unbearable, and I resign myself to watching my flower slowly die, convinced it’s better that way. The fact that I care about an entire slew of plants now is a huge feat. It means I’m growing up. Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll be ready to keep a goldfish alive. Or a human baby. We’ll see.

When I decided I want to do a balcony project, a vision of balcony planters popped into my head, and I was never able to shake it. I decided I wanted double planters that straddled my balcony railing, so that I could plant herbs on one side and flowers on the other. Unfortunately, I have zero carpentry skills to make that a reality.

But I have a friend who does. And he graciously helped me out with his tools and some spare wood:

plants1 As you can see here, our design is very simple. I didn’t need a super complicated planter box. The back and two sides were screwed together at a right angle, and the front is angled out to give a little more room for the plants. These aren’t very deep, but they’re ideal for herbs and a few small flowers.

Next, we bought some simple metal brackets from Lowe’s and screwed those in between two planters. (It’s probably a good idea to measure the width of your balcony railing first so you can make sure your brackets will fit over it. I found that the tighter the bracket fits on the railing, the less your planters will move, which is a good thing. The brackets I bought had some flexibility to them, which was great, since I could bend them to get a good fit.)plants2

Next, we just drilled another board over the top of the brackets for aesthetic purposes. When that was done, we tried them out on the balcony. Success!

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After the actual construction was done, I took over. I decided to paint them with a beautiful shade of celery green chalk paint (no, it wasn’t Annie Sloan. It was Walmart brand chalk paint, which cost me about $5. Since these were going outside, I was definitely good with that.) One coat was all they needed since I wanted them to look shabby chic and weathered anyway. I opted for not putting any kind of sealant or wax on them for the same reason. (So far, they look great, after lots of sun and water exposure. We’ll see what the long-term results are.)

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Finally, it was time to plant. I made a trip to Lowe’s in which I dropped about $100 on plants and supplies (which is steep, I’ll admit, but the fact that I made the planters for free eased the pain a little bit). I went all out on my herb selection: parsley, sage, rosemary, oregano, dill, lemon balm, lavender, thyme, mint, and basil were my first picks. (If I add any others later, I’ll let you know.) Oh my word, did they smell heavenly! For my flower planters, I decided to try out petunias, vincas, (and the third flower escapes me right now, I’ll come back and add it in). I loved their vibrant summer colors! Here are a couple of pictures of my plants pre-planters, one of my herbs in an awesome, vintage wooden crate I found at a local antique store (they look so cute in there, I almost just left them. I’ll probably find a way to incorporate that crate into my balcony planting soon.). The other photo shows all of my flowers grouped together, waiting for their new homes.

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Aside from one surprise slug that scared the crap out of me, the whole process was incredibly cathartic! It was evening by the time I started getting plants into the planters (after lining the bottoms of the planters and filling them with Miracle Gro), so my photo of the process is sub par here.

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I was really happy, but I wasn’t done yet. Earlier this spring, the same friend who’d helped me build the planters had also let me dig some plants out of his backyard. That’s where I got my free oregano and some daffodil bulbs that won’t bloom again until next spring. He also gave me a couple of baby rosebushes, which he said probably wouldn’t survive, and definitely wouldn’t bloom again until next year. Imagine my surprise when I came outside one day last week to find this little bulb! plants12

Instagram posts galore. (Sorry, friends.) I ended up going out of the country that weekend and legitimately felt like I was leaving my children behind. I even instructed a friend of mine, who watered the plants for me in my absence, to take a picture of the rose when it bloomed (compare: baby’s first steps). At that point, I had no idea what the roses actually looked like on these bushes, so when I returned home to this, I might have actually teared up a little at all the beauty:

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If I didn’t have plant fever before I saw that rose, I certainly do now. Here’s a couple more Instagram pics of the entire thing so far:

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And a panorama shot of the whole balcony (ignore my terrible pano skills that make one of the planters look crooked):

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So far, that’s all for now! I’m hopeful that my rose bushes will produce more blooms before the summer’s out. I’ve also begun the second stage of herb gardening: actually learning how to use the herbs I’m growing. This is all part of my extremely slow process of using more organic and natural foods. (Notice that cherry tomato plant in the corner…it’s my first vegetable plant!) Future plans include incorporating some strawberries and other edible plants, as well as decorating the balcony. I have some big plans for more Pinterest-y projects that I’ll probably add as the summer goes along, so stay tuned!

Thus concludes the story of my endeavors to create a small but beautiful, organic, natural space that produces healthy and lovely-looking plants. This project has improved my summer for sure!

Love!

sarah

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