I was going to start this post by saying that I’m not a very good gardener.  But, really, I have no idea about what kind of gardener that I am because I’ve never had a garden of my own before.  For all I know, I might be an excellent gardener – we have, after all, kept a couple of house plants alive for the last two years – although my sneaking suspicion is that I will never be anything more than enthusiastically average.

By way of introduction, it might help to describe the layout of our flat briefly (illustrated by a handy floorplan below). Having spent many years living in a block of flat without a balcony or any kind of communal garden, one of my main requirements when we moved was to get a little bit of outside space of our own.


Our flat is out the back of the block, looking out over the communal gardens and a relatively peaceful (for London) residential street.  When the trees in the gardens are less bare than they are at the moment, you can’t even see the houses on the other side of the road.  The kitchen is straight ahead as you enter with the rest of the flat off to the right. There’s a long and narrow reception room, split between a dining area at this end and a living area towards the window. A hallway leads to the three bedrooms – ours is at the end – and the bathroom.

You can step out onto the balcony from any one of the main rooms in the flat.  In the summer, we tend to keep all of the doors open almost all of the time and it becomes an extension of our living space, pulling the outside in.


When we bought the flat, I had grand plans for how I was going to transform the space into my own little urban oasis. I pictured myself whiling away the hours out there, twiddling around among my plants and coaxing life from my pots.

Now as we’re entering the start of our third spring/summer in the flat, I decided it was time to stop daydreaming and actually make my vision become that bit closer to a reality.

Over the last month or two, I’ve read a lot of books and browsed even more blogs, trying to learn this new language of soil types and bedding things out.  And at the weekend, I finally felt ready to take my first tentative steps into the world of trying to grow actual living plants.


It’s not a big space – enough room for a small table and a couple of chairs at most – but it gets plenty of sun as it faces south/south west and my general plan is to use the space as effectively as possible to grow herbs and some of the easier vegetables, tomatoes maybe and most likely some salad leaves. I think it’s a little ambitious to aim for self-sufficiency on the basis of a few square feet of concrete but I’m captivated by the idea of being able to wander out there, barefoot, and grab all the ingredients I need to make a simple salad.  I’ve always cared where my food comes from but, for me, this is a whole new level of engagement and connection to what I eat.

Except then I visited the garden centre on Sunday and bought all sorts of unrelated plants (lavender! and raspberries! and something else which I’d never heard of but was the right size to fit in a pot that I already had!). But, hey, at least it’s a start!


Whilst I thought I was relatively well-prepared, it turns out that I really have zero idea what I’m doing. I have a feeling that this is going to be a pretty steep learning curve. So far, I’ve realised that I’m an exceedingly messy gardener. After less than ten minutes of trying to pot a couple of plants, I had soil in my hair and streaked all over my face and had tracked muddy little footprints all through the flat.  I also had a mild panic attach when I found a dead earthworm in the bottom of one of the pots (for the record, I’m not very good with nature).

But I’m hoping that the fact that I’ve started posting about my feeble attempts at urban homesteading will keep me accountable and provide me with the motivation that I need keep on tending to my little patch of the outside. I’m going to aim to provide some updates along the way (like whether these twigs ever produce anything resembling a raspberry – I have my doubts).

I can’t promise that it will be pretty. I feel sure that I’m going to break down in tears over some plant that’s refusing to bear fruit but hopefully, in a couple of months, I’ll have something to show for my efforts.



43 Responses to "my balcony garden – an introduction"
  1. Joanne says:

    You can do it!! I think it’s so cool that you’re doing this. I wish I had some outdoor space to have even a tiny garden. I’ll have to live vicariously through yours!

  2. Yay for balcony gardens! I’m not a very good gardener, but thankfully Robert actually remembers to water our plants so between the two of us we’ve kept some alive for some time now. We’ve been growing some potted plants on our rooftop/fire escape for the last few summers and we’ve gotten better at it. We’ve also learned to be choosy about what we get now, and it usually looks like this: 2-3 basil plants (for all the pesto!), 2-3 mint plants (for tea and mojitos!) a few other herbs like dill and rosemary, and then about 5 tomato plants of different varieties. All of those plants are pretty easy to care for as well. Good luck!! I hope you can get some tasty food out of this deal. :-)

    • kathryn says:

      Thanks Sara! I’m definitely hoping to major on herbs too (because you can never have enough basil!) and fresh herbs often make all the difference to a dish.

  3. Rebecca says:

    Good luck! You can definitely do it, enthusiasm is half the battle with gardening I think. I started with a tiny patio garden in our first flat and have now somehow become the owner of both a front and back garden that I’m trying to fill with food and flowers. I’m eight years into what I would properly call “gardening” and still consider myself a total novice. I’m excited to follow your own balcony adventures and what it leads to in the kitchen.

    • kathryn says:

      Thanks Rebecca, I will come back and read this comment whenever I’m feeling down-heartened. I appreciate the encouragement so much!

  4. Ashlae says:

    THAT BALCONY! I can’t wait to see more of your space, lady – hope you plan on sharing. ;) Unfortunately we don’t have a balcony but we do have a fire escape that I’m putting to semi-good use. I fashioned a makeshift greenhouse out of clear plastic bins so I’m hoping we start to get some edible stuff sometime in the next few weeks. My best advice? Compost. Specifically the kind with worms.

    • kathryn says:

      I love the idea of a little makeshift greenhouse – so smart! I think I definitely need to get better at dealing with worms don’t I? ;)

  5. Yes! Stick with it! Gardening is the most frustrating and rewarding experience ever. We had a ginormous garden bed we use to grown evvvverythig in back in California. We spent so much time taking care of it and it was wonderful. We learned that no matter how many gardening blogs you read, its like having a kid, your own is your own – and you become an expert by learning as you go along what works and what doesn’t. I’m so excited for you and your balcony garden. So so so excited. I’m planning a little window garden right now since we have no outdoor space here, and your post just got me so excited to get going! Major high fives, and laughs about your earth worm experience. Hope you have the best week ever Kathryn <3

    • kathryn says:

      Oh yeah, you sum it up so well! Already I’m so attached to my babies and go out there at all times of day/night just to check that they’re okay. Can’t wait to see what you do with your window garden and learn from all of your experience <3

  6. Yay! I’m not much of a gardener myself, but the boyf is — he bought a bunch of edible plants for our garden last year, and it’s been really lovely having an instantly accessible herb garden just outside the kitchen. However, gardening can be frustrating and expensive — I’m pretty sure half his plants didn’t turn out, but oh well… I guess it’s just part of the journey? Eitherway, I’m excited to follow along w/r/t your gardening adventure!

    • kathryn says:

      Thanks lady! I think I’m ready for all the frustrations that it will bring with it – hopefully what I do manage to grown will make up for it in spades!

  7. kristan says:

    Gardening can be intense. My mother has a large garden and I am always so impressed at how she can keep everything alive. It takes a lot of work, but the pay off is more than worth it. I love that you are sharing this news with us because we can totally be there to encourage you when it gets tough. I am quite excited to see how this all turns out!!

  8. SO cute!! I’d love to get into gardening so this is gorgeous!

  9. alexandra says:

    I am so excited to follow along on your balcony garden journey. How fun!

  10. Abby says:

    Your garden is going to be just lovely, Kathryn! I can’t wait to read more about it in the coming months. xx

  11. cynthia says:

    Oh my gosh, I love this SO so much. I’m a disaster with plants so I can’t wait to live vicariously through your garden and this gorgeous balcony! The idea of leaving all the doors open to it in the summer is just too lovely for words. Thank you so much for sharing this with us and I can’t wait to see where it goes. :) So wonderful, Kathryn! (P.S. I would definitely destroyed the whole garden if I’d found that earthworm. I feel you!!)

  12. This post just makes me pine for spring even more. We’ve only ever grown herbs but I love the process — they become like my babies that I care for all season long. :) Excited to follow along on your balcony garden adventures!

    • kathryn says:

      Haha, yeah my plants are totally already my children. I talk to them and stroke them and try to make sure they’re properly fed and watered ; )

  13. tanya says:

    Sounds like you’re off to a great start! Here’s another book you may want to add to your collection. I found it to be super helpful and inspiring. There’s lots of great photos and clever ideas for small spaces. Looking forward to updates on your garden!

    Grow All You Can Eat In Three Square Feet– DK Publishing

  14. Rachel says:

    Good luck! (And lavender and raspberries are totally food related – we have both here on the farm, and I love using them in my cooking in the Summer!)

  15. Lavender and raspberries sounds like a blog name! I always make sure to have at least a few herbs growing wherever I live. The hardiest are thyme, chives, and rosemary…and it’s such a luxury to go out and snip what I need when I’m cooking, even if it’s from a tiny pot!

    • kathryn says:

      Ha, it does doesn’t it? Definitely noted re thyme, chives and rosemary. They’re some of my favourites so hopefully I can get a good supply of them growing!

  16. I’m excited for your gardening journey! I have high hopes for my future gardening prospects even though I’m not the best with nature, either. I’m good with dirt, and sweat, somewhat, but if a frog jumps on me, the world stops and can’t possibly carry on until THE THING IS OFF ME. So yeah, when I get to a space where I can set up a garden for myself, I’ll be interested to see how I adjust to the crawly bits, too. :)

    It’s cool to see a peek into your habitat and local adventures. Thanks for sharing. Sending all the brave gardener vibes your way! Here’s a recording of a tune called the Merry Gardener to inspire us both: https://soundcloud.com/www-tradconnect-com/peter-carberry-p-draig

    • kathryn says:

      Oh yeah, frogs are the worst. I’m hoping that I’m high enough up that I won’t have to deal with any here but you will probably be able to hear it if I do ;)

  17. I think I’d love gardening if it wasn’t for all the worms and snails and spiders… I’m terrified and they gross me out! Wish you all the luck with your gardening!

  18. I am so impressed and inspired by your adorable garden! We, too, have had a porch and a (shared) backyard, which is a huge luxury in the middle of the city. And I have been terrible at taking advantage of it. You’re putting me to shame :) This year, I’m definitely going to look into a lavender plant. That sounds amazing.

  19. Kate says:

    Gah, I am the least green fingered person in the world. My mum planted a load of hardy plants in our garden when we first moved in and I managed to kill them all… It’s definitely on my to do list though so maybe your adventures will inspire me :-)

  20. I have been a patio gardener for many years (although I now have raised beds, I still garden in pots too), so if you have any questions, I can answer them!
    I love your photos here. You patio looks lovely.

  21. Kathryn, so fun that you’re gardening! I have to tell you… after decades of gardening, I still feel like a beginner and I’m still thrilled when any little plant of mine thrives. I look forward to seeing what sprouts happily on your balcony.

  22. Renée Kemps says:

    Love your appartement and balcony!! And love it to be following your garden journey!! It’ll be awesome (:

  23. Sandra says:

    It’s so satisfying growing your own! I’m sure you’ll get along fine with some things that will grow and those that won’t! It’s all trial and error. I’ve got a little veggie plot which is great fun.

  24. Ella Herrick says:

    You’ve had a quite a big adventure planting your new plants! The photos are very cute and the balcony seems to become a beautiful small garden. I have my small balcony paradise now, but when I started it was the a disaster for me too. Wish you luck!

  25. Noah Parker says:

    Your balcony and garden are going to be so beautiful. I like everything in your garden. I’m very excited and can’t wait to see your gardening journey. Wish you good luck!

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