I swore I wouldn’t: A Balcony Garden Journey Part 2


I absolutely did not go to Home Depot with the idea of purchasing plants or seeds and most definitely not tomato plants.

I went there to have a key made and to purchase a spray bottle so I could mix up some homemade cleaning spray. My old bottle stopped spraying.

The smell of the store was distinctly Home Depot — earth, chemicals, metal, and concrete. People milled in and out of the garden area, and, as it was almost spring, I could see greenery with each flash of the sliding door.

I had to go take a peek. It was the promise of sunshine and green life pushing through dark soil.

I resisted the urge to purchase plants right there and then. I wanted to think about what we might grow and use and liked the idea of sharing the experience with my daughter. She’s much older now than the last time I grew plants on our balcony.

I knew I would have to be very strict about how much we tried to grow. Several years ago I grew too much which made for a lot of work. There were some plants I hardly even used. Pineapple sage, for example, was beautiful and smelled great fresh. But it didn’t dry well or hold it’s flavor in cooking.  It really became more of a decorative plant. I don’t mind some strictly decorative plants, but I really like plants that look nice and offer something we can eat. It makes for space well-used.

A couple of hot peppers and strawberry plants in hanging baskets seemed to be about right in my mind. Maybe a couple of herbs too.

Years ago the squirrels didn’t seem to be able to raid the strawberry plants when I had them in hanging baskets. The hot pepper plants they left alone after the first few bites. This seemed manageable. Fun. Pretty. Hopefully giving us a few things to eat for the trouble.

When I brought my daughter near the gardening section, it was the seeds that caught her eye. Well, dang, I hadn’t planned on trying to grow anything from seed. In fact, I already had a few packets of 5-or-more-year-old seeds collecting dust in a cabinet somewhere. I let her pick out two of something new.

She settled on cucumbers and a variety of marigold called Cottage Red.

I guided her to a variety of cucumber called Picklebush since they seemed like they would stay pretty small and produce cucumbers that look like deli pickles. Cottage Red marigold were not edible flowers like some (Lemon and Tangerine Marigold are edible), but they looked pretty on the packet and marigolds are usually good at keeping away garden pests. So there’s a usefulness there.

As far as plants, I quickly picked up a Tabasco Pepper plant and some jalapeño peppers (one mild variety and one standard). My daughter doesn’t like anything too spicy. I looked for a parsley plant but found none at the time, so I grabbed a packet of flat-leaf parsley seeds and a packet of Siam Queen Basil seeds. Plus we selected two strawberry plants — the only everbearing ones that looked good at the time — Ozark Beauty.

My daughter pleaded with me to get tomato plants, but after my somewhat bitter memories of squirrels that consumed every single tomato my plant grew the last time I tried. I told her, “no.” I said it several times. And we left with no tomatoes.

I didn’t know I would be back to Home Depot so soon. There were not only more strawberries in our future, but possibly tomatoes too.

(Part 2 of a series. Visit again later for more.)

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