Balcony gardeners, many of you were probably not even aware of the potential of your balcony and all the produce you can grow on your own. Imagine making your favorite dish and plucking off straight from your balcony some aromatic herbs that put to shame the dried spices you buy in retail. Your family with be delighted with your cooking, your balcony will be beautifully scented and you will have fewer mosquitoes and insects in summertime.
Author: Danijela Despotovic
You can grow a whole variety of spices on a terrace, and if you are a fan of Italian cuisine, basil and oregano are surely not to be missed.
Basil is a plant that simply loves the sun and the water. It will benefit most from a south-facing area of the balcony, with many hours of sunlight and daily watering.
Basil seeds take about twenty days to develop into a seedling that you can transplant into a balcony pot. The pot should not be too deep, as basil does not have a branched root system. We recommend canvas pots – they are very commonly used in urban gardening, because they retain moisture much longer, so the soil doesn’t dry easily.
Place the clay balls at the bottom of the pot when repotting basil seedlings, so as to obtain a well-drained soil. Clay balls absorb excess water, and once the substrate gets dry, they gradually release moisture so that the plant can survive even if you skip a few waterings.
Place the rest of the soil (substrate) over clay balls. At this stage, you can already use a substrate that contains fertilizer.
The pot is ready for a few basil seedlings. Only 3-4 seedlings will do for now. Make sure they are far enough apart, so that each one has room to grow.
When your basil branches out, start trimming the leaves on a regular basis. The good news is – your kitchen will be filled with an irresistible scent and your meals will have a fantastic taste. Basil flowers tend to sprout up when it gets warmer – be sure to prune them off so that the leaves can develop a more intense fragrance.
Use oregano grown on your own balcony to make a real Italian pizza. Oregano loves a lot of sun, but requires little water, so avoid frequent watering. When your plant reaches 10 cm high, you can start harvesting leaves, preferably in the morning hours. Oregano is a perennial plant – its leaves lose their aroma after 2-3 years and then it’s time to plant a new one.
On the other hand, if you are a fan of traditional cuisine, parsley is the go-to ingredient. The good news is that parsley is a perennial plant, it is very resistant and adaptable to different conditions. But unlike oregano, it doesn’t respond well to full sunlight. Make sure to remember that it does like the sun, however, direct sunlight makes its leaves turn yellow.
Best of all, you can use the herbs you have grown on your balcony all year round. If you prune your culinary herbs regularly, don’t throw away the trimmings that you won’t be using for meal preparation, instead, dry them and store them in glass jars and your kitchen will smell like summer all winter long.
In cooperation with the Delegation of the European Union to Montenegro, La Organica shot a series of short instructional videos on how to grow a small garden on your balcony in an easy-to-do and fun way, and the episode about growing herbs can be found here. The best thing all of us can do right now is stay home and enjoy this useful hobby.