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My Balcony Jungle
Gardening adventures in a small urban space

Growing Herbs on the Balcony

Herbs are excellent garden plants to grow on a balcony. Although most prefer hot sunny conditions, some can tolerate shade and a couple even desire it. They are anything but demanding. I've found that we make use of basil and parsley the most. They never go to waste. I've grown things like lemon balm and lavender in the past but never knew why. They just took up space. So now I limit myself to things I know we'll use. By growing perennial herbs in small pots you can easily move them into the kitchen window when winter comes. Unlike vegetables, most herbs will tolerate a dry spell and apparently taste better after a little drought.


You can buy herb starter plants from a garden center or start your own from seed. Herbs with tap roots like dill and coriander don't transplant well but if you're careful they might be alright with it. Some herbs such as oregano and thyme vary in taste so much that they really should be started from transplants purchased from a garden center. This gives you the opportunity to sniff and taste and then purchase what works best for you.

Perennial herbs can be propagated by cuttings or layering. I've found that just cutting off a healthy green branch, trimming the bottom leaves, and inserting it into some potting soil is all it takes. Eventually the cutting forms roots and can be transplanted to a permanent container home. Layering is another technique that involves pinning a branch to the soil surface in another container and waiting for roots to form from the branch into the new soil. The branch can then be cut and you'll have another plant.

Most herbs are immune to attacks from most pests - rosemary, thyme, oregano, chives. I've seen aphids wandering around on coriander leaves but they don't seem to thrive there like they do on other plants. But I have seen them as well as spider mites take a liking to new basil growth.

For most of the summer and fall, having fresh herbs in our kitchen is just a matter of walking out on the balcony with a pair of scissors and giving a few plants a little haircut. In the winter I've let some of my perennial herbs rest in the kitchen window. They don't do much growing there but they survive and continue to provide us with fresh herbs over the winter.

A great source of information about growing herbs can be found in Miranda Smith's book entitled "Your Backyard Herb Garden". I've found it to be a excellent resource

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