Love and Olive Oil

How Does Your Garden Grow?

I’ve had quite a few people ask about our little garden. I’ve mentioned it a few times in posts, and if you follow me on twitter you may have seen my periodic snapshots and updates on it’s progress.

Because you really could call it progress. Amazing how in a matter of weeks (days, actually), you can go from this:

To this:

To give some background, we live in a condo. With no dirt to call our own. We do, however, have a fairly good sized balcony (for a condo, that is). And while it is shaded for much of the year, in the summer the sun does make it above the buildings long enough to give us a good solid afternoon of sunshine on one side of the patio. Just enough that our hopes are high for our little container garden.

We’ve only grown herbs before. Probably killed more than we actually grew. And we’ve always started with seedlings. We’ve never fully ‘raised’ plants from seeds before. We had no idea what to do. Lucky for us the garden center nearby is filled with knowledgeable employees (Judith just might be sick of us by now) and we’ve done our best to pick their brains. Like her suggestion to start the seeds in eggshells. And since we eat eggs for lunch just about every day, saving up a dozen or so didn’t take long at all (we just had to remember to carefully crack the tops off of them instead of smashing them to bits). Filled with a bit of potting soil, and then set to sunbathe under a grow light, it was a mere 4 days before we saw the first bits of green starting to poke through the soil. (For those interested, we purchased this grow light – a reasonable price for a nice compact, freestanding light).

That there is the thyme. It won the race as the first to sprout. Though the others were not far behind. We’d watch our little science project grow each and every day. It was like being in elementary school again, the sheer wonder of it all.

We doubled up on many of the seeds just in case one didn’t germinate, and as it turns out only one little basil seed didn’t make an appearance. Everything else, including our two tomato varieties (and I hear tomatoes are actually quite hard to start!) sprouted and took off.

All in all we have planted: thyme, basil, parsley, cilantro (planted directly outside), rainbow chard, haricot vert green beans, black hungarian hot peppers, wild cherry tomatoes, and green zebra heirloom tomatoes (my all-time favorite). We’ll probably also pick up a few other herb seedlings such as mint and tarragon. Ambitious? Probably. But we’re optimistic.

We’ve also got a nice pot of mesclin and arugula lettuces growing outside. Look! Microgreens!

Soon the little seedlings got too big for their eggs, and we transplanted them to peet pots. Not sure if it’d be more efficient to simply start them in the peet pots to begin with? Or if the eggs really provided an extra oomph to the baby plants.

Soon, when the temperatures are holding steady, it’ll be time to replant them in their final containers outside. The green bean (or haricot vert, to be precise) must have been on steroids or something, as it took off and shortly towered above the other plants (it’s the one with the giant leaves on the left). It is actually outside right now. The rest are still under the grow light, just waiting for their time in the sun. The pots are waiting.

So are the cats, for that matter. They’ll probably spend more time in the “garden” than both of us. So long as they don’t eat it before we do. We did grow them their own crop of wheat grass (which big kitty loves… little kitty hasn’t quite figured it out yet, which is funny considering he tries to eat just about everything else, from paper to plastic to fingers…)

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  1. My grandmother used to put broken egg shell pieces on some plants in pots. I don’t remember which plants got this favored treatment, just remember seeing them. Must be the nutrition.

  2. hey, I’ve been following your blog for awhile now, but what really got my attention was this post on eggshell gardening! Love the idea and it’s simply genius! I live in the Pacific Northwest where it’s cold for most of the season, so I was wondering, if I have a grow light, do you think that would suffice for year-round herbs? We don’t get a lot of sun or warm weather up here unfortunately… Thanks!

    • I think you could definitely use the grow light. It did very well for the seedlings, and as long as the space could accommodate the plants as they got larger, it’d definitely work. You may even want to check out the Aerogarden… may be ideal for you. :)

  3. Just stopping by and noticed your two cats! I have cats in the same color combination, one is black and white, the other gray! Are those kitten toes double paws by chance?

  4. aawww cute!

  5. Hello! I think that using eggshells for this purpose is such a fun idea!
    I have blogged about it here:

    P.S. are these caesar stone countertops?

  6. I live in an apartment so growing my own anything is kind of impossible but I wonder if I could grow some basil and cilantro by the windowsill.

  7. The egg box herb garden is the coolest thing I have seen!

  8. We plan on buying some seedlings in the near future to put in our patio (all concrete, no real earth).
    And nice to hear my kitten isn’t the only one that seems to be eating paper. Nothing paperish is safe!

    • Paper… plastic… metal…. it never ends. Most common exclamation in our house is now “No! Don’t eat that!” Silly kitty.

  9. Love it! Our little Nashville (we’re Hermitage area) patio is starting to green up, too. Last weekend, I finally lost all patience and planted our bed of impatiens (pun very much intended). Also cleaned up our herb collection: the mint, sage, lavender, rosemary all made it through the winter and I’m a ridiculously proud plant parent. One of our potted blueberry plants (hardly counts as a bush yet) made it, too. Look forward to seeing y’all’s progress: very inspiring to hear that your tomatoes and greens are thriving! Chapter, our Maine Coon mix who’s loving her catnip plant, says hello to your feline companions. Keep the photos coming!

  10. This almost sounds easier than having an actual raised garden bed in the back yard! I’ll definitely start mine in eggplant shells next year!

  11. I’d love to be able to get some plants growing like yours! I love the smell of those herbs and because of you I think I will go on this garden journey as well ;); thanks for the great pictures and the inspiration!

  12. That’s lovely. You’re putting so much into it! That’s why I think your condo balcony container garden will do better than mine did last year. For a month, I went out there and watered every day, and everything grew and grew! But as soon as the growth started to plateau, I lost interest and started forgetting and skipping days, and all of it died. Also my herbs got attacked by these vile little red crawlies. But I did get to eat abut a dozen of the most delicious sugar snap peas I’ve ever had! They were so worth it.

    Good luck!

  13. Great idea to use eggshells as plant pots instead of buying plant pots.
    The grey tiger is lovely.
    So long…

  14. This is great! I’ve wanted to start a little garden but had no idea where to start! Thanks!

  15. I want to grow a garden on my apartment patio! Herbs would be such a great thing to have all the time and with the weather being great, the more time outside the better.

  16. Thanks so much for sharing! I might try your suggestions next year as I’m in a very similar living situation. My container garden looks a lot like yours :) but we bought seedlings instead of growing them “from scratch” ourselves.

    This year: rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, cilantro, parsley, and chives. tomatoes (early girl and brandywine).

    Another idea if this appeals to you: we purchased a bay laurel that’s just under two feet tall right now. we’re growing it in a pot on our patio. it’s supposed to grow about a foot a year so we figure by the time it’s too big to keep in a large pot, we’ll hopefully be moved to a place where we have some land to plant the tree.

    We’re toying around with the idea of starting a nut tree on the patio, using this same idea. especially since nut trees take so long to mature. an investment in our future home!

  17. I’m so into this! I’m starting a little herb garden on my balcony soon. A friend of mine did it, and he just got one huge pot, then bought the little plants already grown and stuck them all into the giant pot. One big pot filled with all types of different herbs. Sounds strange, but he said it works! Giving it a try soon, so stay tuned. Can’t wait! xxSAS

  18. If you don’t have the growing light will they still grow under regular sunlight??? .. I would love to grow my own herbs!!!..

    • I was told the seedlings need very direct light, and do best with about 12-14 hours of it. You’d need a seriously sunny window or something to achieve this. Something we don’t have, which is why we went for the growlight.

  19. I’m curious as to the reasoning behind starting seeds in egg shells. Do you just break up the shell and throw it out when you replant into peat pots? I’ve started seeds in egg cartons before, but I think I prefer peat pellets.

    • Not sure the exact reasoning, but I know that tomatoes especially love the calcium in the eggshells. Plus they are free. Can’t beat that. :) And when we transplanted them, I just carefully cracked off the eggshell (actually kind of hard to do, but I just took my time), mixed the broken pieces in with the new soil and the seedling.

  20. Wow! Your garden looks so sweet, and is off to a great start! I just finished transplanting all of my seedlings yesterday. So far, the ones that have their “big boy” leaves are daikon radish, butternut squash, ronde de Nice zucchini, and sugar snap peas. I love visiting them a few times a day, vocally admiring their beauty and progress. And I was tickled to find dozens of butternut sprouts growing on a compost heap that had been covered by a tarp for a week!

  21. Oh I’m so jealous! I live in a condo too but my balcony is teeny-tiny. I’ve always wanted to start my own herb garden but sadly that shall have to wait until I own a yard of some sort.. Your little eggshell plants were so cute though!

  22. lovely! thanks for sharing your patio gardening adventure. we’re waiting to see our little sprouts in the backyard garden beds. they’ve been pummeled mercilessly with spring rains, but a few days of sun might make a difference by the weekend!

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