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Ideas for balcony herb garden?

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  • Ideas for balcony herb garden?

    I am going to grow a herb garden on my balcony and would love some ideas.

    What herbs grow well in confined spaces and are good with meat and veg? Having lived mainly on processed and take away food, I have not cooked with fresh herbs before. And my previous bouts of primal were quite bland and maybe that's why I could not sustain it. I am not sure of the classic combos and hope for some help.

    I know thyme is good with vegies and corainder with seafood, but thats about it.

    I also have no idea what will work with limited sun and space, but I am sure a Darwinian approach will prevail.

    I am not seeking specific recipes - I will do some homework for the specifics once I have the herbs, I will search the recipes more fully here - more the basics.

    Oh - this was initiated by the success of growing parsley on the balcony and its growing like crazy, but I now realise I don't know what to cook with parsley...I am sure it would be good with seafood, but other than that? I wonder if a parsley pesto would work?

    Last edited by katemary; 06-29-2011, 02:47 AM. Reason: sp

  • #2
    I don't know what you mean by limited sun, but if you had some success with parsley you also should have good results with chives, sage, basil, dill, oregano, and cilantro. I would use a pot with a diameter of a five gallon bucket. Self watering containers would do fine .

    You might like to try a 'pick and return' thing like leaf lettuce. Not a herb, but why not try it?
    Also, a patio tomato in pot or any tomato in hanging planter could be fine as well.

    You can get instructions on making self watering containers and hanging tomato planters on YouTube.
    Tayatha om bekandze

    Bekandze maha bekandze

    Randza samu gate soha


    • #3
      This may get quite long, apologies in advance! I love to cook, and I'm pretty enthusiastic about growing herbs . I've put a star next to those I consider really useful to have on hand; the others I tend to buy from my local grocery, as they either don't grow very well outdoors in my climate, or they work nearly as well when you buy the dried variety. In no particular order:

      *Parsley - works well added into stews and soups at the last minute, as well as with seafood, and is a great addition to a salad if you like the taste of it raw (eg a Primalised "tabbouleh" - parsley, mint, cucumber, red onion & bell peppers all chopped finely, dressed with a lot of lemon juice and some fresh-ground black pepper). Parsley pesto is a neat idea - I'd be tempted to try that with grilled chicken.

      *Rosemary - excellent with grilled/roasted meats (especially lamb, paired with garlic) and roast vegetables. Pre-primal, I used to make rosemary-roast potatoes, which is as simple as chopping up the potatoes, grabbing some fresh rosemary sprigs and olive oil, mixing it all up in a roasting pan with some salt, and shoving it in the oven at 180C (turning it around with a spatula every so often) until golden brown. This approach will work with most root vegetables, though - so once celeriac, parsnips, turnips etc. are back in season, it's a great way to eat them.

      *Thyme - there are several varieties of thyme, and it's nice to have both the "ordinary" kind and lemon thyme. Normal thyme goes especially well with stews, braised meats and meaty soups, and is usually best added near the beginning of cooking since the flavour takes a while to infuse the dish (also, if you add the sprigs whole to something that'll be simmering, eventually the leaves will fall off into the dish, giving you an easy chance to fish out the stems whilst leaving the flavourful leaves in with the food)

      Bay/laurel - very useful for stews and soup stocks. Like thyme, usually added early on to a meaty dish that'll be simmering for a while. These'll be fine if you buy them dried (and are quite cheap in bulk), but are really pretty, dignified plants, so if you have enough space, go for it!

      Basil - obviously great for pesto, but also goes well in (almost) anything that is tomato-based, and is an essential feature of lots of Thai-style dises as well. Unfortunately, prone to being eaten by bugs (and doesn't grow well outdoors in colder climes). This one I tend to buy from the supermarket in those little "grow at home plant pots". They tend to survive two or three leaf-strippings, especially kept inside on a sun-exposed windowsill.

      *Coriander - wonderful with seafood, and as part of almost any Southeast Asian dish - Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, you name it! I use copious amounts in most curries (particularly the tomato-based ones), but this is nice sprinkled over lots of dishes, and will add a ton of flavour to lighter soups, salsas and guacamole. Unfortunately, a little harder to grow outdoors in colder areas, so I tend to get the "grow at home" pots for two or three uses, and keep them inside.

      *Sage - lovely with roast pork in particular, or for making stuffings for poultry (I have fond memories of potato-sage-onion stuffings, all of which could use other, more Primal root vegetables). Also makes for a great dish involving grilled/pan-fried chicken breasts with parma ham and whole sage leaves, fried in butter. Oh, and roasted with butternut squash!

      *Mint - excellent in salads, and a vital component of Middle Eastern & Indian dishes (especially raita, a Greek yoghurt-cucumber-garlic-mint dip to cool curries or serve as a dressing to marinaded grilled meats). This one's also fantastic for sprucing up a bowl of berries, or adding fresh leaves to tea, if you drink it. It's also fiendishly easy to grow, and will quickly take over any pot you put it in! Some spearmint varieties can be somewhat more insect-resistant than ordinary mint due to higher aromatic oil content.

      *Tarragon - pairs best with seafood, poultry and eggs. I've made some great roast chickens using finely chopped tarragon, mustard and lemon as the rub, but it's excellent with lemon on grilled or pan-fried fish. Nice in (crustless) quiche-type dishes too, particularly with leeks.

      Oregano - although I keep meaning to grow some for fresh use, I mostly use this one in dried form; it's one of the few herbs where the dried leaves have as much flavour as the fresh ones. Works really well in meaty sauces, or to give that "pizza" flavour to tomato-based dishes, or a meatza if you decide to try one. I also love it on eggs.

      Where are you based, by the way? Some of these herbs (basil & coriander, for example) won't be terribly happy outside if you're living somewhere that's colder than, say, the Mediterranean, whilst others (rosemary, bay, sage) will be just fine outside year-round, unless you get much in the way of snow. Most of these will be okay with relatively limited sun, but it's best if most of them get a bit of direct exposure for at least an hour or so.
      Last edited by Thespianpythia; 06-29-2011, 03:59 AM.


      • #4
        wow, thanks guys, that is some great info.

        Funny about Basil - I thought it repels mosquitoes (or files?), must have it confused.

        I am in the Pacific, so start of winter now.

        That is such a great guide Thespianpythia - I will print it out. And You tube is such a good idea, periquin, thanks (I didn't even know self watering containers exist - I am so new to this!)


        • #5
          You're most welcome - enjoy the herb-growing!

          Basil may well have anti-mosquito properties; most aromatic herbs are, to some extent, insect repellant - the oils that make them so delicious to us are actually a defence mechanism against their predators. Trouble is, evolution is an arms race - the defences work for a certain amount of time, until the insects that would like to eat the basil evolve a resistance to it. In my experience, basil is prone to aphid/greenfly infestation, but that might well be because I've taken it out if its natural environment (it certainly isn't native to England!) and so it's being exposed to predators that it isn't resistant to. But since I think it's native to Southeast Asia originally, you might have better luck keeping the bugs away .
          Last edited by Thespianpythia; 06-29-2011, 06:02 AM.


          • #6
            Basil keeps the bugs away from our sitting area quite effectively. I have a very hardy spicy globe basil that grows faster than I can use it, and I use it in something nearly every day. I live in the southeast US, so maybe we don't have the right insects to bother it. It's really pretty as our outdoor table decoration, too.

            What I find myself using most is the parsley and basil, followed by the thyme. I also have dill, lemon verbena, oregano, sage, and chives. I might use the oregano more, but it sorta died and came back, and the same with the sage, so they're both very small. I'd kinda like to get some Thai basil, since I like Vietnemese flavors, and maybe some terragon and stevia. We're running out of space, though...


            • #7
              I am personally growing Basil, Italian Parsley, Oregano and Chives. Chives go very well with eggs and depending on the meats or veggies I'm cooking I can use the rest. I also use parsley with my lentils and bacon and dishes with a tomato sauce. I just cook for myself though, so I don't know how that would taste to others.


              • #8
                with the price of asparagus and how little space it takes you might consider that as well. You just have to keep on top of it as it goes to seed pretty quickly.


                • #9
                  Mint - good for cooking and for drinks.

                  Coriander - the seeds are coriander and the leaves are cilantro, so it's a two-fer.

                  I don't know the growing environments for these, but Sunset Magazine has a pretty good database for all kinds of plants. Plus they've got recipes, though they're not a primal website.

                  Sunset Magazine - Gardening Section


                  • #10
                    I grow what I use most: basil, cilantro, mint, chives, parsley, which all fit in a large clay pot.
                    This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it. Ralph Waldo Emerson

                    Any given day you are surrounded by 10,000 idiots.
                    Lao Tsu, founder of Taoism


                    • #11
                      I have a long narrow north-facing balcony - 4'x12' - and have spent the last seven years figuring out what to grow. Hopefully, some of this might help. For background, I live in Washington D.C. - which is considered zone 7 by USDA - essentially cold in winter and hot and humid in summer. In summer, I do get about 6 hours of sun on one side (the sun curves up that far north) but the other side stays in shade. Because it's so hot here in the summer, my geraniums are happy but I find my greens prefer the shade out of the burning sun. I grow quite a bit on my balcony and am always trying to figure out how to add more.

                      Herbs are fun and you don't need a lot of plants to get a lot of flavor. I am currently growing basil, mint, thyme, sage, oregano, rosemary, and parsley. Try varieties - I currently have several different types of sage, basil and mint - it's fun to explore the range of flavor. Don't forget to add herbs to your salads - a handful of basil leaves can add a great kick to your lettuce (no need to chop it into a dressing).

                      My rosemary is huge - a perfect source for flavoring grilled meat - and has survived two winters already and getting bigger every year. It's great to have some plants that are year round. The sage, mint and oregano have resurfaced every year on their own, no reseeding necessary - which means the initial investment of the starts I bought are still paying off.

                      I also grow dark greens from spring through early winter - two types of kale & one mustard green - they are hardy through the heat and tolerate the early cold. Darks greens are inexpensive in the store so you may decide this isn't the best use of your space.

                      More delicate greens like lettuce, frisee, arugula and spinach do well in spring and fall - and sometimes I can keep lettuce going in the shade during the summer (this year). I could never grow all the lettuce I need in a week on my balcony, so I focus on the more expensive lettuce and greens that I can add to a larger bowl of lettuce or highlight under the perfect grilled salmon. You might want to try to dedicate one pot - try 12-14" diameter and about 4-8" deep - with a mix of salad leaves and see if they like your conditions - it's an instant salad bowl. Seeds are inexpensive, it's worth giving it a go and seeing if something come up.

                      Next year, inspired by the primal diet, I am planning on adding some fruit to the balcony. First, I want dwarf blueberries and lingonberries - both are evergreens, so they won't look dead in January, and will produce a lot of fresh lovely fruit for most of the summer season. Perfect and at the price of berries at the market a worthwhile experiment that will pay off if it works. Later, I might try a columnar or dwarf apple (grown espalier up the sunny wall) that I can let my nasturtiums climb up. If a success, it will be delicious!!

                      Good luck with your garden!
                      My primal journal that I don't update enough:


                      • #12
                        Oh, also - you might try planting a couple cloves of garlic in one of your pots. Rule of thumb, plant bulbs as deep as they are big - plant right after the last frost - don't remove the paper covering. They will sprout right up. The greens from a young garlic plant are a wonderful addition to your meal - something like the greens from scallions.
                        My primal journal that I don't update enough:


                        • #13
                          I would love to grow greens, but they do not survive during the summer in GA. Early spring and later fall is ok. There's not enough room by the kitchen window to grow it, and I'm not sure there's enough light, either, but I'm tempted to try it inside.

                          I have a full garden, but my blackberries keep getting eaten by birds...


                          • #14
                            No way will lettuce and the like survive summer in Georgia .. but swiss chard might as it's fairly heat tolerant. Kale, collard and mustard greens are available in heat tolerant varieties and grow well in GA - so if you like them you can consider them.
                            The great thing about Georgia is you can grow almost year round - summer is out for tender crops - but winter in a whole season of growing there. Despite the heat in DC, I do get lettuce to grow some summers in the shade - you might try it with several more heat tolerate varieties. Some summers it works, others it doesn't.

                            Georgia is a great place for growing food. Last year, I visited some of the local gardens in the Atlanta area in June - and they were thriving. Very inspirational.
                            My primal journal that I don't update enough:


                            • #15
                              Thanks for your replies. I am going to go out this afternoon and buy a whole stack of little herb seedlings - thyme, coriander, basil, mint, chives and sage - and see what happens. I have never tried gardening before, it is a bit exciting!