In the early part of July, I began my grand adventure as a container gardening condo dweller here in Bangkok. Within a few weeks, I realized that my approach was all wrong: starting seeds in large pots, planting during the rainy season, trying to grow plants on a balcony that doesn’t get sun until mid-August. Still, I pushed forward. Eventually, though, it was time to retrench, both literally and figuratively.
This picture exemplifies the twofold problem I faced: The rain was both too frequent and fell in too great a quantity, and the soil was too clay-like and not porous enough. The result were poor seedlings (carrot and beet root in this particular picture) that were growing in an environment more suited to rice than anything else.
My first response was defensive. Every time the sky started to darken (which is often during this time of year here in Thailand), I would pull the containers off the side of the balcony and move them closer to the sliding glass door.
This kept them away from the full force of the monsoon rains, but of course did nothing to help the quality of the soil. Oh, and they were also a pain in the nether regions to move.
Finally, in late August I broke down and bought thirty small plastic containers, each large enough to start a single plant. At first, I tried to transplant several of the existing plants including the two healthiest cherry tomato plants and several carrots. I also started planting new seeds. This tray-based system didn’t do much to improve upon the soil quality, but made it easier to get the plants out of the way of oncoming storms.
The new system seems to be working better. With the exception of one storm that struck when I was away from home and had forgotten to bring the plants off the edge of the balcony, these seedlings have had the opportunity to grow in a much drier environment. I’ve also been able to stagger plantings, starting a few new seeds each week.
You can see that they are doing much better. There are a few golden beet root plants on the right, and Dr. Zakiah’s methi seeds are going gangbusters on the left.
Best of all, one of my transplanted cherry tomato plants has continued to grow and seems to finally be hitting its stride. In another two weeks or so I will transplant it into a somewhat larger container. Before that time, though, I need to address the issue of soil quality. I’ve brought the other planters in from the edge of the balcony so they can begin to dry out a bit, then I will go to the nursery and see what sorts of soil amendments I can find. My father, who spent several years growing a massive garden in my childhood home, suggested chicken or horse manure. Tawn isn’t so keen on that idea. Stay tuned to see how much shit I have to deal with… literally.
How Does My Garden Grow – Part 1: Defying Gravity
How Does My Garden Grow – Part 2: A Move to the Sunny Side
Tough endeavor trying to grow a vegetable garden on a balcony. But, I applaud your sense of adventure
Quite a challenge planting veggies, how about moving part of the operation to your front porch. That may shelter your babies from excess rainfall?
@CurryPuffy – No sunlight anymore. It has moved to the back balcony side now and for the next six months or so.@The_Eyes_Of_A_Painter – While in Hong Kong a few days ago, I was discussing indoor composting options with a friend. Vermiculture, anyone? =D
maybe you can add some gravel near the bottom of the pots, to help drainage? you definitely need to mix something into the soil to break it up, though! container gardening is fun, but can also be frustrating.
@kunhuo42 – There is broken pottery at the bottom, followed by a layer of coarsely chopped coconut husks mixed in with dirt. The top half of the container is dirt that had ostensibly been mixed with finely chopped coconut husks to lighten it, but that didn’t seem to last long. I have a few bags of rice husks that I will definitely mix in, along with some sort of natural fertilizer. I’ll be so happy the day I’m able to eat something from this garden.
How about a bottle of fish emulsion? You just dilute with lots of water and feed. When we had goldfish in a barrel, we would just scoop the water out and sprinkle on the plants directly. Now I use the bottled stuff.
good luck! No miracle gro over there or something akin to that? manure may be the answer.
Manure is good but it has to have aged… anyway it looks promising. Our cherry tomato plants are nearly done…
@Ricardo98 – Really? The water from a fish pond will help? Tawn’s father grows koi; maybe I can have him fill a jar for me.@awoolham – There are liquid and solid chemical fertilizers and I’ll need to use one of those, too, in addition to amending the soil so it is of a higher quality and is lighter.@murisopsis – I figure I can drive into the countryside looking for chickens or horses, then ask the owner if they have some dry manure. When I was a child, my father would visit the estate of some coworkers who had horses up in the hills and would load up a trailer with dried manure. Back home, he would use a rotor-tiller to mix it in. I’m probably going to be a wee bit less ambitious.
Maybe a bit more sand in your soil would help the drainage. I’m not sure what to do about the sunlight though.
@ElusiveWords – Well, rainy season will come to an end in another four to six weeks, which should greatly improve the sun situation. I might add some sand to the soil, too. Definitely need to take a trip to the nursery this weekend.
Organic farming has its disadvantages: the danger of germ contamination.
I am surprised Chris, can’t you get a bag of potting soil from the nurseries there? The methi plants are looking good. You can put a whole lot in one container and don’t let them get too tall. The one I see in the picture, should be plucked out and added to ground beef or other meat dishes. I hope you like the taste.
Beets and carrots. In a tropical environment? Good luck.
@Inciteful – We have carrots and beets that grow here. Don’t know where in the country, exactly, or under what conditions, but we do have locally grown. Let’s see if I can make it work.@ZSA_MD – I’ll harvest soon, thanks. Yes, I haven’t seen good quality potting soil yet.@ClimbUpTreesToLookForFish – True enough. Just have to be careful, I guess. I’m not strictly opposed to using chemicals but I think the use needs to be moderate.
I started my herb garden sometime earlier in the year. I used organic soil, I thought since I am growing my own why not make it organic. All my herbs died except the lime leaves and curry leaves and lemon grass. Even the small chillies (apparently the easiest to grow)died . I was told that it is difficult to grow anything organic hence they are so expensive. Anyway I re-planted some and one of the tips given was to water the plants with rice water. The first rinse of water which we use to wash the rice. And it helps.
@icepearlz – Oh, that’s a good suggestion. I’ve also been told to use water from a fish pond. Maybe if I combine the two?
Really pretty. Seems to me that you have a green thumb even through the rainy season.Request? Can you grow me an avocado tree? 🙂
@Devilzgaysianboi – Avocado tree, huh? How much space do those need? Actually, a friend just told me that they’ve finally started growing avocados here in Thailand and you can get them for about one-third the price of the imports from Australia.
wow nice. you’re really into this eh?
@yang1815 – I’d really like to grow some vegetables… =(
@christao408 – Just difficult with what you’re given eh? The weather, the direction, the size of the space…
@yang1815 – There’s about a dozen reasons that trying to grow veggies on my balcony doesn’t make a lot of sense. But one tomato plant is starting to look pretty vigorous and the carrots, with a transplant into new manure-enhanced soil, seem to be growing.
@christao408 – Success!!!