Starting My Garden From Scratch

Posted on Feb 15 2011 - 3:38am by Mike Lieberman

Since I’ve been called out on not being able to eat from my balcony garden, I’ve decided to start it from scratch.

To start, the plants that were left over from being harvested were pulled up from the roots. Using a trowel, the soil in the containers was loosened up and turned. Any big clumps of roots were taken out as well. The plants, roots and soil were tossed into the compost bin.

I also got rid of the shipping pallet herb garden because that space can be better utilized. It worked and I’d recommend it for others, but it wasn’t a great use of my space.

There is a total of 11 containers on my balcony. 10 self-watering containers and one regular container.

My plan is to plant less varieties, but more of them. I’m also going to stick to one variety of plant per container. Each container is planted with two rows of seeds, and in two weeks, I’ll plant another two rows. This will help to ensure continual harvests.

    Here is what I now have planted:
  • 1 container of mint
  • 1 container of cilantro
  • 2 containers of lettuce mesclun
  • 2 containers of Fordhook Giant swiss chard
  • 2 containers of red winter kale
  • 2 containers of spinach avon
  • 1 container of bunching green onions

I’ll also build some more self-watering containers as well. I’m hoping that by starting from scratch that I’ll be able to source more of my meals from the balcony.

What are your thoughts on this new strategy?


  • Amanda Howe

    Well done! Have you considered growing shallow veggies on your balcony rail? You can use recycled gutters as long planters if you cap them at the ends, put holes on the sides and bottom, and secure them to the railing with hooks or L brackets and zip ties/electrical tape. It could increase your output amazingly.

    Also, let’s see the salad! We’re keeping you honest.

  • Mike Lieberman

    Thanks girl. There is def lots of creative things that can be done, but I’m bein conservative because the neighbors are less than cordial…I love the idea though.

  • Diane Vautier

    Just like big time gardening but just with little spaces. I’ve also thought of the same thing as Amanda for my Condo deck – using gutters to plant shallow veggies, but didn’t quite get to constructing it yet this winter. Too much snow.

    Love the great ideas – keep them coming.


  • Devin Bell

    I like how you use the rocks as markers. I have never thought of that. It looks a lot better than the ugly plastic markers.

  • Amanda Howe

    Damn those neighbors. Pacify them with promises of bumper crop! 😉

  • Amanda Howe

    Thanks Diane! I’ve just completed my construction of a gutter garden for my balcony railing this past weekend (In Houston our growing season has already begun). What I love is that they provide really abundant shallow root crop (lettuce, Spinach, some herbs, radishes, ect,), they are recycled materials AND they can look attractive if you want to decorate with spray paints and stencils. A really good use of space for your growing needs. Now I’m trying to figure out how to use converted downspouts to make room for deeper root system plants like beans and peas! It’s all very exciting.

  • Anonymous

    Sounds like a good plan! Good luck Mike!

  • Mike Lieberman

    Thanks. Got a quick post on them coming soon.

  • Mike Lieberman

    Or a punch to the throat…just sayin.

  • Mike Lieberman

    Damned I saw a pretty dope gutter garden design, but can’t find it now. Doh.

  • Mike Lieberman

    Where the pics at?

  • Amanda Howe

    I’ll thoroughly document and send you schematics and proper volume equations for determining root system placement. But remember, the secret to any successful garden is to play Wu Tang and the Beasties to your sprouts.

  • Holly

    Good luck, Mike!

  • Mike Lieberman

    Volume what and root who? Raw I’mm give it to ya with no trivia…

  • Anonymous

    Awesome mike.
    I’ve used shipping pallets before too.

    I like the idea of perpetual harvest,
    that’s the way to go.

    May the season be bountiful for you
    this year.

  • Mike Lieberman

    Thanks bro. Good to hear from you.

  • Eattheyard

    I’ve had good luck with Fordhook Giant swiss chard: durable, fast growing, versatile for cooking, and very productive. Gets big, though.

  • Mike Lieberman

    Nice. I can use it in my smoothies.

  • Monique

    I think it is a great idea! Thank you for sharing your thoughts about it.

  • Mike Lieberman

    No doubt. We’ll see how it goes.

  • Albert Frank

    The ideas for DIY Garden were really good. Ideas and work like these can be the next step in solving our food problem. The advantages are many, if you know how to look at them. For any help in Botany, Zoology and other Biological subjects you can visit our website at

  • swallowridege

    I’m thinking the same! Will set aside all my smooth rocks for this purpose, just as soon as I can find them under all the snow!

  • Mike Lieberman

    Or you can have fun digging in the snow for them.

  • Anonymous

    Found your blog today and am having fun perusing your posts. I’m not exactly an “urban” gardener, since I live in Northern Michigan, but I can’t have an in-ground garden (my lot is too shady), so I do containers on my deck. Honestly I’m not sure WOULD do an in-ground garden, because I love the easy routine my containers give me, just by taking a couple steps out of my kitchen.

    Usually I buy organic transplants from my co-op but am thinking about starting my own seeds this year. But, since our last frost day is in MAY, it’ll be awhile unless I want to crank up my heat and start the seeds indoors. Jealous of your SoCal growing season!

    Anyway, keep up the good work, I’ll be looking forward to following your progress!

  • Mike Lieberman

    Hahaha. Glad that we could connect. Containers definitely are great and convenient. I would love to have some land though one day and be able to tend to that.

    Keep me updated on your progress as well.

  • plastic pallet container

    I’m so love this blog, already bookmarked it! Thanks.

  • Jill @ Lilliworm

    Do you have any issue with the containers not being able to drain? Like the bottoms getting funky or roots rotting? Just curious!