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?


27 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Amanda Howe February 15, 2011 at 3:05 pm -

    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.

  2. Mike Lieberman February 15, 2011 at 3:11 pm -

    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.

  3. Diane Vautier February 15, 2011 at 3:45 pm -

    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.


  4. Devin Bell February 15, 2011 at 3:47 pm -

    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.

  5. Amanda Howe February 15, 2011 at 5:15 pm -

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

  6. Amanda Howe February 15, 2011 at 5:19 pm -

    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.

  7. Anonymous February 15, 2011 at 5:54 pm -

    Sounds like a good plan! Good luck Mike!

  8. Mike Lieberman February 15, 2011 at 5:54 pm -

    Thanks. Got a quick post on them coming soon.

  9. Mike Lieberman February 15, 2011 at 5:55 pm -

    Or a punch to the throat…just sayin.

  10. Mike Lieberman February 15, 2011 at 5:57 pm -

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

  11. Mike Lieberman February 15, 2011 at 5:57 pm -

    Where the pics at?

  12. Amanda Howe February 15, 2011 at 7:02 pm -

    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.

  13. Holly February 15, 2011 at 8:40 pm -

    Good luck, Mike!

  14. Mike Lieberman February 15, 2011 at 10:17 pm -

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

  15. Anonymous February 16, 2011 at 12:29 am -

    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.

  16. Mike Lieberman February 16, 2011 at 2:49 am -

    Thanks bro. Good to hear from you.

  17. Eattheyard February 16, 2011 at 5:00 am -

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

  18. Mike Lieberman February 16, 2011 at 5:52 am -

    Nice. I can use it in my smoothies.

  19. Monique February 16, 2011 at 8:22 am -

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

  20. Mike Lieberman February 16, 2011 at 2:50 pm -

    No doubt. We’ll see how it goes.

  21. Albert Frank February 17, 2011 at 8:08 am -

    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

  22. swallowridege February 17, 2011 at 2:06 pm -

    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!

  23. Mike Lieberman February 17, 2011 at 2:50 pm -

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

  24. Anonymous March 15, 2011 at 9:21 pm -

    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!

  25. Mike Lieberman March 16, 2011 at 2:00 am -

    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.

  26. plastic pallet container May 24, 2011 at 7:11 pm -

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

  27. Jill @ Lilliworm July 6, 2012 at 6:02 am -

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

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