How to Start Seeds for Balcony and Small Gardens

About two weeks ago, I posted that it was time to plant your seedlings indoors.  Remember this one?

Time to Start Seeds Indoors!

I have to admit that according to the chart on that blog post, I was already a little late for some. And then I sat on it for another two weeks!  I am now happy to report that I made a good start this morning.

Although I have done this year after year, this year I decided to do a little research.  I decided to do it all from scratch.  I used the bottom half of an egg carton for the herbs.  I used a plastic container under it as a water tray.  The plastic container was purchased at the market – full of frozen kofte, I believe.  So we are recycling here!  I love being green!

I added soil and watered it.  Then I added the seeds, and then a little more soil – just enough to cover the seeds.  I sprayed the top with a mist of water, which I will continue to do each day.  You don’t want to use a watering can – it will flood the seeds.

I planted thyme (one of the many varieties known in Turkey as “kekik.”  In Turkey, oregano is also called “kekik.”  I also planted lavender, sage, basil, rosemary, and cilantro.  I took a chance with the cilantro.  It should actually be started in the pot where you plan to keep it, not repotted.  But I did it last year and I was pretty successful with it.  I love to plant basil!  It’s not easy to find in Turkey and is usually expensive.  It is becoming more popular in southern Mediterranean areas like Antalya. But there’s nothing better than having it on hand whenever you want it!

Seeds for Herbs in an Egg Carton
Seeds for Herbs in an Egg Carton

Next, I started on the vegetables.  For this I used the top of the egg carton and planted my seeds in rows.  I’m looking forward to see how this little plan works!  All of the packages said to plant the seeds in individual containers.  Hmmmm.  In Turkey, when you buy a seedling, they are usually sold in individual tiny containers, made of something like a very thick plastic trash bag.

Tomato and Pepper Seeds
Tomato and Pepper Seeds

My mother-in-law has been sending food in (as they often do) in plastic containers.  She has a big stash of them.  So I cut the lid from container and used it as a water tray under the egg carton. Then I used the bigger body of it as cover – like a greenhouse effect.  It also works to keep my cat from walking on it.  However, just seconds ago, I realized I will need to move the herbs – because my cat has already started his attack!

Recycling for a Green House Effect
Recycling for a Green House Effect

I planted 3 varieties of tomatoes: Roma, Brandywine, and Super Sweet 100’s (cherries). Everyone loves a good Roma!  The Sweet 100’s are absolutely the best cherry tomato to grow. We have cherry tomatoes in Turkey, but they are NEVER as sweet as these.  They often sell the small pear tomatoes as cherries too – also not very sweet.

The Brandywine is from my hometown!  It’s named for the Brandywine River that runs through Chester County – and that is why I planted it.  It is a beefsteak.  These are not my favorite to grow because they often ripen and start to go bad on one side before the other side is ripe.  These tomatoes can grow up to 1 lb. each!

I also planted two varieties of peppers – California Bell Peppers and Jalapenos.  Recently, I have seen gorgeous Bell Peppers being sold at a local pazar – red, yellow and green!  American style! And cheaper than Turkish peppers!   [Turkish bell peppers have a much thinner skin and are not as flavorful.  They are also only sold as green.  They are the perfect size for making stuffed peppers (“dolma”).] Fun to have in my own garden.  I have never seen fresh jalapeno peppers here.  I’m dreaming of making “armadillo eggs” with them.

I still have more to do:  poblano peppers, cucumbers, butternut squash, flowers.  My sister says she is going to get me seeds for a Passion Flower. She better!  This is the plant I nourished in my Philadelphia backyard.  Boy, do I miss it!

My "Jerry Garcia" - Passion Flower
My “Jerry Garcia” – Passion Flower

For those of you who know my tiny balcony, you must think I am nuts!  I am.  I have started way too many seeds, for plants – many of which I can buy here easily.  This year, I am hoping to expand.  I am going to take a piece of land from the common area and start planting.  Why not?  That’s the Turkish way – do what you want.  Don’t ask questions.


4 thoughts on “How to Start Seeds for Balcony and Small Gardens

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  1. . . why not ‘pinch’ a bit of land and put it to productive use – keep at it for a few years and you may get a small fine and the title deeds 🙂

  2. I’m enjoying reading your blog, [you’re a classmate of my wife]. Here in Singapore I endeavour to grow herbs and shrubs on our balcony. Given the brutality of the climate stuff tends to rocket, but soon almost everything falls prey to fungi or various bugs. I had basil (an original plant, then several additional cuttings taken from it) that was growing by an 1″+ a day, yielding enough to do a batch of home made pesto 🙂 But citronella was probably the one and only plant than succumbed to no ailments or afflictions. Actually ginger did well too, but it needs full-on sunshine. I took an old root I had in the fridge that had developed a tiny green bud, simply stuck it in a pot and that too went like a rocket, 1/2 year later the root weighed over a kilo so I gave it to my mother in law to cook curry with 🙂 I’d love to grow some herbs etc in ANK, as as you say some of these things are ridiculously expensive to buy in the shops, esp if you’re only using perhaps a sprig or two at a time. // What’s your experience so far with bugs/blights, and how are your seedlings generally coming along?

    1. So great to hear from you! I had a tough first year growing plants on the balcony. The air is so dry here compared to Philadelphia. But as soon as I learned to give up on clay pots and give into the plastic, things were much better! I try to grow basil in larger pots, the bigger the pot, the bigger the plant. As long as I keep picking the leaves and pinching off the flowers, they keep growing all summer. I have had the same thyme, sage, and rosemary plants for years. I bring them inside in the winter and keep them in a sunny window. Cilantro bolts quickly and is not easy in summer. I’ve never had a good crop of that. I do get aphids. I spray them heavily with a mix of water and dish soap. I also rub them off with my fingers. It takes care of the aphids well and is safe. Bravo on the ginger! I have never tried that.

  3. It’s a clever idea. I have only a small herb garden on my balcony. but I ought my herb seedlings ready to be planted. It’s nice to know how to start my seeds alone, because I’m planning ta odd some vegetables and greens next year. Greets!

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