Jamie Durie is a master of all things green. We caught up with the celebrity horticulturalist, landscape designer and co-founder of organic skincare brand People for Plants and asked him to share some of his best tips and tricks for urban dwellers who want to cultivate their own edible balcony garden.
How important is it to incorporate some element of nature into your home? Even if you live in an apartment?
“I think it’s very important to integrate plant life into your home to maintain a connection to nature. Plants are not only great to look at, they also cheer up a space, bring a special energy to your home, clean the air and enhance our sense of wellbeing.”
“You can always grow some edibles even if all you have is a window sill. On a balcony you can grow many edibles in containers including herbs, tomatoes, strawberries, rocket, lettuces, grapes, potatoes, zucchini, carrots, chillis and much more. There is a lot of information available on growing edibles in containers online and many books on the subject too, including my own Edible Garden Design (Lantern; $49.99).
Are there specific fruits and veggies that will grow well on most balconies? Or does it all depend on the climate?
“Wherever you live in Australia, if the only space you have is a balcony you should at the very least be able to grow your basic salad veggies and culinary herbs. Depending on what style of salad you like, you can grow different types of lettuce, spinach, rocket and cherry tomatoes. Whatever state you live in, my advice would be to visit your local nursery and ask them for edibles that grow best in your local climate.”
As a landscape designer, can you share some great tips for how people can go about planning their balcony garden?
“Space on a balcony is limited. So a great way to extend your space is to go vertical. Try installing vertical blankets on any walls. You can even grow plants along your balcony railing in vertical railing pots that straddle your balcony railing like a saddle. There are also pots available now that fit together vertically to form plant towers. Hanging pot planters are also making a big comeback. There are so many contemporary styles coming onto the market now and they are great for growing herbs and other edibles.”
Lastly, People for Plants is obviously all about keeping things organic. So can you share your best organic gardening advice?
“If you have the space and can invest your time I recommend you begin composting. Or start a worm farm, the nutrient rich ‘liquid gold’ that is produced is priceless. It helps achieve the optimum pH levels for nutrient production, which in turn feeds your plants. Soil structure is the key to a thriving garden, because soil is the source of nutrients, minerals, micro-organisms and support for your plants. There are many organic additives that will help soil structure including gypsum, lime, blood and bone, seaweed extracts, manure, mushroom compost, peat moss and worm castings as I mentioned before. To deter pests like snails, caterpillars and slugs, spread crushed eggshells beneath the targeted plants. Citronella, fennel, lemongrass, basil, catnip and mint are aromatic herbs that act as a natural deterrent warding off garden pests such as aphids. Some of these herbs also attract natural predators that can keep pests under control.”