By Georgina Alford

Last March, The Corner@240 welcomed Lara Mrosovsky, author of “Grow Without A Garden”,  for a series of workshops teaching residents about gardening on balconies. Gardening does not  only have aesthetic benefits, in fact, a scientific report has listed a wide range of health and  mental health benefits including reducing stress and improving self-esteem. But for those of us who may no longer remember Lara‟s wise gardening tips, here is a quick reminder of what you  should be doing for your balcony garden this spring.

1. Get creative with containers 

You don’t have to buy the newest range of pots and trays, instead, you can get creative and use  tubs and plastic bottles from your kitchen! Just cut them open and poke holes at the bottom for  drainage. 

2. It’s all in the soil

Make sure you are using good quality soil or compost for your garden. Although different plants  prefer different types of soil, if you are using fertile soil, this will help your plants get all the  right nutrients and save you from buying any extra fertilizers. Look for soil that is soft and  crumbly – ideally mushroom compost, manure (derived from organically farmed animals) or leaf  mold. But stay away from topsoil as this could come from anywhere and be of poorer  quality. You can actually make your own compost from fruit, vegetable and coffee waste by  purchasing a compost bin like this one and letting nature do its thing!

3. Which plants to choose? 

There are, of course, so many different plants to choose from for your balcony. If you can’t  decide, why not try growing something edible from seeds. Building your  own herb garden will not only make your balcony smell amazing but it will also be  handy for the kitchen. A basil plant is a great place to start! You should begin by  growing your seeds (between March and April) indoors before transplanting the seedling  outdoors – each seedling needs its own space to grow. Be careful to spread them apart  and transplant them to individual containers. Also try and keep your basil in warm temperatures  – no lower than 10 degrees Celsius – even if this means keeping it by the window inside before it  starts getting warmer. Make sure that the container is well drained and be careful not to  overwater your basil plant or else the leaves will start to turn yellow.

4. Where to find out more? 

When it comes to gardening the world is your oyster! To learn more directly from Lara herself,  you can buy her book or take it out at Toronto Public Library. There is also a huge range of  online resources including the informative blog “You Grow Girl” and Toronto Balconies Bloom,  which has an introductory guide to balcony growing. For ideas on how to start a rooftop garden,  check out this document published by the Rooftop Garden Project.