Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Bountiful Balconies

How to grow food on your porch or balcony 'student-style'

By: Jessica Ruff

This is specific to Ann Arbor, but similar resources exist in other towns!

First of all... why grow food as a student?
1. Fun
2. Cheap
3. Fresh nutritious food
4. At your convenience
5. Impress your neighbors and friends
6. Reduce your carbon footprint by loving your plants, reusing materials, and reducing transportation to buy food at the grocery store!

Planting Schedule
Fall Semester
Start seeds and plants during first few weeks!
Fall crops: spinach, lettuce, kale, radishes, collards, turnips, mustard, herbs (i.e. basil, oregano, rosemary)
Harvest in early October through the fall!

Winter Semester
Start seeds indoors in March and April, plant spring crops outdoors in April
Spring Term
Plant summer crops outdoors: after the last frost, usually around Mothers Day
Harvest throughout Spring and Summer!

Summer Term
Harvest and eat your delicious fruits and veggies!

What you need:
1. Containers
2. Soil
3. Plants or Seeds
4. Sun
5. Water


1. Find FREE containers (in your recycling bin)
Milk jugs, orange juice cartons, large yogurt tubs, cardboard boxes, coffee cans, two-liters, plastic storage tubs, old shoes, Styrofoam coolers, milk crates, egg cartons (for seed starting).

Punch holes in bottom of container for drainage

2. Fill container with potting soil or compost

Compost is FREE!
1. Make it yourself:
2. Ann Arbor residents can pick it up for free from:
4150 Platt Road, 48108 734.794.6380
3. Buy potting soil close to campus at:
210 S. Ashley Street (734) 662 8122

3. Plant your plants!

Where to get plants in Ann Arbor:

1. Spring Plant Sale at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens
2. Ann Arbor Farmers Market
315 Detroit Street, open every Saturday and Wednesday
3. Detroit's Eastern Market
Eastern Market has the best value!

Starting your own seeds is another cheap and fun alternative!
Seeds can be started indoors or outdoors in March, April, and May!
Link to seed-starting instructions

4. Water your plants every day or every other day! Keep watered during periods of extremely high temperatures!

5. Place plant on a
sunny balcony, porch, windowsill, or yard and let Mother Nature do the trick!


6. Harvest yummy herbs and veggies!

Tomato in a box!

I did an experiment to see if I could grow a tomato plant in a cardboard box. It works!

Here's what I did:

1. Found a cardboard box (poked drainage holes in bottom)
2. Lined it with a garbage bag (poked drainage holes in bottom)
3. Threw in some kitchen compost scraps (apple cores, ends of veggies, egg shells, etc.)
4. Made a cardboard barrier (with holes)
5. Filled up with potting soil
6. Planted a tomato!

So far my tomato-in-a-box is growing great and I will harvest some tomatoes from it soon!

*My tomato is eating up the extra nutrition of the compost; but, for a simpler project try filling the box with just potting soil!!

More fun container ideas:

More links about container gardening:

Container Gardening Info
Container Gardening Instructions
Growing Fall Vegetables
General Vegetable Growing
Lettuce Growing Tips
If you have any questions or comments.... stop by at a Ginsberg Garden Workday! Or feel free to email me at!

Happy Planting and Go Blue!

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