Look what Cinzia achieved on her balcony in just 18 months
Cinzia'a balcony gardenAnimals that can challenge the vertical grower include slugs, snails, pigeons, and..... cats. When I visited Cinzia, many of her lush spring plantings had just been dug up by the marauding local cat population. I felt her frustration and disappointment.
Cinzia's passion for food growing started just 18 months ago, after she attended a short basic workshop on salad growing in containers. Inspired by the success of her first container, she quickly filled her whole balcony with edible plants.
She applied her resourcefulness and creativity to make containers from recycled objects. One of her innovations is a cat proof seedling germinator (in photo below). For sustainability and to keep costs low, she sources free compost made from local food waste.
Amongst the pots filled with salads and herbs, I spied a clump of nettles. Cinzia explained that these had arrived naturally. Far from being a weed, they've become her favourite crop. She enjoys nettle tea for breakfast most mornings and cooks the leaves like spinach - but they're 'more tasty than spinach', she adds.
Other favourites include strawberries which her kids love to graze on, pak choi which is highly productive, and chard which grows well in the winter months. She enjoys watching her vegetables flower, and uses these to decorate the kitchen. A vase with coriander and rocket flowers adorns the kitchen table as we chat.
Cinzia is building her garden step by step, experimenting, and learning when things don't work. It's been a steep learning curve. The potatoes grew well last year but took up too much space. This year she planted courgettes outside too early and they died in the cold. When her plants suffered from the wind, she put up netting along the balcony rails and this has proved a successful solution. She has also learnt that plants in small pots require plenty of nurturing and care - watering and feeding - as well as protecting from cats!
By continuing to carefully observe the balcony, Cinzia plans to redesign it to make better use of the space. This might include replacing some of the smaller pots (in which plants often struggle) with other designs. She's studying permaculture and will apply the principles to the new design.
She has enjoyed her food growing experience so much that she would love to find an opportunity to work in the field.