Meet Debbie from Hamburg, Germany

“I’m a cat mom and plant lover – one day that’s going to make me a perfect old lady! Till then, I definitely enjoy the simple things in life and love to experiment on my three balconies.

With a love for food and gardening, growing food was a no-brainer. Also, growing food can be just as pretty as growing flowers – but you get even more in return. Obviously, you get to enjoy the food you grew but much more than that, you get to experience and learn how your food grows and how food should be grown.

Actually, the idea of creating a balcony garden existed before we even found an apartment with balconies. We were lucky enough to find a place with three balconies and once we moved in, everything fell into place. I decided to dedicate a full balcony only to vegetables and herbs. After five years of balcony gardening, there are vegetables, herbs and fruits on the other two balconies as well. I just cannot miss the chance of a greater harvest.

My balcony gardens are in the middle of the second largest city in Germany, Hamburg. On two larger and one smaller balcony I have a little less than 300 square feet for my plants. Every inch wants to be well used here!

I have had great success with tomatoes right from the start! Radishes, various salads, cucumbers and beet grow every year. I also try out new herbs and vegetables with every new season. On the balcony with a cosy sitting area, flowers, fruits, vegetables and herbs grow together. The small balcony is the outdoor space for my cats, so I try to grow everything they don’t like to eat up or sit on.

In a balcony garden you cannot use the natural processes of soil regeneration as effectively as in a ‚normal‘ garden. Nevertheless, I have been trying to use the same soil again and again for five years now and it works just fine. To do this, I mix the soil from pots with different plants to combine the different remaining nutrients. In spring the soil is prepared with fresh compost before planting new seedlings.

For the most part I purchase my seeds from an organic seed shop online. I also try to collect more and more seeds from my own plants and use them the following year.

Balcony gardening has its own challenges, but definitely also its advantages. The biggest hurdles for me are indeed the preparations in spring for the summer and in autumn for the winter. Every year I experiment how to combine the small space and the necessary care of plants and soil. Many things add up by themselves, but no year is the same and you have all the possibilities of a fresh start again and again.

Of course we need more food than we currently grow ourselves, but we now get it from an organic farm that has a small store in the middle of the city. I think that a lot of the attention for organic farming comes from our own experiences with cultivation and I hope to bring a bit of this attention to others as well.

No matter how small your space is, you can get an amazing reward from growing food! Even if it’s “just“ a flower box on the windowstill, you learn so much about the needs of good food. You get an appreciation for circumstances like sunshine and rain equally. For me, gardening is most of all about an inevitable calm, which I have learned to appreciate very much. As exaggerated as it may sound, I truly believe that tiny seeds can shift your view on so many things you haven’t thought about before.”