The Postage Stamp Garden

Here in Seattle, I live in a wonderful neighborhood that has a walkability score of 98%. That means that almost anything your little heart could possibly desire is within an easy walking distance. I have:

– (2) markets
– (1) sustainable butcher
– (1) independent movie theatre
– (5) bars / pubs
– (1) drug store
– (1) medical clinic (and several as of yet unutilized specialists)
– (2) pizza places
– (1) farmer’s market
– (4) parks
– (2) hardware stores
– (countless) coffee shops
– (1) excellent breakfast place
– (2) Thai places
– (1) Japanese place

…and the list goes on. I really love my neighborhood. It’s nice to be so close to everything, and it is a pinnacle of sustainability: even with a hybrid car that gets close to 55 miles per gallon in typical driving, I’m still USING gas. Even with an electric car, you’re getting power off the grid, unless you do what our vision is eventually and run the darn thing off of solar panel chargers.

The one thing that I was worried or sad about was my gardening possibilities. I have a postage stamp of a front deck, accessible via a sliding glass door, and while it IS west-facing (a value greater than gold here in the PNW), it is so small that you couldn’t even pace anxiously on it while you contemplate your gardening failures.

But then I decided that you only live once (YOLO!!!! Duck lip selfie. Bikini leg selfie. Keg stand selfie.) and set about designing a container garden for a postage stamp. I muttered, and scribbled (on my Evernote paperless system, of course), and read feverishly (on my Kindle for Mac paperless system, of course) for awhile, and what I hatched was an epic three-phase plan for Postage Stamp Garden Domination.

PHASE 1(current phase)

  • Collect a variety of charming bins, buckets and pots to plant things in
  • Buy organic and sustainable potting soil
  • Establish under-sink worm bin (post coming soon!)
  • Buy and plant the “first layer” of awesome plants!

PHASE 2 (after exterior painting)

  • Allow plants to climb “trellis” of balcony
  • Install second level, so that shade-tolerant plants can live underneath


  • Buy and plant a couple of oddities if there is room: I have my eye particularly on a calmoudlin orange tree, which is a small, virtually inedible orange that makes FABULOUS orange marmalade.

I thought long and hard about what to plant. It’s always fun to plant things that are instantly edible, but I wanted to specifically cut down on my purchase of things that go unused in large quantities: herbs, lettuces, etc.

And here is what I ended up with:

  • Lettuce bowl (this fabulous thing I found at PCC with a variety of lettuces all growing enthusiastically in a reasonably sized container)
  • Tomatoes (two plants that are fast fruiters, which suits the short growing season of Seattle)
  • Vining beans (grown from seed and already enthusiastically winding upwards)
  • PNW strawberries (June harvest) and regular strawberries (more evergreen)
  • Cilantro
  • Flat-leaf parsley
  • Basil
  • Lavender (aromatic)
  • Mint (for mojitos, duh)
  • and BUDDY, the blueberry plant!!!

I’m also planning a mason bee home in the winter, so that I can have some gentle, natural pollinators  next spring.

Stay tuned for my first harvest! This garden is designed as both a soothing activity for me that has nothing to do with human anatomy or disease processes, but also as living proof that effective food production can occur in just about the smallest space you can imagine. My balcony is probably one of the smallest I’ve seen, widthwise, and its only “real” advantage is that it gets extensive afternoon sun.

The number one resource that I recommend for starting a container garden in a small space is this book: Small-Space Container Gardens. I found that it was both the most accessible, practical, and interesting to read.

And, of course, check out Pinterest for genius things people have done that I never would have thought of myself.

♦ Stay cool, friends.

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