It’s been a long year or so without our balcony herb garden. Mandatory brickwork outside our apartment started in April 2015 with a Cristo-like gauze wrapping around the entire facade and taping shut our windows and balcony door. We lived like that for almost an entire year, until finally, in April, we were allowed access to the balcony again.
That’s the bad part.
The good part is that I got to start the balcony garden all over again. The building had removed our handmade deck floor, so I replaced it with a wonderful and inexpensive Ikea deck floor.
I also swapped out our rusting bistro set and rickety plant stand for a bistro table and Sophia Chairs (ridiculously cheap on Craigs list) and a couple of Ikea plant stands.
The window boxes and all the pots survived on the roof during the construction, although we lost all the herbs save the hardy chives that have come back every spring for almost 20 years. I planted the window boxes with a brown grass, coleus, Thai basil and asparagus fern that I found at my new favorite garden store – GardenWorks in Flushing.
After some searching around for them, I found some straggling hyacinth beans for a song at Chelsea Gardens in Red Hook. They had wilted in the heat and looked terrible, but the salesclerk promised me they’d be fine and she was right. They are rapidly lining the trellis and railing, keeping the eyes off the ugly white storage building across the street and focused instead on the garden and the skyline view.
Still left to do is hang a half moon lined planter or two from the brick wall (if the building will let me), and fill them with some colorful annuals. And get an umbrella. And maybe some pretty pillows for the chairs. And some little bistro lights for evening.
NYC Gardening Resources
I would have killed for this list in my early days of gardening here in NYC. Sadly, many of the favorite places I used to frequent (like Dimitri’s and Liberty) are no longer in existence, but these are tried and true. I avoid the small, precious gardening stores, and tend to larger garden centers, which are cheaper. If you have a car, your options increase widely.
Union Square Farmers Market. The place to go for organic lettuces and herb plants. I’ve got some gorgeous lettuce mixes over the years that have graced my salads well into summer. Also good for annuals.
Plant Shed. On 96th St near Broadway on the Upper West Side. They’ve been there for years, and a consistently reliable source for spring herbs and annuals. Perennials and shrubs more limited. Prices are not outrageous for NYC. They deliver.
Chelsea Gardens: Not cheap, but if you need something, they’ll have it (like the hyacinth beans I was looking for this year.) Staff is extremely knowledgable. Great place to go to see what is possible in the city. Started in Chelsea, now also in Williamsburg and Red Hook.
Gowanus Nursery. The place to go for something special, and like Chelsea Gardens, see what is possible. If you’re visiting Red Hook, combine it with a trip to Chelsea Gardens.
Kings County Nursery: Very reasonably priced Garden Center deeper into Brooklyn. I like this place. A lot. Good source for trees, vines, grasses, shrubs, as well as garden supplies and annuals.
Garden World in Flushing. My new favorite place. Wonderful selection of healthy, gorgeous plants and trees.
Home Depot. The one on Northern Blvd in Long Island City. Where I go for potting soil, stones, and basic shribs and annuals. (The Home Depot in Manhattan does not have the really large bags of soil or stones.) Occasionally they surprise you with an unusual shrub or annual. Sales can be great. I picked up two crabapple trees for 10 bucks apiece there a few years back – both are thriving. The Spirea I got there for next to nothing have also lasted years.
Jamali Garden – in the flower district. Basic supplies, containers, plant food, lighting, you name it. Like a giant hardware store for your garden. Reasonable prices.
Hicks Nurseries – If you’re up for the schlep out to Long Island, Hicks is well worth the trip. They have everything. Not as cheap as you’d think. But great selection and quality.
IKEA – for containers and fun garden accessories such as funky solar lights, prices can’t be beat. I go to the one in Brooklyn.
For trees. Any of the garden centers in the city and near Long Island are way too expensive for my budget when it comes to buying trees. For these buys, I head out to New Jersey, where garden centers abound. Prices will be much more reasonable, but be careful. The help do not know urban gardening and could recommend the wrong species for your roof or balcony conditions. If they deliver, it may be pricey. So consider renting a truck and delivering to yourself.