It’s probably important for you to know, dear reader, that I have a few psychological scars in the domain of gardening. The last time we had a yard where I could garden directly in the soil was in 2011. That winter/early spring, I started several plants from seed indoors, tending to them daily, nursing them until they were ready to go into the thawing late spring ground.
The day after the planting, a tornado came through our neighbourhood and knocked our garage on to the garden.
Owing to this, and the fact that we’ve been living in apartments for the last three years, I’ve been rather less than keen to invest too much time and money into gardening the past few years. But this year, given a favourable climate, and enough time on my hands, I decided to have another go at tending a garden in the space available to me: our east-facing concrete balcony.
Obviously, there are certain limitations that come with gardening on a balcony: less sunlight, fewer plants that can realistically be cultivated, and — if there are other balconies above you, as is the case here — no direct rainfall. But, by keeping my gardening ambitions modest — I stuck to herbs, flowers and chili peppers — I managed to cultivate a reasonable green patch in the sky.
Some very serious gardeners speak of an almost spiritual experience of gardening: working the soil, they say, makes you feel closer to the Earth, and more in touch with nature’s rhythm’s.
Such feelings are rather hard to come by on the 7th floor.
But there are other delightful feelings to compensate for the lack of oneness with nature. For one, I’m literally injecting a bit of life into a biologically and aesthetically dead space. And the whole exercise feels deliciously subversive: I can’t help but feel that I’m, in my small way, disrupting the lifeless stability that permeates our building. The fake tree that came with our apartment (replicas of which are stationed throughout the building) will not die and thus, will not change at all, insuring a managed continuity. The real-live plants I’m growing will inevitably die (and indeed, flowers have already come and withered), but even in their death, they rebel against the stagnant monotony around them.
And in a sense, I’m reclaiming a lost territory: Perhaps this spot once was brimming with lush verdure which in turn invited all manner of animals to come and sup from its fruits. But this spot was long ago subordinated to the stupefying logic of 1980s corporate architecture. But I’ve opened, at least temporarily, a little crack in the stultifying edifice: indeed, the bees and even the hummingbirds made their way (back?) to my rebellious little enclave.