Summer is in full swing, so we thought we’d check in on various balcony gardeners in Calgary to see what they’re up to and how things are shaping up. First up is Justine Vandergrift‘s perfectly perfect balcony garden that’s filled with plenty of herbs and tiny zucchinis.
Tell us a bit about yourself. What do you do? Where are you from?
I’m a singer-songwriter currently working on new material and a Calgary-based band called the Griffins. Lately, I’m obsessed with the union of roots, soul, country and blues. I lived the first third of my life in the Okanagan then my family moved to Lacombe, Alberta, where I spent my teens and then to University in Edmonton, where I spent my 20s travelling and touring on and off. I now live in Calgary and teach music lessons and sing and play in various projects.
Why did you decide to spruce up your balcony with a garden?
I love growing my own food in general and especially herbs for cooking, tea and aromatherapy. As much as I love condo living, I find I miss having a back yard with a lot of greenery, so having plants on the balcony seemed essential. Also, plants give off good energy.
Can you describe your garden? What kinds of plants do you grow?
I have seven various sized pots with mostly herbs in them — lavender, basil, rosemary, parsley, sage, thyme, lemongrass, dill and lots of peppermint. One pot is has a big zucchini plant which is yielding some tiny zucchinis and another is for salad greens which I keep re-seeding.
Where do you shop for your plants?
I bought my plants with my Mom on Mothers day at DenTooms Greenhouse in Central Alberta. My Mom is a brilliant gardener who has taught me a lot about plants, knowledge passed down from my Oma. There are a lot greenhouses near Lacombe where I grew up, owned by Dutch families like mine. As a teen I worked at several different greenhouses and learned a lot about produce and how to care for plants.
Where did you get the pots?
A neighbour in Tuxedo Park (where I lived before this) was getting rid of her pots, so I happily took them here.
What’s easiest to keep alive?
Most herbs are quite resilient, especially mint. Even if I’m away for a few days and they dry out they can be revived quite easily.
What’s the hardest to keep alive?
I can’t seem to find a basil or cilantro plant with a long life span.
Photography by Sebastian Buzzalino