When trying to grow a farm on a semi-outdoor balcony facing east in the subtropics, let down is inevitable. Lack of sunlight is always the underlying issue, accompanied by often intense warm temperatures for months.
But how to never lose motivation and keep going? To believe that having some plants is better than growing nothing at all? To see green and life whenever looking out onto your balcony, and enjoying freshly picked organic herbs and vegetables in your tea, sandwiches, salads and meals…
This is when confidence boosters becomes crucial. Growing many confidence boosters makes it easier to overcome the let-downs, a.k.a. dead plants or plants that just won’t grow.
This is the story Mr. Lemon Balm, from his humble beginnings to now certified confidence booster.
April 6: The beginning. Experimented with plastic wraps to better retain moisture and prompt quicker sprouting. Poked as many tiny holes as possible on the plastic wrap using a toothpick, secured to the container using a rubber band.
According to my notes, sprouts started showing just 3 days later on April 9th. A real trooper from the start. Unfortunately no photos were found.
April 12 (Day 6): Cute little seedlings.
April 14 (Day 8): New sprouts everyday.
April 17 (Day 11): True leaves showing!
April 21 (Day 15): Lemon balm is from the mint family, and hence its true leaves resemble mint with its jagged edges.
April 24 (Day 18): As with mint, they enjoy relatively moister soil. With such young seedlings it is almost impossible to avoid wetting the leaves, but I try to do so with older plants.
April 28 (Day 22): Not sure how this happened when sowing, but they are somehow all cluttered in the middle.
April 30 (Day 24): Four true leaves (and counting)…
May 5 (Day 29): Leaves are getting larger!
May 9 (Day 33): Gaining height too.
May 11 (Day 35): Outgrowing the container by width and height!
May 14 (Day 38): Pruned some of the top larger leaves, because regular pruning = bushier plant. Plus, it means finally starting to harvest and use them!
May 18 (Day 42): With younger plants, I try to prune just a little each time, but at much more frequent intervals.
May 25 (Day 49): Lots of new growth!
May 29 (Day 53): This reminds me of an overflowing afro… Time for more pruning!
Convinced? If not, here are more reasons to grow lemon balm:
- They grow and grow and grow! In fact, they grow so quickly (aggressively) that they need to be controlled when planted in ground so they don’t overrun all of the other plants. For balcony container farmers, as long as you plant it in its own container (no companion planting), this shouldn’t be a problem.
- Upkeep is super easy. Plant in rich, well-draining potting soil, fertilize occasionally (especially after harvesting), and water regularly (make sure the soil doesn’t dry up). I don’t remember significant pest problems, but if some leaves showed bug bites, I would trim them off, inspect the plant to remove the culprit, and it will grow back (and larger) in no time!
- It smells like lemon + mint = perfect for summer! It is so versatile. On top of my mind, lemon balm is suitable for drinks (hot or cold), sandwiches, salads, seasoning fish, garnish… Basically anything that would work with lemon or mint. It doesn’t store well though, so make sure you harvest when needed, which can be only be done when having a lemon balm plant!
Next on my wish list, grow more plants in the mint family.
Favorite guide on growing lemon balm: Growing Lemon Balm
The Vege Girl Project: Day 92