Balcony Gardening in China

In China, they call a lot of apartment complexes “gardens” (花园 / Huāyuán – literally “flower park.) My garden has 10 buildings. Each building has about 17 floors, each floor has about 6 apartments, most apartments are inhabited by families, most families consist of about 5-6 people (Mum, Dad, Son, Granddad, Cousin, Aunty, etc.) So if you do the math, my garden has about 5000 people living in it, which doesn’t really allow much room for individual plots of land. So most city dwelling Chinese don’t have gardens, yet only one or two generations back, they would have been been rural people. What this scenario leads to, is some pretty impressive balcony gardens from the richer Chinese, and some random pseudo-farms planted on the sides of highways from the poorer Chinese! Anyway, inspired by all this urban growing, I have begun to create my own garden/farm, for results so far, scroll on down:

Mint - 薄荷 - Bòhé

I was always banging on to Hazel, about how I wanted to grow mint so that I could make mojitos and have fresh mint tea on tap. And just before she left shenzhen, she gave me a (puny/scrawny) mint plant, which with a bit of TLC, has started to flourish. Thank you Hazel!

Lilac - 紫丁香 - Zǐ dīngxiāng

When I moved into my apartment, some Chinese friends came round with this Lilac plant, with loads of leaves and flowers. They instructed me to water it everyday, which I tried to, but soon it appeared to be on death’s door. For some reason, I continued to water this apparently dead plant, and a couple of weeks ago, it started sprouting “green shoots”! It was only this week, that I found out Lilac only flowers once a year…

Coriander - 香菜 - Xiāngcài

The beginnings of what I hope to be a thriving Coriander plant. For some reason there is something more satisfying about growing a plant from seed than buying it already growing and maintaining it.

Lettuce - 生菜 - Shēngcài

No story behind the lettuce. Except maybe that, although they eat a hell of a lot of greens out here, they generally don’t eat it raw. Always cooked or steamed. So I have one Chinese friend that says she loves the way I “cook” salad… which always entertains me, as I don’t think chopping lettuce and tomatoes really constitutes any cheffing skills!

Chilli - 辣椒 - Làjiāo

This one has the best story. One of the teachers from the school I was at, came to see my new apartment on the way back from her home town. She was ferreting about on my balcony for a while.. and when I asked her what she was doing, she said she was planting Chilli seeds. I told her that nothing would ever grow in that tired soil, which seemed to have been there forever and a day. Yet, 8months later it has a stem as thick as two pencils, and at least 3 semi-decent chillies!

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Aberdeen Dingxiang
zǐ dìng xiāng

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18 Responses to “Balcony Gardening in China”

  1. Melanie Says:

    good for you! fresh herbs and veges from the garden are the BEST!

  2. Miranda Says:

    More updates please Si! x

  3. mirko Says:

    Well done Sir, you know where to take herbs in surplus:)

  4. jason thomas Says:

    flipping hell, it’s like the chinese alan titchmarsh……..

  5. nancy Says:

    Hello, My husband and I are coming to China from Chicago in August to begin a teaching program in dalian. We also both do not have any teaching experience and are using this opportunity to develop a business in China. We were curious about the program you’ve entered into and some details…if you dont mind, via email?
    Thanks a bunch, keep on writing it’s making use excited for our own upcoming adventure.

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