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Why I Grow an Urban Balcony Cocktail Garden

UES balcony cocktail garden

Two years ago when sean and I moved to our current apartment, one of the things I was most excited about was the possibility of a garden. I grew up in Indiana in the country with tons of land and my parents who took master gardening courses and it definitely showed in the flowers, veggies, and herbs they grew each year. Sure, I would love to have a garden big enough for a shed and look at backyard shed styles among other gardening gear all of the time, but for now, this little space will do.

After living in NYC for over 5 years, I feel like there is this current of productivity and energy that I’m constantly riding. I’m not the type of person who can sit still for very long so most of the time the NYC energy is refreshing… but it does have its limits. I’ve noticed that when my mind starts to feel a little buzzy and busy, the best thing for me to do is find a project to work on with my hands. No podcasts, no screens- just some music and something tactile.

garden bloody mary

These days those tactile projects present themselves in the form of pottery class in the winter and cocktail gardening in the spring and summer.

cutting herbs with a barebones herb snipper

Gardening in New York City is not the efficient money-saving endeavor that it is back home where I grew up in Indiana. If I calculated the time and prep costs that go into the flowers, herbs, and tomatoes that I grow each summer it probably comes out to be as expensive as buying all the ingredients at the grocery store. Maybe I just go to the expensive places to purchase my equipment. One of my friends also grows her own plants, but she gets all of her gardening equipment from Home Depot. She told me that they are a lot cheaper than other stores and she said that she used this home depot promo code to get some money off the garden center in that store. Maybe I should try that next time!

rooftop garden in new york city

But gardening on the balcony is, of course, not *at all* about money.

It’s about watching little seedlings emerge in the early spring when summer still feels too far away. Many in NYC who love gardening tend to take help of experts. My friends from the other side (UK) tell that they generally take help of experts like landscaping Wirral for garden design and construction services. Whatever be it, a well-planned garden should be a pleasure to use whether you’re wanting a contemporary area for entertaining, a safe place for your children to play or a low maintenance garden.
growing seedlings for a garden

For me it’s about having an abundance of pansies both in color and quantity to use for cocktail garnishes.
pansies on balcony garden in NYC

And petunias!
petunias in balcony garden

And marigolds!
marigolds on a balcony garden with a bee

It’s also about having 10 times the amount of sage or oregano or nasturtium that you need for cooking. Of course you never *need* an enormous pot of thyme, but it sure is nice having a ton to make a giant summer dinner party. On most summer days, Sean makes herb omelets in the morning. On perfect summer days he’ll continue that by making herb potato salad in the afternoon, and a fresh herb salad for dinner. I’ll be in charge of the garden cocktails and the odd pickles, pesto, or jelly. (REALLY into onion jelly right now with peppers and lots of garlic.)

Eating a summer dinner on an UES NYC balcony

There are so many exciting profits of the balcony garden each summer, but my favorite thing of all is growing new-to-me varieties and things you can’t find in the grocery. Last summer I grew simple cherry tomatoes, some pear cherries, and 1 heirloom variety.

tomatoes harvested from balcony garden

This year I’ve got 6 different kinds of tomatoes growing with some ground cherries on the side.

nyc tomato garden

I’m also attempting to grow some scarlet runner beans from the lower balcony all the way up to the roof garden. So far I don’t have any beans to harvest just yet, but the beans are getting taller.

scarlet runner beans nyc balcony

At the end of the day, this garden is not a negligible amount of work. But it is my favorite spot to be in the city. And it’s the best place to unwind around the plants with a cocktail and our Pimmpup.


  • Adina Applebaum
    September 1, 2017 at 11:36 am

    Hey! New reader here – and I loved this post. Dying to know where you got your etrog liqueur! Was that a NYC find, or did you buy it abroad?

    • Stacie
      September 1, 2017 at 3:34 pm

      Hey Adina! I received a bottle from the folks who make Sukkah Hill Spirits to include in some cocktails! They’re available in many spots around the country and in NYC, though!