My Failed Attempt at Urban Gardening in Seoul

We got lucky as far as apartments go. We have the largest one at the school. Two bedrooms, a big living room, a large bathroom and a balcony we could sit on. In the early spring I decided to try my hand at some urban gardening on our balcony. I got sunflower, basil, and wild flower seeds. I also got some rosemary, lavender and daisies from the flower shop down the street. I made pots out of water bottles and set everything out on the deck. Every day I watered my plants and checked to see what was growing. I was ecstatic to see my little seedlings spring up. It was a great way to start my day. Then one morning, after it had been raining for a few days, I realized I couldn’t open the door to the balcony. My plants were trapped!!!

This building is only two years old and it’s already falling apart. Buildings are made quickly, but not well here. It’s not about quality. The property next to our building was a hole in the ground when we first got here and in nine months they’ve managed to build a large apartment building that is almost ready for people to move into. When the buildings start to fall apart and are too crappy inside to occupy they just remodel.

Our building was certainly made quickly and cheaply. The wood boards on our balcony and the entrance to our apartments weren’t treated and as far as we can tell they aren’t really nailed into anything in particular. The boards are warped up and some are on their way to popping off. It just so happens that the boards that warped on our balcony are the ones right in front of the door.

I was pissed that I couldn’t get to my plants and worried that they would die since the forecast said it would be hot and sunny for the next three days. I thought that we might be able to get back out after it rained, but there wasn’t rain in the forecast for another three days. I was worried for my little plant babies. Luckily the plants survived those three days sans water and we were able to get out onto the balcony after it rained. They were wilted and as I tended to the plants, Dave cut the wood down with his knife. We had to cut it down two more times before our summer vacation. When we got back though, it was hopeless. The boards were warped up even more and there was no chance. My plants were trapped for good.


I thought we might be able to get the school to help us. After all it is their property (we live above the school) and a few months back they knocked on our door, barged into our apartment, let themselves out onto our balcony and put up a massive banner significantly decreasing the amount of sunlight my little sunflowers were getting. Not to mention they manhandled my plants. I was livid when this happened because we weren’t given any notice and the bus driver (who does all of the handyman work because they are too cheap to pay for a professional who knows how to actually fix things) is abrasive to put it politely.

I thought this annoying experience might work in our benefit because their sign is now trapped on our balcony. I figured the director would want to change it at some point and if he ever does he will need to get out there. I went and told him the news and he said he would look into it…which means he’s going to do nothing. So much for that. I’m sure he’s forgotten about it and I bet they knock on our door one day, barge into our apartment again and are shocked to find that the door to the balcony won’t budge.

I do my yoga in the spare room which looks out onto the balcony. I used to love looking out onto it while doing my morning yoga and seeing my garden. It made me happy. Now I have to close the blinds so I don’t have to see my wilting and withering plants. It’s a sad sight.

On the upside, the succulents and bamboo we have inside our apartment have been doing well. We’ve had only one death out of eleven plants. I consider that a success.


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