Thursday, April 30, 2009

two degrees overnight means ...

... Tomatoes go bye bye! It is unseasonably cold here in Melbourne. Well ok it is Melbourne and cold weather is pretty much its claim to fame. Still it is still only April (just) and the record cold morning this morning of 2 degrees is far too chilly, far too early! The scarily early cold snap means one thing. We must wave farewell to the almost ripened but just not quite there White Cloud tomato.

I will pick all the little green ones and hope that they somehow ripen inside. Warmth and a good old banana will probably help there. All I want to do it try one, must one, from this struggler of a plant. It survived a heatwave as a young plant and a wilt as it got older.

Now it has to battle 2 degree mornings with semi frost. Sorry my friend, little aussie battler that you are, the compost (or, more likely the bin as I have no compost) will have to be your new home. Until next spring ...

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Lunchtime in the Balcony Garden

The carrots, lettuce, tomatoes and other goodies have been going into my lunchbox of late. Of course working at the uni I don't get to enjoy the balcony garden view while eating the balcony garden treats. Someone, or something, however, has enjoyed both the garden view AND my purple sprouting broccoli

Any idea of who the hungry hungry culprit is????

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


It's a showery kind of day today and I am spending most of it teaching, making it a very indoorsy sort of day. Therefore this is going to be a very indoorsy sort of post as I aim to focus on the few cacti and succulents that exist inside my house. One of my earliest posts dealt with one of my first ever house plants, a cactus fondly named Mr Floppy. Mr Floppy got a bit big for himself and got the chop sometime later. He has grown again and continues to flop a little, but never quite the same as before.

Other cacti inside include a little collection, which I gave to my housemate way back when she lived somewhere else (to brighten up her window sill) It now brightens up our window, but I will be sad when she moves and takes this little collection with her. May just have to invest in one of my own (from the Cactus man at the Vic Markets, he is a legend in his own boots).

We have this succulent, pictured earlier behind Mr Floppy that has now grown towards the sun and sunk some form of roots into Mr Floppy's pot! Mr Floppy has a stalker perhaps, or at least an admirer, or at worst a potential parasitic bunny boiler. Either way it is a pretty cool succulent. Next to it is the one pictured below, a sprawling mini cacti.

I love my little Cactusland - they represent some of the earliest balcony garden collections. Let's see what more can be added over the next few years!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Simultaneous baked bean indulgences

I thought for a moment over the weekend that maybe, just maybe everyone household in Melbourne has eaten baked beans for breakfast, but I guess the strong winds really were just the vengeance of mother nature. The balcony garden was blown all over its 2nd storey home, with stakes the only things holding the sunflowers in place. Indeed, when I walked to the markets I noticed a very particular sunflower petal 200 metres down the road. It looked like it belonged to my wind battered friend but surely it couldn't have flown this far intact!?! Lying a metre away from it was a petal from a very red geranium, the same kind from the balcony garden, and a very unsual one at that. Maybe the wind did carry the poor petals all this way! It was reallllllllllllllllly strong.

Luckily today it has died down, and I managed to get outside to check on the carnage. I thought to my horror 'oh my god one of the basil pots has blown away'!!! It seemed unlikely but maybe the oversized basil elaves had acted as wings and lifted the pot off the ground, sending ot soaring into the stratosphere. Shows i'm having memory problems, because I realised, after a bout of panic (thinking that said pot may have blown a pedestrian unconscious anywhere between my place and Geelong) that we had indulged in pesto pasta last night, and the aforementioned wandering basil was long past being digested. Oooopsss. It's getting frosty and the basil is on its way out, hence the pesto. As for the memory lapse ...

So looks like with this early very cold weather the last of the tomatoes are going to have to be picked also, let's hope I can ripen them inside. That and I have one more large pot of basil which will make some nice freezer destined pesto. The other upside ... it is now time for a late autumn planting! More beetroot, carrots and snow peas, here we come!!!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Cosmic and Dragon Purple carrots

As we battle on from post 100 I realised that there was a photo contained within it that had not previously been printed. This post is to rectify that, and to expand upon my newfound obsession (I seem to have a new one every day!) ... purple carrots. I planted two varieties a few months ago at the end of the summer heatwave. One was cosmic purple, the other purple dragon, both promising purple carroty goodness. For the past few weeks I have been harvesting small purple carrots.

I should let them grow bigger but I simply love eating them,and showing them to guests so each time someone visits or I get peckish another carrot bites the dust. I've already cleared one pot, which now houses snow peas! One pot to go, and the number of those reamining has now hit single digits. At least I proved that you can grow full size carrots in a pot! My favourite is to put them in salads, like this one here. Carroty yumminess!

People at uni have been most amused by my 'oddly coloured carrots' in my lunchbox. I have now planted yellow carrots and white carrots and more purple carrot in the hope they will provide me with a lovely autumn/early winter harvest of colourful goodness. I got into a conversation in the lift at uni the other day with a woman about white carrots. She thought I had confused them with parsnips, but I assured her I wasn't mistaken and that indeed you could get white carrots that were not parsnips in disguise. I should hunt her down when they grow bigger and give her one. In the meantime can anyone elighten me on the taste of white, or yellow carrots? Are they very different to their purple or orange counterparts?

Friday, April 24, 2009


100 Posts! Time to celebrate with 100 of my favourite balcony garden pics! Ok maybe not 100, but 11 will do. Thanks for reading along and hope the next 100 are slightly less inept!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Strawberry Delight

This way to the strawberry patch. Well when I say patch I really mean two, in a pot, in my window. They started off very small sometime last September when, on a whim, i purchased two Lowanna strawberry seedlings and decided they were just the thing for a window box for a few months.

Well a few months turned into many more months and these things are fantastic. I wonder how many strawberries they have produced over those months??? - time for the berry mathematics.
So they usually produce about 3 fruit between them each week. Doesn't sound like a lot.

Times that by the 30 or so weeks between October and now (of course they didn't fruit in the first month)

That's 90 strawberries! Wow, how many punnets would that be? Ok enough maths. And they show no signs of stopping. At one point I threatened to pull them out, they were in the way of my indoor tomato plant plans. But a severely wilted tomato and a persistent strawberry meant they stayed, and boy did they thrive. Keep up the good work little strawberries, and then I can keep enjoying my TV watching impromptu snack, straight from the plant itself (ode to indoor plants)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Look who came out to play again

Back in January Mum's volunteer sunflower flowered. It was stunning, and inspired me to plant a sunflower on the balcony. I wondered whether it was possible, but Fern from Life on the Balcony assured me that it was certainly possible and definitely enjoyable. I planted out a few seeds, hoping one would germinate. Low and behold they all did.

So i kept two for the balcony garden and gave the others away. I know that one has grown a head in one friend's garden while the other two should be growing nicely. The two in my garden are at very different stages. One is about to form a head, a single, lovely, head.

The other, well he is a bit of a mutant. He had one, then three, then seven and now 9 possible heads, about three of which are on top of the main stem.

Late last week one of the heads began to grow, the promise of tiny petals poking through.

Each day since he has opened up a little more, unfurling to show me his yellow mottled with burnt sienna centre. I always loved the burnt sienna crayon, now I get to have it in flower! Awesomeness.

And then today, he reached the pinnacle, he looked like this.

And you can see him from the other side of the street! What a stunner! I had to stake them both during very high winds last week and I think with the promise of continued blustery conditions I may just keep them that way. Now to wait for the other 8 heads to open and see what he looks like in all his glory.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Aphids Anonymous

Aphids are back, let loose on my garden. I was not impressed upon discovering this. I asked them nicely to go chew someone else's garden. They ignored me. Rain didn't wash them away. They continued to multiply on my lovely purple sprouting broccoli, to congregate on my snow peas and nestle in my snapdragons. Enough was enough, I sprayed. I used to make homemade organic sprays from chillis and garlic and the like. They never worked. This time I went for Pyrethrum, the big guns, but made sure no bees were buzzing in the balcony garden at the time. Seems to have worked, for now. I also bought a few more of these, to keep them away. Fingers crossed.

Monday, April 20, 2009

One last Easter Post

There is still chocolate in the fridge so I am of the mindset that it is still ok to talk about Easter goings on. And I really wanted to put this picture of my father on a tractor somewhere public!!!

My Easter break consisted of wine, food, food, food, wine, food, wine ... ok so you get the gist. It was a family affair, my parents visiting from Adelaide and wandering down the coast with myself in tow to my Aunt and Uncle's place which has already been shown in previous posts. One Saturday lunch we ventured to this winery/restaurant called Ten Minutes By Tractor.

Supposedly it was top notch and had been oft spruiked by the 'weekend beachhouse set' of this side of the Mornington Peninsula. It didn't disappoint, the food was divine, if a little hearty for a Saturday lunch. I have no pictures of the food alas, for this isn't really a food blog and I am way too embarassed to get the camera out in a restaurant yet. Still I went for a wander outside in the gardens and snapped a few lovely shots. The view was pretty spectacular as the restaurant looked out over the vineyards and the day was chilly but clear.

There was also this spectacular tree in the carpark!

Ten Minutes By Tractor is a lovely place to eat and relax in amongst good wine, food and company. However, you probably want to book well in advance, even in this economic climate, and perhaps consider selling your first born to cover the bill! Luckily for me my parents were over, and the spoiling of the first born was the order of the day, rather than selling!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Water Garden

When I went down the Coast last weekend for Easter we had to do the usual things of a walk along the beach at some stage. It was only a brief walk, but I, of course, got enmeshed in taking quick photos of whatever was around. The lighting was a bit off but I found some interesting subjects. At the entrance of this part of the beach they have a sign about the leafy sea dragon. Apparently it lives in the seaweed in this part of the coast and is all part of the life cycle, with birds feeding off the ones that get washed up entangled in the seaweed and other such useful waste saving mechanisms of nature. I tried to find one of these guys who had washed up but I guess the birds had got to them first as a late afternoon snack. But I did find other things washed up on shore.

Lots of strange sponges and weeds (and a pair or shoes, but they were pretty much attached to my feet).

Shells, of course, plenty of those, but I looked for the more obscure ones amongst the millions of cockles.

Rocks, that seems as pretty as my garden, and probably contain as much life (we have an aphid problem at home at present)

Indeed this whole area seemed like an odd garden, not quite living, mostly debris, but within that supporting other life. I am sure a metre of two off the coast, under the chilly water there was a whole other garden micro system just waiting to be explored but without a wet suit, a snorkel, a speccy camera and forgetting that you cannot go in an hour after eating (and when you eat a 3 course gourmet lunch that limit probably should be extended beyond an hour) As for flora? Lots of pines, and this lovely Banksia. If only I could go there more often ...