Sunday, May 31, 2009

I turned 29 Today

Pretty much the title of this post says it all. I turned 29 today. I had a lovely Sunday afternoon drinks at my favourite place, The Brunswick Green with many of my dearest friends and rellies. It was such a pleasant afternoon, the weather, the company, the place, all just lazily perfect.

Thing was that in life, and indeed as a child, I had always set my goals for the age of 28. I have no idea why the random and arbitrary age of 28 was set but it seemed to work at the time. I haven't really achieved any of these goals (see this post for clarification) but I had never ever really thought of life beyond 28. I guess it was meant to be described by those catchall words 'and they lived happily ever after'. So now I am here, at age 29, in the happily ever after and I am definitely an 'I' not a 'they (one goal unobtained thus far but not really too concerned). I am at least living happily.

So thanks to everyone who makes this the happily ever after, the people I share my life with, both in reality and on this crazy blog world! And here is to another awesome 29 years more (and more on top of that perhaps) And I guess I better thank the other wonder that is keeping me deliriously happy - mother nature!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Small Post on How NOT to Trellis

Over the past few days and weeks I have read some really insightful ways to create an affordable, durable trellis. Dan over at Urban Veggie Garden suggests a set up with very tall Bamboo and compostable string. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener similarly makes frugal use of Bamboo, twine and an old, dead bush. Erin at The 6 x 8 Garden uses scraps and her existing balcony to create what looks to be a very good set up for her climbers. I, on the other hand, given I am the totally inept balcony gardener, have decided to use my 'experience' to give a few tips on how NOT to create a trellis for climbing veggies which are, in my case, snow peas. I do use the same few ingredients here, bamboo (or in my case plastic poles) and twine, but boy oh boy are the results different. Thanks to my follies here are a few trellising no nos.

Trellis no no Number 1 - Always make sure you build it to an appropriate height

The peas may keep growing, but the trellis certainly will not!

Trellis no no Number 2 - While it is good to get a bit creative and candles may look pretty as inpromptu stakes, once the plant reaches them and you want some outdoor tea light action they are a bit of a silly idea, unless you like your snow peas freshly scorched from the vine!

Trellis no no Number 3 - Always consider the needs of the other vegetables in the garden, a broccoli does not flourish when caged in like a zoo animal. Allow enough width of trellis to have a 'free range' broccoli rather than the caged kind.

Trellis no no Number 4 - Make sure if you are using twine it is wound tightly, otherwise the pea vines are more sturdy than their intended support!

There you have it. With the good guides listed above and my few silly trellising accidents I am sure you will have all the knowledge you need to create good supports for your peas, beans and other climbers.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Against All odds

No this post is not an ode to all things Phil Collins, far from it, unless he is a fan of broccoli grown in adverse conditions. You may remember earlier posts about my broccoli trial. I don't mean the purple sprouting broccoli, I mean the impulse bought early green broccoli thingo. Well in my infinite wisdom I introduced him to his good friend Mr Snowpea and Mr Snowpea's trellis.

Unfortunately the trellis severely restricted the movement of Mr Broccoli and I thought he would never produce anything edible.

Yet look what I found the other day - a little head growing!

I also added lettuce to this crowded but diverse pot. I keep using so much lettuce in my salads that it is now growing in five pots!

Broccoli, lettuce, snow peas and more - it looks like it is going to be a great harvest in early winter!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

And the Mystery Plant is ...

Well of the 5 responses, only one of you got it right (and it wasn't you Kirsty, sorry)

Dan, you were only one to guess correctly! The mystery plant event of excitement was, in fact, the arrival of the first snow pea that had me jumping for joy. It may be only small but it is the first in a long line (I hope). mmmmm stir fry here we come.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Mystery of the Balcony Garden

Guess what I found in the balcony garden today ...
I've posted about it a little lately.
It's is something I've waited for in eager anticipation.
It's a substitute obsession for the tomatoes.
Any guesses?
Want the answer ... you'll have to wait until tomorrow!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Wrapping up the Tomato Season: No. 6 Green Zebra

I promised there were a few tomato wrap up summaries left to go. This post will be devoted to the Green Zebra tomato, but still to come are summaries of the White Cloud Tomato and, um, I think that might be it, given that neither the Hillbilly nor the Purple Cherokee ever fruited properly. The Siberian tomatoes of the Winter tomato experiment are coming along nicely, one even has the beginnings of flower buds so stay tuned for a full update of that in the coming days. But for now lets turn turn the little green man of tomatoes, the Green Zebra (GZ).

I first came across the GZ in a multi-heirloom tomato pack I purchsed when on the hunt for a Black Russian. It was planted in the overcrowded large pot and ended up growing to a fairly hefty size.

Discovering that maybe, just maybe I would like more of these I planted two more GZ's which I found by accident one day at Bunnings. Magical Mr M even has a picture on his phone of the instant I found these seedlings! Priceless. Unfortunately one was mislabeled and looked more like a Black Russian than anything else. It was a huge plant, pictured below, and produced prolifically but none of the fruit were GZs.

The other one was certainly a Green Zebra and despite its hazardous position in the sun it managed to fruit well producing 13 fruits. The GZ in the crowded pot still did quite well, producing 12 fruit. They fruited consistently I am often had one or two to pop on my salad each day. They were kind of sharp, a little zesty, nay even citrusy. Not one to cook I don't think, it would almost certainly lose its wonderful fresh taste. Perfect for a salad or a roughly chopped, uncooked salsa.

These guys were small fruit, far smaller than the Green Zebra fruits I have found in two nearby places but far tastier. The larger store bought versions were overripe and mealy where as the home grown and tastilicious. Totally Awesome Housesitter was the first to try them, as they ripened while I was in Adelaide. She decided they were her favourite and I will be growing her a couple of seedlings this spring for that reason! They were also a hit at the dinner party.

I have to say that the Green Zebra will definitely feature again this coming year. I may only have one plant due to limited space and the fact I will be growing both Lime Green Tomatoes and Aunt Ruby's German green. Still I must have at least one of these little guys, two if I can find room.

Friday, May 22, 2009


Growing up I was never a fan of radishes. To me they were these weird pink and white things that Mum would cut fancily into rosettes whenever she had a dinner party. Even worse was that the leftovers would be in our dinner salads for days on end. They were bitey and the texture altogether not to my liking. Now I am older and possibly a bit wiser my view of radishes has altered slightly. I could never, ever eat the little pink versions, nor would I be inclined to grow them given the limited space on the balcony. However a fondness for Japanese food, founded in my late teens, meant that Daikon radish was a staple in my diet. Usually used as an accompinament in julienned form for Sashimi I love its delicate flavour. Said flavour is enhanced, rather than consumed by, the lieral addition of soy sauce. With carrots, greens and some raw fish of the day it is an absolute treat.

I live near the Vic Markets which are readily supplied with Daikon, but these are large and often pricey. So I thought why not grow some myself?!? I need to thin them out as all four seeds took in a rather spacially restricted pot, but hopefully, in some time, I will have two daikon radishes to enjoy in the balcony garden kitchen!

Thursday, May 21, 2009


The Uni has gone on strike today. We are trying to fight for more job security (us casuals have none) better pay (or in my case pay for the number of hours I work, or at least half the number of hours I work, University tutors are basically slave labourers). It is sad how little education and the educators are valued in this country.

On a relate note, there is one plant in my garden who appears to also be on strike, the African Marigold. I thought I was paying him enough attention and I don't think I ask too much of him. All he has to do is look pretty and keep the aphids away yet he seems to be performing neither task! He will not allow new buds to open and seems to be friendly with the aphids! Unlike the University, I pay him handsomely. He gets water, sunlight, other marigoldy friends to play with, a neighbouring lettuce pot for good measure and more. I guess I'll just have to try and listen to him and find out what his issues are - the same thing the Uni could do for its staff!

*sorry gardening afficionados for the rather political rant, but when you work many many many hours unpaid overtime, with virtually no hope of a career at the end, it does start to take its toll. Tomorrow I promise a post about something a little more usual - radishes!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Broccoli Broccoli Broccoli

Above is one of the purple sprouting broccoli plants, besieged by green caterpillars and aphids. Still he fights on and one day he, and his other four mates in different pots, will hopefully produce some form of purple edible goodness.

Another broccoli plant in my garden is the one pictured above. He fell victim to a trellising accident, and to an idea that 'I care more about snow peas than I do you, Mr Broccoli'!!! Talk about neglected. Well despite the odds this guy is producing a head. It is very, very, very small and the leaves are dying and spotting which makes it difficult but it is great to see that despite ineptness on my behalf nature lives on!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Gardening Motto for the botanically challenged - Just have a go

When I first started this blog in early November last year I was certainly a novice gardener. All I could manage was a small herb garden of necessity (I love cooking with fresh herbs, but the Vic Markets are not open for my convenience and sometimes I would just forget to buy them, plus the costs do add up, and when you are on a student budget ...) and a lemon tree given to me by a friend. Yet in the tub of herby goodness I managed the oddest things. On the balcony I somehow managed to kill rosemary 3 times (almost unheard of) and sage, but through some miracle my basil grew bushlike and lasted through winter (it was weirdness central and something that has not happened again)

I think it was most likely the tomatoes but something sparked a growing frenzy and this newbie gardener suddenly became an obsessive greenthumb. I came up with the name inept balcony gardener because:

1. I gardened on a balcony (duh)
2. I really did not have a clue what I was doing, gardening wise or blog wise for that matter.

Over the months, and it literally has only been months, I have learned so much. This is from the community of bloggers around me (thanks everyone) and from blotanical and just the internet in general. More than that I have found a community of like minded individuals, most of which caught the green gardening bug much earlier than I. Some of you are kind and call my gardening far from inept. I have definitely progressed, I no longer use discarded kitchen wire ties to truss up my tomatoes, not do I try and grow 100 carrots in a single small pot. I've learned to battle the urge to overcrowd and have learned to companion plant and work with, not against the seasons (though that accidental Winter basil was an absolute treat).

I am a bit of an experimental cook, as my friends will attest. Poor Hurricaine J (who is an experimental cook himself) was served an experiement gluten free bread and butter pudding (no easy thing I might add) and ate it dutifully despite its glueish texture and oversweetness. On this blog I have shown some of my experimental cooking adventures. Now often these experiments don't turn out quite right. Some people were just meant to cook, they understand food, they get textures and they press the boundaries. Some people don't quite have those skills but it is not the end of the world for them, they are not doomed to a life of take away and packet pasta. They can learn a few basic foolproof recipes that are easy, fun and nutritious. Everyone can be a cook, it's just for some it comes more naturally then for others.

The same thing, I've found, goes on in the garden. Sometimes my knowledgeless experiments work out, sometimes they fail miserably (see above reference to sage and rosemary for starters) I had no clue to start with but I learned a few basic gardening 'recipes', the basics of pot gardening and how to grow from seedlings and eventually my own seeds. I had to learn and try and sometimes my natrual tendencies of impatience and laziness got in the way. But in the end the garden is there for all to see!

So my motto for those of you out there who may be put off by silly articles that suggest gardening is too hard and too expensive, or consider it to be beyond your means ... Just give it a go. I did and I was majorly botanically challenged. If gardening were dancing I'd have 3 left feet! If it fails, try again, read some blogs or other internet sources and try and solve the problem. It's always an experiment and no one ever got anywhere without first trying something new. The bonus is that if everyone had just a little garden the world would be a greener place!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Garden Bloggers Blooms Day May

It is the middle of May in the garden and despite some cooler weather there are some lovely blooms to share, but there is really only one that a truly care about. It is not the multiheaded Sunflower, although he is still blooming brightly.

Even though I cut off one of his heads and brought it inside.

Nor it is this Marigold which is keeping watch against the aphids (unsuccessfully.)

Or this Marigold which is equally as inept at his job.

The Geranium is awfully pretty but it is still not him.

Not is it any of the Snapdragons, yellow or otherwise.

Nor it is this pink thing.

Nor it is even the lovely Strawberries that seem to flower no matter what conditions I put them through.

The most amazing, valuable, anticipated flower in my garden is yet to open. But here he is in all his buddy glory - the first, seed grown, snow pea flower!!!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Balcony Garden at Present

On the eve of Garden Bloggers Blooms Day I thought I would give you an update of how the Balcony Garden looks on the whole at present. There have been a few movement since this photo but on the whole it appears pretty much like this. Here is he view from the airconditioning unit looking down the balcony. That sunflower is the single headed one and is taller than me!

And then one in the reverse. In the summer this section behind me also contains tomatoes and the lemon tree because it gets an amazing amount of sun. Alas in winter it is slightly barer given the change in the sun's position. The empty pot now contains purple sprouting broccoli.

We have the crowded corner, which was filled with tomatoes when we last saw it. Now it is complete with snow pea squished broccoli and the lemon tree in its Autumn/Winter position. Here I am also growing beetroot, carrots, daikon radish, leeks, bush beans (by accident) and more. There are also some small mint cuttings and other seedling that I grew for a friend but we haven't put in her garden yet to plant them and time I am afraid is running out.

On the table we have the Gazanias, the Begonia and a few very small pots of corainder, rainbow silverbeet and an ash tray. I don't smoke, but as the eternal hostess I have to be prepared for anything and there is no way any of my guests are smoking inside! It is also a little bit cleaner at present.

So there we have it, the balcony garden as it stands. Well ok succulent corner was kind of out of the picture and the inside plants including the tomato experiment and the newly moved strawberries were conspicuosly absent but I'll post on them soon.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

All are Banished

Ok so maybe not all are banished, but to make way for the inside winter tomato experiment the lovely and ever fruitful strawberries have been banished to the outside to join their other lovely garden friends on the balcony garden.

At the moment they are living on top of the airconditioning unit. Not the most ideal place but it has to do at the moment, as there really isn't much more space. I think the final straw was when I saw them riddled with red spider mites and decided to oust, spray, and hope. Lets see how they cope with the cooler, changeable weather outside (the strawberries that is, not the spider mites, I think i eradiacted them all.)

Monday, May 11, 2009


What happens when a post about tomatoes, meets a post about lettuce? Throw in some bread and piggy wiggy goodness and it becomes a post about the humble BLT!!! The first white tomato to ripen inside, a wee little fellow, made the perfect T in this BLT.

Add some lettuce (alas not from the garden, the lettuce is still rejuvinating after the over eating) and you have a tasty nutritious L.

Crunchy bacon made the B and it was all set on some lovely light rye!

Tasted an absolute treat. Now I cannot wait until the other larger white cloud tomatoes ripen so I can have more.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Tomato Tally 2008/09

Seeing as all of the tomatoes have been removed, and it is only the white ones I am waiting on I thought I would share with you all the tomato tally for the 2008/09 Season. While some of the reviews wrapping up the tomato season are out there are still a few more to come, namely the white tomatoes, green zebras and more (I think) The first column in the table is the name of the tomato and where it was grown (inside, outside on the balcony in a sunny, part shady place, or spot directly behind the glass wall). The second column is how many I picked at any one time, so if it is 1, then I only picked one from that bush that day. If it is 20, well you know it was having a good day and the fruit was definitely in season. This shows whether they were a steady producer or not. The last column is the total. The grand total of all the tomatoes??? A whopping 656 and counting. Sure didn't feel like that much!!! Sorry, have been having severe trouble with the table, you might need some super strong glasses to read it, or else click on the image for a full size approach.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Oh Happy Day

Things have conspired in a good way today, and it has left me feeling sunny, smiley, and ever so slightly over-hyperactive! So I thought I'd share a picture that matches my mood. Mr Multihead sunflower, now sporting 3 heads, with another 6 to unfold. Always happy, smiley, sunny and warm.

Hope everyone else has a lovely day today, or at the very least has one lovely thing happen to them, no matter how small!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Alternative Sources of Tomatoes

A few weeks back, when all hope seemed lost for the last of my tomato plants due to wilt - I was pretty woeful. How could I go several months without their tastyliciousness???? Having promised Hurricaine J a meal of steak on Anzac Day, and finding the markets shut, I decided that the only way of procuring an impressive steak meal was to wander into the city and hit David Jones. They have an expensive foodhall that just so happens to have some damn fine (if slightly overpriced) steaks.

I was on the escalator descending into fiscally challenging carnivore heaven when something made me squeal with delight. I ran down the escalator throwing aside my housemate, an old guy and two posh ladies and stopped suddenly by the fruit and veg section. There, before my eyes, was a bowl of Heirloom tomatoes. I am a market regular and all I ever managed to find there in the way of Heirloom tomatoes were a few black russians and some green zebras for one week in February. Now at this market alternative there was a whole basket of them! I nearly fainted with delight (and for once I am not exaggerating). I grabbed these three beauties, all as big as my fist!

I went back the next day and got a black zebra, a green zebra and a tigerella, but they were a bit smushy. Of all of them, the white was by far and away the most amazing of them all! Soft and, if you can believe it, creamy! I am heading back to Djs tonight, a few weeks on, just to see if they still have this collection. Fingers crossed.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Overzealous with the Lettuce

I love growing edible things. Tomatoes first and foremost, then snow peas, carrots, herbs, beetroot, and all sort of other delicious treats. A few weeks ago I posted on my lettuce pot. It was brimming full of green leafy goodness and boy did we taste test it.

In fact we kind of over tasted, and the full green/red pot soon turned into something akin to a warzone! The poor lettuce was over picked and ended up looking like this.

The solution? Go easy on the lettuce? Never. Therefore the decision was to plant 3 more pots of the stuff! I am not that good at waiting so I left the seeds alone this time (I do have some lettuce growing from seed in one pot but it is taking ages) and purchased a few seedlings.

I then potted them up. One in the hanging basket that used to hold beetroot and welsh sprouting onions. One in its own giant pot (which I didn't seem to take a photo of), and one in with some broccoli and snowpeas.

I still think we might need more, even with totally awesome housemate moving out (we will miss you, but well done on the job back in A-town). But where to put them ...