Friday, November 27, 2009

More Rain (sort of)

I am a bit obsessed about rain lately. Probably because of the lovely but atypical falls we have been experiencing. Gavin, over at the Greening of Gavin, has some great points to make about it. Looks like we will get more tonight. Sadly though only 5.6 mms dropped in the city, none overnight, and when I popped out to the Balcony Garden a little while ago I realised that I actually did need to water some of the tomato plants (who were wilting in the lack of water way.) Luckily with all this rain the water saving in the household has been a cinch so they were happily watered and look much healthier already.

In other news I recently receded back into my jigsaw puzzle habit. Ironically this one was entitled 'Raining Cats and Dogs'!

Love it!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Explosions of Rain

We have had a rather hot spell of late, broken by one large rainy day. Suffice to say I am sure it wasn't the heat that made the car pictured above explode outside my apartment the other week! Luckily everyone was OK in this incident, well everyone except the car, it was gutted. But back to the cooler, wetter bit, the rain.

What a joy it was this morning to wake to the sound of rain. Ok when you live in a multistorey apartment complex it isn't quite the same as during your childhood when the rain fell on a tin roof and made those wonderful loud noises. Indeed hearing the rain from my place is mostly symbolised by hearing wet tires on the road (the sound is more muffled.) Rain has so many benefits, the plants love it (tap water on water restriction days just doesn't cut it) and I love it because it means I don't have to water the garden which takes a while, and the water I have saved gets used another day (although I have to use it up at some point because it goes a bit manky after a while.) Looks like showers, thunderstorms, hail and rain are forecast for the new few days so enjoy this Spring weather Melbourne!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Eggplant Enters the BG

I meant to post a little earlier about the additions and subtractions to and from the Balcony Garden but essay marking, parental visits and a return to the PhD thesis got slightly in the way. While I'll weigh in on the tomato situation in a different post (8 out, 3 in, with more to go shortly methinks) I thought I'd write a post about another impulse buy - the eggplant.

Two tomatoes and some carrots were originally in this pot, a sturdy large square self watering pot. Unfortunately the wilt came early, even before flowers could set so the Flame tomato and Aunt Ruby's German Green had to go.

I cleaned the pot and intended to start the process again, albeit with store bought seedlings of any yellow and any green tomatoes I could get my hands on. Unfortunately the seedling choice was, well, abysmal! Some were so leggy they could be olympic high jumpers, others had yellow leaves wherein I wanted yellow tomatoes, and some, well, you just knew their days were numbered. I did manage to find 3 adequate specimins which I'll post on later, but the ones for the square box just could not be sourced. I am not a patient person (sometimes, othertimes I'll wait hours/months/years for people, it's a situational thing I guess) and I wondered what else could fill that sunny spot. Then I stumbled upon eggplant!

Yes eggplant. I had actually toyed with the idea of growing eggplant this year, from seed. I had some white eggplant seeds and had intended to give them a go. But calls from friends about how fickle eggplant growing can be, and seeing the troubles some bloggers went through I decided to double the cucumber production and ditch the eggplant. However, with a free pot and a seedling in my hand I knew I had to give it a go.

He is just a normal eggplant, no lovely white uniqueness here. But the label said he was a vigorous grower which would work well given the slightly late start. Plus being my first eggplant it would be good to go with something a little more idiot (inept) proof. I'll update when the flowers set but in the meantime he seems to be happy except when his leaves become snail dinner! I've planted some sunflowers around him, less for protection and more because I am starting a new obsession with them.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Lemon. No I am not talking about my useless dishwasher which has now been kindly changed by my awesome landlords. Lemon is the little yellow sour fruit on the tree on my balcony. Well one from the old harvest, and plenty more new ones in the making.

More posts soon, now that my parents have gone after their lovely but short visit. Oh and the heat has abated here and we had over 50mms of rain in one day! Crazy weather, lemon weather.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Less than thrilled about thrip

Melbourne had its warmest November night on record. Aparently it is nothing too special, we are breaking records in almost every Australian state and poor Adelaide is sweltering with the parts of the state in catastrophic fire danger stages. My folks are heading here for the weekend, so at least they can trade in their 43 degree day for a 34 degree day.

The hot conditions are playing havoc with the balcony garden. Water saving is in full force and the plants are thirsty. They are also covered in thrip, absolutely covered. The leaves, the flowers, the stems, they are spotted with these little brown flea-like bugs. And there is nothing I can do, well nothing except wait. It should cool down on the weekend and then I am afraid I am going to have to spray the lot. Hopefully I can find the resident ladybug and his mate and put them in another garden for the day, and hope that the bees also steer clear for the day.

Thrip are the pits, seriously the pits. But I guess it could be worse, there could be bushfires. Fingers crossed the fireys don't have any work to do today.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

First Tomatoes for the Season

Last year it took until 3rd the of December to get my first tomato, albeit a yellow cherry tomato. This year I picked the first tomatoes (2 of them, pictured above) on the 15th of November! Probably all thanks to the unseasonably hot weather rather than my slightly early planting.

The race to the end was close. The tigerella which I was hoping would win is almost ready to eat, alas this reddening is a few days after the race ended. I knocked one of the tomatoes off the bush and put it in the window to see if it would ripen. It has certainly attained a blush of colour, but it wasn't quite quick enough.

The other hanging pot of yellow cherries looks full of green tomatoes, and it was the winner last year but none were big enough in time.

There was a second cherry tomato that was also beginning to ripen

but it was this one that took it out in the end.

Now to see when the first big tomato will ripen (and when oh when will the mortgage lifter set fruit!?!?!?!)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Harvest Monday

I've wondered long and hard about why I have trouble having good posts for harvest Mondays. I actually use a lot of produce from my balcony garden at certain times of the year but I never seem to have a lot when I photograph it. Then I realised I only pick what I need when I need it. Some gardeners are far away from their gardens, mine is literally at the doorstep. It takes only minutes to get stuff from the garden into the pan and only rarely do I remember to photograph it along the way. So I will do my best to show you what has been harvested and eaten from the garden this week.

Zucchini has been an interesting producer. I have eaten 3 or 4 large ones any many more smaller ones. It seems to produce many more female flowers to male flowers, and with only one plant at present it has trouble pollinating. In fact at the moment it has 7 flowering female zukes and NO male flowers. Still I managed to harvest four small and rapidly deteriorating zucchinis which I will put into a curry tomorrow night.

Strawberries have been a winner. I eat one of two a day. Problem is they are rotting so shortly after ripening (some even while ripening) so the harvest isn't as big as it could be. Now for the piece de resistance, and I will do a seperate post on these gems also, but in tonight's harvest I included the first of the cherry tomatoes!!!

They were sweet and tasty. I mixed them in with some lettuce, a beet leaf and a very small daikon radish (I had to thin the radishes) as a base for a small smoked salmon salad.

Very delicious. Hopefully I remember to get the camera out a bit more often when I grab the produce for the garden. There should be a lot more coming in the future weeks, despite the major bug and other problems.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Garden Bloggers Blooms Day

It is that time of the month again. Due to the early Spring hot spell most of the flowers in the garden are a bit scorched. The snapdragons are on their last lease of life and the blue cornflowers are just hanging in there.

The pansies seem to have gone from deep purple to white and purple! Very odd

Still the tomatoes are flowering well, when they don't drop off (even though I hand pollinate them.)

The zucchini has gone back to producing only female flowers, which means more baby zukes for my dinner but not any long ones for a proper meal.

The sunflower is stunning at the moment - he doesn't mind the heat.

And the geraniums are happier than ever!

I am planting some new flower seeds this week, portulaca, which like the heat and flower quickly and readily; lets see how they hold up with the summer heat. So the early and unseasonal hot weather has had an impact in the flower world ... stay tuned to see what it has done to the vegetables (I have the first of something just about ripe!!!)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Weather Patterns

Picture the scene. Warm, 29 degrees, glass of champagne in hand, lounging in a beer garden with three of my closest friends. Sounds like a lovely Summer thing to do? Maybe a Sunday afternoon? Well for starters it is not yet Summer here, it is spring, barely past middle Spring at that, and the champagne drinking in the beer garden was not on some random Sunday after noon but last night at just before midnight!!! It is definitely unseasonably warm here in Melbourne, days in the mid 30s and evenings that barely dip below the mid 20s. Ok so it is not as bad at the 46 degree weather we had last Summer, but it is definitely wierd for this time in Spring. Lovely weather for socialising, but less good for a newly-starting Spring garden. Indeed even worse for a garden that needs a. ferstiliser and b. thrip spray!

Maybe it was the champagne from last night but I succinctly remember hearing the barman say that today was only going to reach 27. Trusting his word over any online bureau of meterology (come on that would involve turning the computer on and I was far keener to believe the onset of a slightly cooler snap fed to me by the man with the drinks than bother to turn on my lovely new machine that early in the morning.) On this knowledge I popped out into the garden early in the morning (half seven is early enough for me thanks) and happily fertilised the tomatoes that were turning a hideous shade of yellow, added some seasol to the mix for extra luck and then pyrethrumed pretty much the whole balcony until the spray bottle ran out. This is acceptable to do in weather under 30 degrees. It was only when I wandered into uni and turned the computer on that I realised the barman had either fed me a line about the cooler change or was a little mistaken. Today is going to get to 31, at least, and probably more. The weatherman in The Age says its a tad too difficult to get it exactly right but it is more likely to hit the higher than the lower figure.

Hopefully the garden survives. The roots might burn, the leaves too. Who knows. Fingers crossed and toes crossed at present. In happier news the sunflower opened, pictures coming soon, and I found within it two ladybugs (I made sure the pyrethrum went nowhere near them.) On a second happy note while I was drinking my tea on the balcony I noticed a little native bee hovering on and ducking into the strawberry flowers. Luckily I didn't have enough spray left to get to those otherwise Mr Bee would be a dead bee. Loving that even in this hot weather the bugs are having fun and drinking their version of midnight champagne.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Back to It

Ahhh it is good to be back and to make up for my absence this will be a long and winding post complete with pictures and races and Wilson's Prom and more. The balcony garden is undergoing its first major heat test with pretty much a week ahead (and half a week behind us) of 30+ degree temperatures. I am saving as much water as I can in the household, and with it the balcony garden seems to be holding up, just. I'll update in a week or so when it cools and tell you what was tough enough to survive on the balcony garden, and what withered. Suffice to say I don't remember such sustained heat this early in Spring before, but I could be mistaken. At the very least it is going to be another long dry summer.
For now I'll just post a few photos of the balcony garden. The race is on between the tomatoes to be the first to ripen. A thrip infestation caused some damage in the past week so setting fruit has been difficult, even with the trusty electric toothbrush. However the two clear contenders for first tomato this year are the red tumbler tomato in the hanging pot.

and the tigerella.

It would be rather fun for the fuller fruit to beat the cherry in the race to my dinner plate, and odds are surprisingly in the tigerella's favour. The other tomatoes are growing taller and fuller but still not setting much fruit. These pictures represent only a fraction of the 25 tomato plants on the balcony garden (19 full sized in pots, 6 tumblers in hanging pots.)

The zucchini keeps on producing, although hand pollination and thrip have again set back the production of fruit. Still baby zucchinis are so much fun to eat, when put with broccoli, snowpea and silverbeet infused lentils, roast apples and pork they make an odd happy face (and tasty dinner.)

The strawberries are fruiting like mad! I eat two or three a day (once they ripen of course!)

These purple flowers aren't on the balcony garden, they were from my trip to Sandy Point, but I thought I would add them anyway.

And some gratuitous scenery shots of the prom. It was such a lovely trip! I do hope to get back to Wilson's Prom again one day, or at the very least back to the beach house, it was such awesome value and perfect for our little group weekend away (especially because I got the room with bunk beds! Such a grown up balcony gardener, hehe.)

Friday, November 6, 2009


New screens for laptops can be verrrrrry expensive, turns out you can get a new laptop for $10 less than a new screen (or a really spiffy one for a few hundred more!)

Will update this blog quick smart, as soon as I play with this fun new thing and get the photographs of the garden transfered. Thanks everyone for the kind words while I was whinging about my lack of usable computers. Pretty tomato pics on their way ...