Thursday, December 29, 2011

Some new additions at the end of 2011

Mum and I enjoyed that nectarine yesterday. We halved it and ate it while watching the cricket on my couch. The sweet fruit contrasted with the bitterness of Australia's batting collapse!

We also bought some new lovelies for the balcony garden. First was a fuschia to replace the one I had for three years that never flowered. I wanted a Winston Churchill fuschia (which is dark pink and dark purple) but then decided this one was more striking.

I also got some berries and cream mint. I covetted Lisa's mint collection, so I am starting my own.

I also have normal mint, which is doing better after a bug attack (the pic is from when it was sicker.)

And ditto on the chocolate mint. For some reason I thought hanging baskets would help keep them safe.

Any end of year new purchases in your garden?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Nectarine and Other Hijinks

My nectarine tree has two nectarines on it, two. These are cherished and coddled little sweet things just ready to be eaten (the pic above is an oldie). I plan on sharing one with my Mum today and one with my lovely boyfriend in a few days. Both will be blissful eating experiences I am sure. Now as you can tell from this I am a sharer. I love sharing the produce from my balcony garden. It isn't much, but it goes around a fair way. I cook meals for my friends with it. Occasionally if there is a glut of tomatoes I take some to my cousin's house. Even my neighbours sometimes get a stray carrot or two.

But not everyone is a sharer, some are stealers! And I've heard some bonkers stories about fruit tree use and abuse this Christmas and I just wanted to share them with you.

Story 1 - beware the mother in law

My cousin told me the story of a friend of his who has a lovely stonefruit tree in his backyard. For the sake of the story let's say it is an apricot. The tree is often laden with fruit, bulging, sagging, just waiting to ripen. You have to be quick to beat the birds to it, but in his case he was too slow and a bird got it. Yes, just a single bird - his mother in law! She came over one day and cleaned him out of fruit. What's worse is that it wasn't for her own consumption - but she gave them to her friends at church!!! RANDOM! I don't think I need to say much more, except that this is wrong, wrong, so many levels of wrong.

And it isn't isolated. Another friend at uni had the entire contents of his apple tree stolen by neighbours while he was away. And no neighbour will own up to it - but given the isolation of his backyard it had to be one of them.

Story 2 - karma counter

My Aunt has a neighbour who counts the fruit on his avocado tree. Even though technically the fruit hanging over my Aunt's side of the fence is hers (a fact that sent him pale with terror when she told him) he keeps them for himself. Now if the tree had one or two fruit, like my lemon tree at most times, then I'd understand this hoarding and counting and keeping to oneself. However, the tree, in its worst year, usually has over seventy fruit! SEVENTY! All for him, and his wife. And the day one accidentally fell off on my Aunt's side of the fence ... well ... she threw it back over for fear of this little man and what he might do lest the counting fall short.

I know if I had a tree with that much fruit I'd be gorging on avocado each day, and giving them away to those I love best, those nearest, those a little over the way and probably anyone who just walked by.

He does this each year. And then one year there were only a few avocados on the tree! Karma for the counter, karma.

But back to my nectarines - and wouldn't you know it, sharing pays off. Like the neighbour of my Aunt's I had been counting my nectarines, but even a toddler with dyscalculia could tell there were only two, well two highly visible ones at least. Yesterday I looked out and saw a nectarine lying on the mulch, fully ripe. I thought maybe I'd knocked one of the two off, but no, there were still two on there, ready to be shared accordingly. This was a miracle third nectarine! As I was enjoying a day to myself I decided to let this third morsel be all mine. And it was delicious. :) Ok so in a post about sharing I end up keeping the extra to myself, but I don't think there's too much harm in that.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

In other fruit news

The balcony garden isn't just a haven of pampered fruit trees - there are a couple of smaller additions to the sweet goodies. Red currents and strawberries are the other candidates for delicious fruit salad additions. The red current was mostly eaten by snails this year, but a few goodies still got through.

I'm planning on passing the strawberries on to a friend, they're not happy in the pots and would thrive if given proper space and care. No pics of them either, given they haven't fruited in ages!

Tomatoes are also a fruit - but that's a whole other post!

Friday, December 9, 2011

That's a pretty fruity balcony you've got there ...

Indeed my balcony garden is so fruity, the apples grow upside down! If you recall a post a long while back - I decided to 'fruity' up my balcony in order to skimp on buying soil all the time. It worked a little - or maybe it just cluttered the balcony up even more - but either way the 6 fruit trees are here to stay, and it looks like this summer they are earning their keep. For those who aren't in the know, the balcony garden houses six fruit trees - they are (in order of entrance into the BG world)

A Lemon Tree (gifted by my dear friend the not-so-stinking Hippy G, probably Meyer, was kind of sickly, but seems to be happier now)
A Nectarzee (gifted by my birth mother, has issues with leaf curl but holding on)
A Tahitian Lime (gifted by me, to me, because, well, I wanted my friends to have G and Ts with style)
A Golden Delicious Apple (a me-gift again, but I love this apple, it's my favourite kind)
A Granny Smith (because every good apple tree needs a companion)
A Fig (gifted by the lovely Ms M for my 30th)

So how are they faring overall? The lemon tree has always struggled, but a larger pot, some care and careful fertilising and a prime position means it is covered in little lemons this season. When I say covered, I mean about 10-12, but when a usual crop is lucky to have more than one this is a total blessing.

The lime is less successful, no doubt because of its youth, the way-too-small pot, and lack of adequate fertilisation. He'll be my next care and repair task. At least he keeps on flowering, in the faint hope he will fruit, which smells divine.

The apples are amazing! They're still young but they're fruiting and unlike other growers who let their trees mature, I'm letting it fruit. I don't care what anyone says and how much they say this'll hurt the tree. I'm a free range gardener and if my younguns wanna let loose and fruit then so be it. I thinned the fruit back though, and they still look happy and healthy and I can't wait to try an apple in the later summer/autumn months.

Mr fig twig - he aint no twig anymore - and he is fruiting happily and well. Rust is still an issue, mostly because I keep not attending to it!

The nectarzee (that's a dwarf nectarine for the uninitiated) had huge problems with leaf curl, at least it did in the past. While one branch was affected this year the rest of the tree came away unscathed. I am loathe to spray for it, and seems my little fighter fended for himself. There are two nectarines ripening this year, so cannot wait to nibble on them both.

Spiders are a problem with all the fruit trees, they seem to have made themselves at home. Not a problem in a large garden, with large trees, but for an arachnaphobe with a balcony garden of small trees it can be a bit of a problem. At the moment we are in a pretend-ignorant coexistance, but it is an uneasy truce. I'll keep you posted if arachnowar goes down.

So what fruit trees do you grow? Any tips?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Happy Belated Blog Birthday

My Blog turned three, and I didn't even notice! ooooooopsss. Sorry blog. That means the balcony garden is more than three years old! And boy has it changed over time - from this in its first year:

to this!

It has grown up and out and over and through. Well happy belated birthday blog!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Garlic Breath

Gosh do I love garlic, though it doesn't really like me. It has to be cooked, and cooked well, or I get a little case of the ouchy insides. But never mind that because I love garlic and eat it on a regular basis (leading to rampant garlic breath ... maybe that's why I'm still single ... or it could be the workaholism, alcoholism, and utter nutjobism ... nah totally the garlic!)

It goes in garlic soup, in stir fries, chilli, goodness I even just cook it up and add it to a salad. It is healthy (as viewed in most cultures) and has some medicinal benefits (again seen by most, but not all cultures)

Mike over at Urban Organic Gardener had a great, detailed post on growing garlic - though note for us Aussies, planting time isn't until Autumn, early Winter. Most people follow the rule of planting garlic on the shortest day of the year, and pulling it out on the longest day of the year. It's probably the best rule of thumb, but as usual I throw rules out the window. I planted this year's crops back in April and May and a last lot in June. Most of the tops are dying off now (or have already died off) which means it is ready for harvest.

And harvest I did - well 3 of the pots at least. The spoils were pictured at the beginning of this post. There are about 3 more pots last to harvest. They're small cloves, but boy do they pack a punch. Tasty, bitey yet slightly sweet?!?!? I've been using them where I can and gave a few away to friends. The haul is small, pots don't allow for much soil, so I fertilised these guys often. Maybe I need to plant elephant garlic to get a decent sized clove?!

Garlic takes ages, but it is well worth the wait in my view. And I plant them in slightly shallower pots (probably hurts the size factor) but it means I can layer then around the garden around the bigger pots for variety and a play with height.

Do you grow garlic? Do you have any tips to share? What's your cure for garlic breath?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Springtime for Mister Balcony Garden

Yes it has been a while, a very long while. Spurts of writing here and there but when you have cranked out 100 000 words on man's darker side you tend not to want to write much at all. Slowly I managed to start reading again (non-work books) and teaching took me away from Nazis, but still I couldn't muster the word-power to get back on this blog. But hopefully the winds of change are in town, and the inept balcony gardener can write once more. But just because I haven't written doesn't mean I haven't been gardening! Just take a look at the pic above, and you will see the balcony garden is going very well indeed. No camera cord yet (blame laziness and forgetfulness) so the pics in today's post are brought to you by my trusty little Motorola. Not bad either, if you ask me.

Above is most of the balcony at the end weeks of Spring. It is green, full of spiders and snails and vegetables and fruits are on their way. The flowers of spring have mostly died off, but I plan on adding a few pockets of annual colour here and there, mostly to attract some more bees. The abutilons are attracting birds (much to my delighted surprise) and the lemon and lime blossom works a treat on the bees but you can never have too much wildlife. Speaking of wildlife my neighbour's cat has discovered how to climb the fence, so he is an occasional visitor when I'm lucky.

But what about my pretties? The apples ... they're fruiting amazingly (I almost shed a tear thinning these)

Both the golden delicious and the granny smith have a few fruit left on them. I'm intrigued to see how well they grow.

Tomatoes are also thriving, some planted earlier than others. I'm trying a few varieties to see if they can outrun the early death. No hardcore boring hybrids this year with germ resistance. Instead I planted what I wanted, whether it is a softie and falls down dead at the hint of blight, or is a trusty old workhorse. I chose for flavour, variety, and what was in the shop at the time!!! Two green zebras, a lemon drop, a red tumbler and a black russian round out this year's contenders. I also planted a mortgage lifter in my friend's garden in the hope that it'll grow and she can supply the tomato crack. Here's a pic of the flowering and fruiting red tumbler.

There are also pumpkins (I'll do a whole post of them later) in a pot with corn and beans. Ok when I say pot, I mean mega pot, and yes, I'll post on it all very soon. I actually have two mega pots! There are also figs (just a pic of a bit of Mr Fig Twig below, but there are little fruits growing), nectarines (no pics), lemons (might be more than one this year!!!) and more. Garlic, mint (2 kinds, well 1 in a hanging basket and 1 that's been ravaged by the snails) lettuce, basil and so much more.

Right now we are getting a Spring shower, and the temperature has dropped. It makes me want to go sit in the Garden with a cuppa tea (or a long island version) and take in the Springy goodness. Instead it is back to first year essays! Until next time (and trust me, it won't be so long between posts.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Thanks for the lovely comments while I was away

Coming very soon to an inept balcony garden blog near you:

1. An update on the balcony garden (it's thriving despite my neglect)
2. Possible harvest of apples
3. Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomates (they haven't died yet!)
4. New plants (natives, flowers, pumpkins of ridiculousness, chocolate mint and more)
5. More spider battles (the good, the bad and the very ugly)
6. Snailaggedon part 2 - the re-deadening

and a Phd! Well fingers are crossed on the last one, it's been 8 weeks and counting since I put it in for examination. Should hear back in a month. Let's just hope I passed, so I can be Dr Unemployed, instead of simply unemployed.

Now to find the camera cord (yes I'm still looking for it!) and we will be back in business.

Monday, July 18, 2011


Hi Blog peoples. If you haven't guessed by now the blog is on a little bit of a hiatus. Between the last weeks of PhD writing and losing my camera connector cord I've had little ability to provide good content to this blog. The Thesis is due August 26th and it will be in then for sure. I look forward to sharing the Winter/Spring joys of the balcony garden with you then. For now, think about delicious home grown broccoli, which is what I have been enjoying recently!

Here's a gratuitous photo for posterity:

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Entangled Messiness

I like the word entangled, I use it in my thesis to describe my cohort of writers. It has a messy web of meanings which adds to its flair. Unfortunately I am entangled in a little bit of a less lovely battle, tis quite the quandry really, and it is all to do with the resident balcony garden arachnids.

It has been a particularly bad year for spiders in South Eastern Australia. The weather has meant they have been prolific and I've noticed a surge in numbers on the balcony. Now I am a rather large arachnaphobe. Having been bitten twice I am most definitely shy of them. Redbacks and Whitetails have no room in my life, if I see them they get squished, end of story. Although things like Huntsmans and Daddy Longlegs do a great service to the house I do not wish to see them. They can lurk and hide and do their jobs, just dont come near me or I will let out the most ear piercing squeal and hide in the corner and cry until someone removes them. I am less fearful of little baby spiders, those cute little red mite-like ones for instance. The problem comes with garden spiders. I don't mind the little ones that scuttle away when I turn over a pot with my gloved hands. They can get a little bigger and although I will shudder and get nervous when I see them it isn't squishville for them. No I have a different type of garden spider, he is aggressive and comes at me with all guns blazing. Yes he is just being territorial and I do have a tendency to pull down his web so I'd understand the animosity. It is just that I have no time for a spider like this, oversized, over-aggressive and not welcome on the balcony garden.

Currently he lives in the metal railing of the balcony and I have little chance of catching him and either squishing him or releasing him somewhere else. If only he wouldn't be so aggressive and the webs are becoming a problem. The tricky question is do I spray them to eradicate them or just let nature be? Should I just let Mr Aggressive Arachnid live his life?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Volunteering Rockmelon Presents (alternatively titled My Mum's Melons)

I get volunteer plants, most of them unwanted. From the masses of weeds to the violas that pop up everywhere and are occasionally allowed to live the balcont garden has its share of volunteers. My aunty gets a lot of volunteer plants, usually tomatoes and she lets them live because she thinks they are the hardiest of the bunch.

However Mum had the best volunteer plant of last season - a rockmelon! I have spoken about it before but haven't got around to putting up the pictures. I managed to eat some when I was last in Adelaide and let me tell you, this was one awesome rockmelon, sweet, juicy and perfectly textured.

At Christmas it was simply an uiendified vine. By the time I left I surmised it was either a pumpkin or a melon but was no closer to true identification. Then its melons grew and grew. It grew up and away, hanging fruits over the roses and climbing the trellises put in place for other plants.

All in all it was the best volunteer plant because my family eat a tonne of rockmelon in Summer and this one was for free. Unlike Mum, I don't have a composter in my tiny space (yes I know it is possible but no, I am not starting it any time soon) so there is limited chance of me getting a volunteer rockmelon. And it is very difficult to grow rockmelons in pots ... but has that ever stopped me before?

So stay tuned, there could well be adventures on rockmelonland in the balcony garden next spring!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

An Abutilon Obsession

Abutiltons, Chinese Lanterns, or as I sometimes get confused and say, Japanese Lanterns (I am well aware that China and Japan are very different places, gosh, I am the person who gets mad when someone says their food is Asian without specifying which exact country of origin, but for some reason when it comes to this plant my mind goes away and I often say the wrong name.) They really are rather beautiful aren't they.

I was reading Jamie's blog a little while back (actually a long while now) and he commented on his neighbour's lovely orange abutilon (Chinese Lantern) which overhangs into his garden at times. At my old house in Adelaide Mum used to grow a very large organge abutilon also which seemed to never stop flowering. And there is one at Uni which I keep wishing to take a cutting of but don't desire to be kicked out over such a reason (protesting to keep my office space and funding is another story.)

On a whim last year, when out shopping with my mother on one of her trips to Melbourne we impulse bought a white hibiscus and a red abutilon. I've gushed about this before, and with good reason. It just grows and grows and grows. The guide said to prune it when it stopped flowering but so far it has never stopped flowering and the shape is fine so I don't feel the need to prune it anyway. It is suffering from an inferstation of sorts, ants, and little brown mounds of ickiness (and it looks a lot less healthy than it does in the above picture.) It is scale, evil, evil scale. One old gardening book says take the plant out and burn it. Another says to give it a good rub with rubbing alcohol, another says pest oil but that last one didn't work. I say it is all very hard work and the poor plant has suffered enough. But then it all comes down to a matter of space.

My balcony isn't big by any standards and the greater part of the space is reserved for vegetables and fruit trees. A few flowers float around the place like snapdragons, violas and pansies but these are few. So what flowering bush to get after a red abutilon ...

A yellow abutilon! Instead of branching out and buying a rose or some replacement lavender or any other flower I went with my favourite. It has already outgrown its first pot and looks set to rival its red counterpart in a few months. The flowers are the most beautiful pastel yellow and I can't help but stare at them when I get up in the morning. The abutilon has moved spots on the balcony but I am confident he has his correct home now, next to Mr Fig Twig.

After the yellow abutilon there really wasn't any more room at the inn. Space is a premium and two lovely ever flowering bushes are enough. But then what is this?

A white abutilon! Ooooops ... Ok not actually an oooopppss because I didn't buy it and I have no plans to permanently house it. This was acquired at the same time as the yellow one but the purchaser had no time to take it home so I said I would look after it and keep it safe for a few days. A few months later it is still there, but I don't mind because it really is absolutely lovely. I'll need to pot it up for her soon or it'll run into touble but I am sure, once she takes it and settles it into a potmin her backyard it'll be happy. For now it is with my other abutilons and enabling my little abutilon obsession.

The question remains, what do I do with the decimated red one? Do I

a) bin it entirely and let the yellow one use its space
b) take cuttings from unaffected areas and hope to strike a replacement
c) buy a replacement
d) give up on veggies altogether and form an abutilon sanctuary?

Decisions decisions. Are there any plants that you collect whether by accident or by design or by obsession? My Dad used to collect orchids. OK collect is a bad term, as he had 100 but they were all the same variety!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Harvest Monday

Wow, it has been ages since I last posted! That's the trouble with being in the end stages of a thesis, you miss the days as they fly on by while you are knee deep in words and ideas. The good news is that it is coming together and I should submit on time. The better news is that the Autumnal Harvest is already underway.

Shortly before my self-imposed thesis work-a-thon I planted some Winter crops. In went broccoli, wombok, snow peas (both dwarf and mammoth on a pretty little though slightly dangerous trellis) beetroot, beans, carrots and garlic. I've already sampled a tonne of baby spinach and I can tell you it is divine. I harvest it almost daily. So green, soooooo good for you, and so easy to grow, I don't know why I didn't plant this sooner. I plan on adding more to the garden asap.

Thanks for all the lovely comments while I was AWOL, they are so heartening. I promise to try and write more about the balcony garden and less about theoterical considerations of Third Reich memoir for historians so this blog gets going again! No current pics alas (I've lost the connecting cord for the umpteenth time) but here a pic from a Winter's garden past to get us in the mood for cool weather balcony gardening.

For other harvest posts from around the world visit Daphne's Dandelions.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Harvest Monday

Well wont you just look at my lovely harvest. The corn, the pumpkins, the apples, the potatoes.

Ok so that's just the latest jigsaw. It took me 3 days, not bad for 1000 pieces.

But wouldn't that be just a wonderful harvest. No balcony garden harvest this week, only because I am not there!!! Good old Mr M is looking after my place while I am off in Adelaide visiting the parents. But just because I am away doesn't mean there was no harvest. From this garden we have had all sorts of goodies from eggplants

to rockmelon

and chillis

I cooked the eggplant and chilli in a pasta sauce for the family the other day which was yummy. The rockmelon you see here actually fell off the vine so I am not sure it is ripe which is a shame. I will be checking later today to see if it is salvagable. How was your harvest this week? Head on over to Daphne's Dandelions for more harvest posts.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Pine Mushroom Season

Last year Pine mushrooms made me make a delightful pasta dish. This year it wasn't much different and the delights went with some other mushroom

and this

and this from the balcony garden

and turned into this.

YUM! I love Pine Mushroom season at the Victoria Markets (even if they are a little expensive.)