Saturday, December 22, 2012

Tomato fest 2012

The tomato season it upon us, and I was almost to busy to notice! With uni taking up pretty much all my time, I've been neglecting my other duties. The lovely other half has been tending to the balcony garden and pulling in a wonderful harvest. Photos to come soon. But in the mean time here is a hint of the awesomeness that is tomatofest 2012:

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Ok, I lie a little, it really is just one ripe tomato, and it is long gone now but it is, indicative of things to come! I wanted to post this for harvest monday but TFA has been keeping me busy. I snuck a spare 5 minutes between readings to post this picture of the FIRST ripe tomato on the balcony garden for 2012. It was eaten on Sat, 24th November.

Not the earliest tomato we've had, but it was certainly delicious. There is another cherry tomato ripening on the same tumbler hanging pot bush, and I am hopeful that some of the larger varieties follow suit soon.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tomatoes, Friends, Help

First of all I send my heart out to Missy Piggy who lost her tomatoes to attack by caterpillars blossom end rot. Time for a caterpillar armageddon methinks, as well as some crushed eggshells in the dirt to help the blossom end rot. Finger crossed you get more (or at the plants gone??? there's still time to replant.)

Another friend has been growing Siberian tomatoes here in Melbourne. Now, I know a fair bit about tomatoes, how to grow them, how to eat them, and how to fix a few problems. But I was perplexed by my friend's tomato problem and thought you could help. What's up with this one?:

It has been growing well so far in a raised bed, but n ow has these crinkly bits. Usually rolled up leaves happen at certain times of the day, and it is simply a moisture loss thing, but I've never seen this before. is it even a problem and if so what is it? Tomato-knowitalls to the rescue!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Harvest Monday

Today we harvested ...

IF ONLY! That deliciousness isn't quite ready yet. I doubt I'll see any of the tomatoes ripen before I head off for my Teach for Australia 6 week Intensive, but a girl can only dream. We have cherry ones too:

But we have been easting other yummy things, like some small bits of celery and a tonne of lettuce. Microgreens in every salad and garlic in the cooked things (I'm allergic to raw garlic.)

There should be some amazing havest monday posts in my future because we have 28 tomatoes, 3 golden zucchini, 3 white cucumbers, 2 laden apple trees, a white eggplant, a black capsicum and many, many pots of celery, lettuce, herbs and more. Not bad for a little balcony garden.

Thanks to my lovely other half for the great photos.

If you want to see other people's Monday harvests head on over the Daphne's Dandelions.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Space and how you use it

Following up on queries about just how big my garden is and how I fit so much in there, here are some pics, and some points to help shed some light. This is my balcony from each end:

So you can see it is quite long, not so wide, and shaded in 1/3rd of it by some slats. It is about using whatever space I can to plant the things that I want, and throwing out all sage gardening advice about planting spacings. Here are some more pointers:
  • I once saw this amazing lady on Gardening Australia who has a 'proper in the ground' garden, i.e. a plot with ample space, and she used every square centimetre. Traditional plant spacings went out the window as beans heaped upon more beans and lettuces sidled right up to herbs. And you know what - despite the fears of gardening gurus - her garden was magnificent. Things grew and fruited and flowered and all was well. So, in honour of her, I say to hell with the garden advice, do what you like and plant as closely as you darn well feel like it (just remember which plants are good and bad neighbours.) I mean, what's the worst that can happen? They might die? Well I hate to break it to you but plant death is just a part of gardening. But so is experimenting and finding out what varieties work at what spacings and in what part of the balcony. And really, if they don't work out, then don't plant so much  next season. Don't believe me? See the lettuce below - they should have a good 25-30 cms between them according to normal logic - but that's only a 40cm long pot and that's at least 6 plants in there. Sure they didn't grow massive, but they have lasted several weeks worth of meals, and when they're done, I can grow two more crops in their place before the summer is out (new soil, new or cleaned pot of course.)

  • Or you could grow corn and beans in a medium sized pot. Two of the three sisters in action right here:

  • Better yet, grow 6 types of tomatoes, basil, lettuce and celery in the same pot, I dare ya! (to get an idea of size, this is two large polystyrene containers placed together. We call in megapot here in the balcony garden.

  • It is all about having a mixture, of plant types (vegetable, fruit, tree, flower, native, succulent, etc) of plant heights and planting spaces. Big pots, little pots, vertical pots, hanging pots, fit them in however you can.
  • Don't scrimp on potting mix, if you want lovely flowers and ample veg in small spaces you have to have or make the best. It isn't cheap, and on a student budget I find it tough, but it is something I wont budge on.
  • Vermiculite is also your really, really good friend.
  • Grow things that you like to eat and look at. If you don't like tomatoes, or are allergic to strawberries then don't waste space on them. Can't stand lobelias, then don't plant them. And don't get stressed about free range planting and letting the garden wander where it wants. Worried that those tomatoes could grow to be over 2 metres high and simply wont fit the trellis - awesome! Let's see where they do once they outgrow the trellis. Let the garden amaze and inspire you and lead you to where it wants/can go.
  • Always check the amount of weight your balcony can carry - we don't want it crumbling under the weight of soil and pots and taking you down with it. Plastic pots are a balcony gardeners best friend.

So really just have fun with it and keep experimenting. You'll fill your space and just when you think you can't fit any more plants in you will find more places and ways of getting them in there.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Harvest Monday

Harvest central time on the balcony garden - it is lettuce, lettuce, lettuce leading the way. I can't tell you how many salads we've been enjoying made from this little pot of lettuce. It never seems to end. My favourite was a smoked salmon salad.

We also added some microgreens from this collection as well as a few stray basil leaves from the snail ravaged plants. I figured we may as well enjoy them before the snails finish them off!

Garlic too is beginning to be harvested. The first lot of heads were small, probably not quite ready, but their space was needed and they were wilting so out they came.

And here is a little hint of future harvests ...

With 28 tomato plants in the balcony garden this year, surely we will get at least one delicious little love apple!?!

More harvest posts can be found over at Daphne's Dandelions where she hosts Harvest Monday weekly.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Beer Trap

Another hiatus, this time due to a quick trip back to Adelaide to see the folks. Their garden is awesome and I'll post some pics soon. In the meantime check out the awesome beertrap my lovely other half set up in order to catch the 'snails that ate ALL the basil'. It also seemed a great way to use up a crappy beer.

Though after not catching any with it last night, perhaps we are plagued by snails with more discerning beer tastes.

Friday, September 28, 2012

My place smells like lemons and limes

Out on the balcony the lime and lemon blossoms are making it smell like a perfume factory. After pruning the lime tree, the living room gets to smell just as good.

Yes that is a lime on that branch, but better to leave it on than put it in the fruit bowl. At least for now.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Up with the old and in with the new


The saying is usually out with the old and in with the new. I definitely got the last part right this week in the balcony garden, but the first bit was a little different. Instead of removing plants, I potted some up into bigger surroundings, leaving their pots vacant for newcomers. Oh and I guess I threw out the dead plants from megapot and a few others but who's being pedantic anyway?

Out - Winter greens such as broccoli, kale, snowpeas.

Up - Lime tree and Mr Fig twig into the biggest possible pots
        Hibiscus into the Lime tree's pot
In - Lots of Basil
      Mini White Cucumbers x 2
      Jerusalem Artichokes x 2
      Mixed Lettuce
      Corn x 2 lots of 5
      Purple Bush Beans with the Corn x 2 or 3 per pot
and ...

MORE TOMATOES!!! So many tomatoes. I might be dooming myself to failure, but fingers crossed    the varieties take off. Including the earlier planting discussed in this post, the varieties thus far are:

Red: Mortgage Lifter x 4
        Cherry Red x 2 (plus one more seedling but I might give that away)
        Red Tumblers x 3
        Oxheart (plus again I have a spare seedling which I might give away)

Green: Green Zebra x 2
           (seedling procured but yet to be planted) Aunt Ruby's German Green x 2
Yellow:  Golden Cherry Tomatoes x 3 (two in a large pot with the two red cherries and one on its own)
             Yellow tumbler (I wanted more of these but alas their hardly ever in the shop)
             Wapsipinicon Peach Tomato

Black: Black Krim x 2
           I had a black russian planted but it was very sickly so it got pulled early.

I have my eye on this dwarf heirloom mix from diggers, which would bring the tally, once all planted up to over 20 plants. That's a lot of tomato plants to die off if things go wrong, which they tend to do in this precarious little environment. Fingers crossed we have success this year.  

There is one megapot of tomatoes yet to be planted. The peach tomato, aunt ruby's german green and most of the heirloom mix are earmarked for it. Also, possibly, my lovely other half's mother may have a couple more seedlings for me which we will squeeze in somewhere.

Apart from putting cucumbers into the garlic pots once the garlic is harvested there isn't much more planting to do for the next few months. Time to sit back and  nurture this rather massive and diverse crop.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Hanging Snow Peas

 Yep that's a hanging pot, and yup that's some snow peas. HUH????!!!?? Downwards headed snow peas? Snow peas are meant to climb up a trellis, or pole, or whatever you put in the ground to help support their upward sprawl. But not downwards. I usually make a trellis out of poles and old stockings which works a treat to help them climb. However, this year I tried something new, and much to my surprise it really worked well.

You see a few months ago I realised one of the hanging baskets was empty, and I wasn't sure what to put in it. In summer it holbs tumbler tomatoes and in the past it has been ardorned with flowers or other such things in the winter months. Last year I  just took it down and left a blank space. This year I wanted to experiment, so I threw in some leftover dwarf snow pea seeds. I expected they'd not like the small space, may trellis themselves up the hanging bits, or might just self combust in an act of blatant mutiny. At least they sprouted, so phase one clearly worked.

However, I gave them a slim to none chance of forming a downward habit and draping over the side. Thus heading north, or carking it. But, after a slow start, they did plunge southwards, pulling themselves up and over the edge and heading downward.

I thought gravity might cause the stems to break but no, they were sturdy and bore a lot of snow peas!

I'll definitely try this again next Winter. I have quite a few hanging pots in the garden so I'd like to see if they work equally well. I guess sometimes experiments do pay off. Have you ever gone against the rules in your gardening and succeeded?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Where did Mr Currant Go?

There was a blank space for a nanosecond on the balcony garden. Blink and you missed it. It is now filled with newly emerging corn shoots and some beans. But what was there before? It had been there several years, prosperous at first then slowly dwindling away, disliking its potbound abode.

It was Mr Currant, and overwinter he looks like this:

In spring he began to grow back, with little leaves visible in the blurry picture below.

But by then it was too late,  I'd made up my mind that he was a goner. There just wasn't room for him in this little balcony and he needed to be a free range currant, to roam free in the larger expanse of a real garden. Or the bin.

But I couldn't bin him. We'd been through years together, through many delicious small harvests around Christmas time. He knows I always wanted a white currant and he is ok with that. So what happened to Mr Currant you ask ...

He now lives with my dear friends and their 2 year old son in Bacchus Marsh. He seems to have survived the transplant so hopefully he gives them some years of harvesty enjoyment. Bye bye Mr Currant.

Monday, September 17, 2012

To all the smokers out there

To all the smokers out there please see the picture below for two uses for an ashtray. Both are far more wonderful than using these receptacles to assist your dirty habit. On the left we have an ashtray acting as a repository for stray violas. On the right we have an ashtray acting as a shallow well. Add the contents of the one on the right to the one on the left for best results.

* To any of my smoker friends out there (who are the reason I have an ashtray on the balcony in the first place) I wish no offence and love you all dearly, but really, surely, this might just be a healthier option ...

Harvest Monday of Champions

I guess I've been a bit busy sewing to remember to post Harvest Mondays. But it doesn't mean we've not  had harvests despite the chilly start to spring.

There has been a few small serves of snow peas, swiss chard, kale and broccoli (the last one isn't pictured, because my other half hates it so it is always seperate and mostly forgotten when the camera is about.) I'm using some more of the kale and chard tonight in a stir fry to use up some amazing pulled pork and to celebrate 10 months with my lovely other half.

I also harvested the last of the current crop of megapot carrots, though the bugs got more of these than me.

I am about to remove the broccoli and snow peas to make way for more tomatoes, so the harvests might be quite lena for a few weeks. That said there is some lettuce coming along and if the snails don't eat it all we will have basil soon. Here are the tomatoes just itching to get in the ground:

Want to see more substantial harvests? Head on over to Daphne's Dandelions.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Hot Poppies

I never really thought much of poppies. I love going to Hot Poppy for breakfast (they do a mean French Toast) and it's not like I have a life devoid of poppies. Sure there is the version linked with war remembrance that features heavily in the Australian landscape at various times of the year, and there is the more nefarious version featured in various documentaries about Afghanistan and its neighbours. It is just not a plant I seek out to grow. That all changed with a random Rockery Seed Mix that I threw in megapot. It already brought the beauties of Balsam and Allysum. But it also has not yielded some lovely California Poppies of various colours. The ubiquitous orange:

and also some lovely, creamy yellow flowers:

and some soft, dusty pink.

 The flowers don't last long, and if picked and put in a posy they end up a hot mess in a couple of days. However, overall they've added a hot burst of spring colour to the balcony garden and cost next to nothing. They're a winner in my books.

And finally - check out the foreground blurred bit in the above image - Mr Fig Twig is finding his leaves again! Yippeee

Friday, September 7, 2012

Nectarine Blossomfest 2012

The nectarine tree is always the first to blossom on the balcony. I guess you could argue that the lemon and the lime both really take that honour as they had blossoms well before the nectarine, but given they don't seem to ever stop blossoming I thought I'd take them out of the competition.

The first hint of flowers came a few week's back and I posted about it in GBBD. I'm still surprised this guy stands up to the conditions, I mean he lives so close to the airconditioning unit! Then again it blows out, not sideways, so he is actually pretty sheltered.

More and more blossoms joined the bloomfest, and even leaves began to poke through.

Now only two things remain, and both of them waiting games:

1. Will any of the blossoms turn to fruit?
2/ Will curly leaf strike again (highly likely)

Culry leaf is a major problem in Melbourne with certain stonefruit. It can be somewhat combatted with spraying but the timing has to be right and half the time curly leaf hits anyway. It weakens the tree a bit, and there may be less fruit, but I find it rights itself most of the time. Last year the plant got curly leaf early in the season, then shed those leaves and grew new, non-visibly infected ones. It went on to produce 3 lovely nectarines (one was a surprise) and seemed relatively happy and healthy.

The tree has way more blossom than last year, but that doesn't always translate into more fruit. So many factors are at play here, weather, pollinators, and luck. Fingers crossed I get a few goodies.

What's blossoming in your garden?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Kermit's Other Flowers

Miss Piggy joined the blog follower recently so all say hi to Miss Piggy!!! Thought it only fitting to focus a post upon Kermit's other roses,  well flowers, well indoor plants of sorts. Kermit, the resident indoor pot plant collector was pictured in a recent post with his current floral friend, the ranunculus. But this wasn't his first foray into pot hoarding. He got his first go in indoor por maintenance with a succulent:

He also has a fling with the daphne, but that was short lived and remains unphotographed. He even doted on this random other indoor plant that my Mum grew for me. (in this pic it is behind him, but you get the idea.)

Kermit also isn't the first non-plant dweller in the balcony garden. Remember the lego?? (you can see it in the title picture of this blog.)  Well there are some new adornments in the garden, gifted to me by a lovely cousin. Behold the dragonflies, one with the lemon tree, the other at the base of an apply tree.

Looks like I need to do some weeding! Adds a bit of fun to the balcony garden don't you think.