Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Ridiculous Ranunculus

I picked up this flower/bulb/short lived miracle at Poynton's nursery the other day when searching for early tomato seedlings (victory on that front on which I'll post in a day or two.) It has to be the most ridiculously fluffy flower ever. Just how many petals does one flower want? Are you cold? Do you need your petticoats to stave it off, or for modesty??? Or are you just a show-off? Each flower lasts ages, and just gets fluffier and fluffier.

It is currently making merry with Kermit by the window and has another few flower buds in various stages of undress.

Ridiculous name, ridiculous ruffles but also ridiculously good at making the house a little brighter (then again that could also be the increased sunlight with the onset of 'almost Spring' ...) and Kermit's not about to let go any time soon.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Harvest Monday

There mightn't be many big harvest posts for a while here - I've taken out most of the winter greens and put in the new season's tomatoes! A few stray broccoli stems remain, but they're pretty worn and only hold a couple of edible shoots. Sad really to see the last of the winter crops, though on the other hand ... yay tomatoes.  Before it all goes a little quiet, here is what we have harvested lately:

Carrots, some eaten by me, some by bugs! Apparently only one was photographed, a little golden one. There was also a little purple one and a thumbalina one too. All delicious but I guess not worthy of remembering to capture in a  kodak moment.

Snow peas have been gracing our plates lately. Sadly usually only little harvests, but sometimes just enough to throw in a salad or a stir fry.

I should get one of two more hand fulls of these before they get pulled out. They're in spaces that will be occupied by corn and tomatoes and zucchini and cukes (no, not all the same pot, that would be uncompanion planting!!!)

A few herbs here and a silverbeet leaf there, but really that is it for the moment. Stay tuned for more balcony garden action, or head on over to Daphne's Dandelions and see everyone else's harvest deliciousness.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Rumbling weather and tumbling tomatoes

The heat, wind and promise of possible storms here today and yesterday seems to indicate the dark days of winter are over. So I celebrated by buying tomato seedlings. They don't look like this yet ...

but they should one day. Oh joy, oh fun fun fun happiness, the first of the tumbler tomatoes, and indeed any tomatoes for this season are in the balcony garden. Photographic proof to follow soon, provided they survive the next few windy days.

I would have planted more tomatoes, the pots are ready, but they only had boring old red ones like apollo and grose lisse at the shops. As you all know, there are only two red varieties grown in this balcony garden: red tumblers and mortgage lifters!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Mint + Heater =

Remember the berries and cream mint I wrote about a while ago? Ok well it really was a bit of a blink and you miss it reference in a post about new plants but it was there. I enjoyed this mint, particularly in salads and as a spring roll wrapping. Delicious!

Mint goes in phases, some days it is vigourous, then days later the snails have chewed it to the ground or an errant gardner has left it out in 40 degree heat in direct sun. But it fights back, mint is strong, it is a trooper, it is a virtually idiot proof herb.

But is it strong enough to withstand the backdraft from the heater?

From this pic the berries and cream mint looks pretty messed up. But if you peer closer you will see new growth, new runners, which will help the plant continue long after the dangers of the heater have passed. Yay mint, you're a real trooper! But will you outlast my urge to replace you in that pot with a tumbler tomato?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Growing Kale in a Balcony Garden

Kale was definitely the 'in' green last year. If it was in highschool, this would be the newly popular kid. probably slightly hipster but full of knowledge and oozing cool (if that is actually possible.) It is a nutrient rich powerhouse and very versatile for cooking. The leaves can be wilted over a hot pan like spinach, or even thrown in soup/stirfries for a more earthy taste. Although the balcony garden would squarely sit in the nerdy corner at school I decided it was time to embrace the kale. First off the block was this one (up the back of the picture below), planted in with some lettuce and broccoli.

It grew well, and lasted many months, generally looking bushy like this. Kind of like silverbeet, it allowed me to take the leaves as I needed them.

Eventually the stem grew long, and the top resembled something you would find in a florist (adding to its popularity and versatility, kale was even the 'in' addition to bouquets last year.)

Then, it was time to go, and the kale, in its final repose, looked like this. Quite a dramatic haircut really!

However, never fear kale lovers - for this is not the only kale ont he balcony. I also have a red kale, planted much later, which is the new addition to kitchen funtimes.

 So what are the pros, the cons, and any key pointers for growing Kale in a balcony garden:

Pro: Just like other brassicas it is super nutritious, including vitamin C and other goodies. Of course some of these can get lost in the cooking, but it's better than a burger for you, that's for sure.

 Pro: It grows quickly, and is reasonably hardy. I didn't fertilise much, but did place it in good soil to start witgh. Therefore it is good for a low maintenance garden and no staking or trellising required.

Con: The green variety is snail heaven, and they'll munch on this as happily as you. Aphids also thought the green and the red were the best buffet ever, so vigilence, and possible spraying or other methods will most likely be on the cards.

Con: The taste isn't for everyone. It it very strong, and while I tolerate it in soups, as a side dish it was a little over the top for me. I prefer my brassicas to be of the broccoli kind. However, for those who don't mind the taste, or like their greens to be super strong then this is your leaf.

Point: It looks pretty, has a reasonably compact shape though can grow quite tall. It isn't massive like a purple sprouting broccoli, but does grow to a decent enough size so you should take care considering pot dimensions and placement.

Point: It comes in a few varieties, so if colour is your thing, or you like your veggies to be as ornamental as they are edible, then this gives you a few options

So there you have it. I'll probably grow kale again next winter season, and if I do it'll be in multiple varieties. The lovely other half enjoys it and I like it in recipes where it is not the sole ingredient. It is low maintenance (and goodness knows with starting teaching next year I'll need a low maintenance garden) and it looks darn pretty in my view.

Do you grow kale? Any more tips, points, pros or cons for the readers on this green leafy popular guy?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Even more flowers

Well not exactly flower, but potential flower, and in some cases, potential fruit. These were the pics of bits that didn't quite make it into the garden bloggers blooms day lineup, because they hadn't quite got their bloom on.

The nectarine, buds forming for blossoms. There aren't many so I don't like my chances of actually getting any fruit this year, but fingers crossed.

And little Mr Succulent! See the flowers forming. They will slowly grow out on a long stem, then open. I never really appreciated succulents until I saw them in flower.

So today is dedicated as garden blogger's almost blooms day.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

More and More flowers

If you want flower from the balcony garden you will have to check out the previous post. This post is dedicated to cut flower and all things presenty. Although graduation time means more students and their families loitering around uni, which can be a right pain if you need to get anywhere, it also means the florists are doing peak business. Beautiful flower posies light up union house and make it smell amazing. THey also come with a rather trumped up price tag.

 Rather than spend a motza at those places, the lovely other half picked me up two terrific small bunches of tulips from the markets to celebrate the occasion. One was a luscious, soft pink while the others were my favourite, yellow and orange.

That night I had some of my cousins around for dinner, and they brought with them some lovely lillies.

My vase collection veers towards skinny, slight glass numbers which don't fit such a bouqet. And the tulips were already in the one, colourful bohemoth vase I had left, which was a last vestige of my 21st birthday all those years ago. What's a girl to do? No vase = no way to keep flowers. Solution - Chop them carefully and put them in together!

Over the days they have opened more

and more

and more

Love those flowers.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Garden Bloggers Blooms Day

It has been a couple of years (I think) since I participated in Garden Bloggers Blooms Day. It wasn't for lack of floral bits on the balcony garden, it was simply one of the things that went by the wayside. But I'm back, and with some little floral tidbits from this winter month. Currently blooming:

The four year old geranium (pelargonium for the pedants.) I've never changed its pot, never added soil, never really shown it any care and yet it flowers and flowers and flowers, through any season (we are almost at the end of winter right now, but given the rain and low temps you would think it was mid winter)

Above: random purple flowers from the rockery mix. Anyone know what they are? (I know the ones in the background are violets, it is the ones in the front that have me muddled.) And if you know what that flower is, can you tell me what this one is? Here is a close up on the violets below:

Violas/Johnny Jumpups, jumping up everywhere (wanted and unwanted places alike.)To see what can be achieved in the kitchen with these, visit here.

The Jacobinia is flowering!!! Such beautiful colours but the leaves have thinned. I don't think it is the snails that have been thinning leaves elsewhere but will have to keep an eye on it 

No matter what I did I couldn't get a clear photo of the daphne, which has been flowering the last few weeks. Besides who needs a photo, with Daphne it is the smell which is more divine.

So much of this Allysum growing in the garden, it even overhangs the balcony on occasions (I pull it back in case the body corporate don't approve.)

The lime tree is getting into the action, and so is the lemon tree.

And my favourite at the moment, one very sad looking sunflower. It took all winter to grow and is spindley and sickley but its single flower opened today. Yay sunflower!

May Dreams Gardens hosts the Garden Bloggers Blooms day, so head on over there to see many more garden in full bloom.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Dinner for the Dr

Been a little busy this week. Cleaned the house ready for the man to move in, donned a funny red and black cape thingy and hat, and dined at Vue de Monde. Just a regular week, regular goings on, and just a regular little meal ... you can read about it here. Ok the meal was anything but regular, it took many hours, covered tonnes of courses and was the most amazing evening. And the week has been amazing too. It isn't often you get to graduate after penning 122000 words and worrying through a 5 and a half year wait. Don't believe they really gave me a degree??? Here's proof:

And here's more proof, ok that's just me in the hat and gown with a giant umbrella, but they don't just give these hats away you know.

 Good luck to those readers who are completing their studies. Malay-Kadazan girl I'm looking in your general direction! Hang in there, and I am sure you will get the graduation soon.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Harvest Monday: All About my Broccoli!

Lemons may be gone from the balcony garden, though dear friends are still harvesting them by the bagfull from their proper lemon trees and sending them my way. However, that doesn't mean there hasn't been a winter harvest for me this week. This harvest post is about the almost the last of my green friend, Mr Broccoli.

The lovely other half doesn't like broccoli so it is all for me.

It is mostly side shoots now, but they're pretty sizeable. This lot was boiled quickly then frozen for later consumption. Delicioussssssssssssssss.

Not much else has come out of the balcony garden this week, a bit of lettuce and a few herbs were pretty much it. But it is winter so any harvest is a good harvest. What are you harvesting this week? Check out Daphne's Dandelions for some slightly more complete harvests.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Diggers and the Whatsthehuhnow Peach Tomato

If you had been in the vicinity of my friend's house around 11pm Saturday night you would have heard a few odd things. Firstly was a declared cheesecake hater have a very dramatic change of heart due to my raspberry cheesecake trial (I am baking one for my graduation dinner and given I'd never baked a cheesecake before I thought I better give it a trial. It was heavenly.) The second was an in depth conversation about just how common Autoimmune problems were amongst my little group of friends! Arthritis, almost Lupus, actual Lupus, Coeliacs - we/they're a mixed bunch. The third thing you would have heard was far funnier or at the very least, far less depressing. With Diggers catalogues in hand Ms G and I were trying, without much success, to pronounce this little number:

Tomato Wapsipinicon Peach 
(Lycopersicon lycopersicum)

Ms G with her several alcohol beverages was much closer to correct pronunciation than I, who, sober as a judge still couldn't wrap my mouth round the syllables. But it is this tomato that is going in the balcony garden this summer (along with quite a few others as after a few years of hiatus the big balcony tomato crop is going to try to make a resurgence.) Only I'm not getting mine from Diggers (sorry Diggers, you guys rock! Mr Fig Twig was a diggers seedling. So when I have a bigger garden I'm stocking up with you!) My lovely other half, who as you have witnessed in earlier posts is an expert present giver, gave me some seeds for this odd little tomato which he had procured from a farmers market. Awesome. Only issue is with the wilt on the balcony I can't seem to make tomato seeds grow to fruitition (they die around the flowering stage.) Problem ...

Solution! Ms G is going to germinate them at her house and give me one or two! Oh how I love my friends and my boyfriend who is now my soon to be live in balcony garden helper!