THE BEGINNING OF THE END

After much thought, I decided to harvest/pull out about 1/3 of my Balcony Garden last Saturday.   The sight of the damaged (or dead) leaves was a wee bit depressing.

I decided the Dead, Damaged or Dying are not worth the nightly chore of carting heavy water cans of water from the kitchen tap each evening at dusk (when one has permanent bad lower back and hip pain).

I’ll leave the chore of washing the 2nd lot of dust off the balcony tiles a bit longer.   Seems like the rain is carrying much dust permanently, (and perhaps taxic chemicals?) in recent days.   I certainly have to wash the cut Herbs multiple times before using.

This year’s crop of Blueberries has amounted to about 2 dozen small, fairly tasteless, berries over a two month period, instead of last years small delicious handful every day (for 3 weeks or so).   All those hundreds of blueberry flowers a few months ago amounted to nothing (above).

The leaves, after I cut off the worst damaged, still look pretty burnt and brown (below) and despite pouring water over the leaves, most leaves still have dust on them (below)

The bush is looking as sad as I feel.

On Saturday I didn’t get around to taking out the 3 Heirloom tomatoes which have deteriorated so much. While they withstood the 44C (112F) day some week ago, the Dust Storm (and subsequent heavy rain leaving a second covering of red dust) has really had an adverse effect (as I mentioned in a previous post).

Wouldn’t you know it – on Sunday, some of the 22 tiny green Truss Tomatoes, which have been green for weeks,  started to change colour and ripen.   This is the second time I’ve thought about taking the plants out, left them one more day, and the fruit changed colour.

Methinks nature is doing this to tease me.

So I’ll leave that one in a bit longer, despite the fact it looks more like an ‘anorexic‘ bush with a few dead or dying branches and leaves, instead of the bright lush green bush at the start of Spring (below).

THE TOMATOES LIGHT UP WITH A RICH GOLD HUE IN THE GOLDEN HOURS OF THE DAY AROUND DUSK.

Tomato #3 – ‘Genuwine’- has 2-3 new flowers on it and a few new leaves.   Rather pale and insipid compared to the rich greens denoting the start of Spring.   The rest of that bush is almost dead.

Within 24 hours, all the herbs I cut down to 1-2″ (about 4 cm) stubble burst into tiny new shoots.

I regularly prune or give my herbs a ‘haircut’, so cutting off 90-99% of the foliage and branches is actually no big deal.

I cut the dead flowers and spindly branches off the grey-leafed Curry Plant and it’s looking much better (below).  All the branch tips have new shoots.

The only herb not sprouting is the dead Sage seedling which I only bought about 3-4 weeks ago.   It was thickly coated in red dust and despite lots of watering by me in an attempt to wash the dust off, failed to recover.    I’ll leave the dead stubble in the long trough as that plastic trough has a Rocket plant either end which has already started sending out new leaves.

In fact, the Rocket seedlings which I harvested will be ready for another harvest in about 5-7 days at the rate they’re growing (below).

The Rocket leaves 24 hours after being cut down to stubble are already starting to sprout .

The Perennial Basil, of which I cut about 99% off, is starting to sprout too.

Basically, many of the Herb leaves suffocated.   

My Rosemary doesn’t look as good as usual either, but I’ll leave that in the pot in the hope Autumn and Winter rains and some Osmocote slow-release fertilizer pellets revive it.   It usually grows well in the Australian hot summer, but the severe dust storm was a whole new ‘ball-game’ for it to contend with.

My Balcony Garden gets a lot of dust from the construction site on the other side of the road in the last few months, but this Dust Storm was a major calamitous event for it.   I often find sawdust covering the plants and balcony floor, so I’ll be well & truly glad when the apartment building is finished – if that EVER happens LOL 😀

I am just fed up with the noise of nail guns, electric saws, loud radio music and sometimes………loud swearing drifting across to my apartment and waking me up in the morning.   I have been known to swear occasionally, but all $%#@ day like the construction workers?   I guess the workers don’t realize how much the sound carries from the cliff face down to the apartment block below.

NOT LARGE, BUT THIS YEAR’S BEETROOT ARE GROWING IN THE SMALL SPACE.

I pulled all the Beetroot out and cooked the golfball-sized beets and they were delicious – more earthy in flavour (compared to the supermarket variety).

Remember my gorgeous crop of leaves which I’ve been cutting raw for salads as well as cooked as a dinner vegetable or omelette ingredient?

Beetroot leaves are packed with high amounts of vitamins and nutrients, including iron, protein, calcium, magnesium, zinc and fibre. They also are extremely low in calories, fat and cholesterol.   No wonder they are ranked among the top 10 healthiest foods on some websites.   I usually cut the leaves when they’re relatively small.   This year is the first time I have left them for long enough to harvest beets to cook.

Kale (of which I have none at the moment) is another dense nutrient-packed green leafy vegetable.   I usually have at least one plant growing all year round.

I’ll wait until the end of the hot summer to plant another seedling though.

I took out the French Bean plant as well.   It has never really cropped much since the leaf damage.  I think I can see black dots or insects on the underside of the leaves too.

Perhaps I now have a pest on them.

 

 

I’ve snipped off the dead and dying leaves from the 2 Flat-leaf Parsley plants in the bright blue trough and left it on the ground and now that it’s away from that hot fence railing, they seem to be OK.   I wondered if it was the burning hot railing that damaged it, not the storms and severe 44C day a few weeks ago.

It wasn’t until I was washing the dust off the fence rail that I realized the metal was as hot as a stove hotplate on high.

Don’t know how the Sparrows (and Wrens) can tolerate standing on the metal on superhot days.

Then the pests moved in with their voracious appetites the other week and took hold of some of the other herbs (Sorrel) below.

I found mint leaves stuck together with the faint outline of caterpillars under a web of cocoon threads.

The Sorrel leaves had round bite marks but I can find no caterpillars, so that might be Harlequin Bug infestation like I had last year.

So…….’off with its head’ as the saying goes.  The sorrel (and 2 Mint plants) pruned down to 1-2″ stubble.   I usually cut the Sorrel down to stubble once every month or so anyway.  

This ensures a lovely new crop of fresh young leaves within a week (example below).

So, in general, don’t be afraid to prune your herbs back hard if the leaves start to get a little bitter, or the plant grows unruly on your limited balcony or courtyard space.

Most will regenerate and offer up new young leaves for your kitchen.

Regretfully, this is the beginning of the end of this Summer’s crops.   Premature I may be in pulling some out, but I don’t see any sense in wasting my precious energy watering crops that are so sickly.

Never mind, there’s always next year  🙂

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”
Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

In the meantime, I’m nurturing the 3 Herb seedlings my friends brought me a couple of weeks ago.   It’s far too hot on my balcony for the Coriander anyway.  So they stay indoors for the time being.

2019/2020 Summer has left a devastating impact on the Australian environment.   Now, will the politicians stand up, take notice and do something about Climate Change.

THAT IS THE QUESTION ON EVERYONE’S TONGUE THESE DAYS!

Australian Government, stand up, and act (otherwise you’ll be out the door in the next election).

This will be the last post on my Balcony Garden for a while unless I have something exciting to share.

Every time I say that, something pops up to photograph, so it’s a good sentence to use when I want Opportunity to Knock on My Door.

A BALCONY GARDEN UPDATE

#1 HEIRLOOM TOMATO PLANT IS CLOSE TO HARVEST

My Balcony Garden looked almost like a jungle yesterday, so what with the day bursting with sunshine and brilliant blue sky, I got straight down to work after lunch and pruned, groomed, re-potted and…….scrubbed the seepage stains off the large concrete tiles – well, most of them, (and dare I say I ended up so stiff that I could barely get out of bed this morning 😀 ).

The baby spinach has ‘bolted’ (just like the rocket did the first week after it was planted in early September).   See the upper half of the image below.

I transferred the Perennial Basil to a larger pot which I’d been meaning to do for a couple of months but hadn’t a large plastic pot free back then.   (I’ve got so many potted plants this year, I really don’t want to waste money on more plastic pots, so I just waited for natural attrition, if that’s the right word).  Herbs don’t usually like being moved once they’ve got established, but I’ve found in the past, that as long as you don’t disturb the roots too much and keep the water up, they survive and thrive upon transplanting……well, they do for me.

I’ve got several empty pots at the moment as plants have keeled over and died in the heat and wild weather.  Many of my herbs are not looking too good at the moment, but with the weekend and early next week almost back to winter temperatures and rain forecast, some plant growth should get a boost.   Did I say cold and rain (for the first week of Summer here in Melbourne)? 

Heirloom Tomato #2 (below) has got so many green tomatoes, I feared the branch would break, so did a lot of re-staking and re-tying to my bamboo canes yesterday also.  One of the other branches has more new flowers so that heirloom tomato variety is definitely a ‘winner’.

I wish they’d ripen though.   I’m getting impatient and I usually have all the patience in the world.    Perhaps I’m impatient as the 3 new Tomato plants are all new Heirloom varieties and I can’t wait to taste them.

Heirloom Tomato #3 has yet to fruit, but this plant has lots of flowers as I mentioned in the last garden update (below) so ‘fruit babies’ are due very soon.

Even my Rosemary bush is looking a bit ‘ordinary’ and rather glum (well, glum was more a description of how I was feeling).   I might have got a bit over-zealous with the watering of this hardy Mediterranian Herb which should stay on the drier side.

For the first time in many years, I haven’t got any Harlequin Bugs or Cabbage Moth Caterpillars in the new burst of new Spring growth.   Amazing……. or Worrying…….. I don’t know how to interpret their absence.  The original post on caterpillers says it all (in the past).

Maybe, even they, are giving my garden a ‘wide berth‘ and snacking elsewhere (out of the wind).

But the funniest sight was the House Sparrows and male Superb Fairy-wren standing on the balcony fence looking here, there and everywhere, for the Parsley long trough I usually have attached to the balcony fence railing.   (sorry I haven’t a photo of the birds as I didn’t get the camera out of its soft pouch in time).

In the end, late yesterday afternoon, they flew down to the English Parsley seedlings I’d planted in other pots and had a nibble.

I hadn’t hidden the Parsley trough.   I’d merely put it on the balcony floor (above) in preparation for buying and planting a new Italian ‘flat-leaf’ parsley to fill in space previously occupied by one (in the other half of the English Parsley trough).

The Italian Parsley had gone to seed some weeks ago.

I pruned the Lemon Verbena back to half as it was nearly dying in the hot sun.   I’ve now moved it up the north (or right-hand side) of the balcony which gets less hot sun in the afternoons and it is starting to throw out new shoots.

It’s probably the weird and wild weather we’ve been having in Melbourne (and across the whole eastern side of the country) that’s changed so much of the growing habits of this small balcony garden.

I plucked off all the yellow and dying leaves of the other 2 Mint plants and given them more water and they’ve sprung back to the prime of health (below).

At least I have a nice handful of French Beans ready and waiting for dinner over the weekend.   It seems like only a week ago I had one bean about 1″ long.   Now they’re growing thick and fast and I’m pleased to say my first trial, with growing green beans on my hot west-facing balcony, seems to be a complete success.

ONE OF THE SMALL POTTED MINTS, THE TARRAGON AND THE VIOLETS (WHICH I’D PRUNED BACK AS IT NEARLY DIED), COME INDOORS FOR THEIR WEEKLY RESPITE FROM THE WIND.

I keep turning, moving & swapping plants around with 2-3 small pots coming indoors for a break from the sun & wind regularly, but moving the pots around yesterday revealed more of the sawdust blown over the road from the construction site in last week’s storm.

DESPITE SWEEPING THE BALCONY LAST WEEK, THERE’S STILL A LOT OF SAWDUST UNDER THE POTTED PLANTS AS I DISCOVERED WHEN I MOVED THEM AROUND YESTERDAY.

It’s all very well to grow plants on one’s balcony, but being a rented apartment does mean I have to keep it clean & tidy as per my lease agreement (just in case you wondered why I make so much effort to tidy up so often).

I hadn’t scrubbed the tile floor for some time and it was getting to be quite stained from both watering and watering with diluted seaweed fertilizer in the watering can.

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Just spotted a new couple of House Sparrows on the fence.   They’re so small, I assume they’re this Spring’s hatchlings.  I managed to catch one with the telephoto lens, but the light was behind it, so not necessarily as good a photo as those made on the southern end of the fence.

Almost all avian visitors in the last couple of days have been very small, so I assume they’re ‘newbies’ to my apartment balcony.   Once they explore a bit more and get used to the birdbath, I’m sure I’ll get some better photos.

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……and I also spotted 3-4 of the tiniest Fairy-wrens I’ve ever seen on the fence 20 minutes ago – both male and female – but they flew down into the thick foliage of the Japanese Maple.   I watched their shadows move around the tree for a while, but couldn’t get any photos.

Sorry about that – they were so cute and obviously recently hatched.

BALCONY BABIES

I must have missed it yesterday.

I must have missed it last night (as I quenched my garden’s thirst).

But this morning, the minute I opened the roller blinds I saw it.

Or should I say them.

Tomato variety #2

2 new babies.

One, perhaps 24 hours old, and the other………………..born in the last few hours before dawn (?)

Tomato #2 is the proud parent, (and I am the proud Grandmother), of 2 new babies 😀

 

……….and finally, new leaves on my Sweet Basil plants (there are 6 Basil seedlings – 2 at the base of each Tomato bush to act as Companions).

I couldn’t have been happier this morning.  My Spring garden for 2019 is finally beginning to ‘flesh out’.   I’ve got a few empty pots at the moment.   I pulled out the Italian Parsley which had gone to seed and the Asian lettuces and Rocket, both of which had bolted’  and turned yellow, out yesterday afternoon.

It’s going to be fine (and even hot) over the next 4 days, so time to clean the windows for bird photography purposes and decide on what to fill the empty pots with.

Eliza’s suggestion of some fertilizer must have done the trick for the Basil seedlings.

NOTE: If anyone has any suggestions for my veggie gardening efforts, please don’t hesitate to voice them in the comments section.   All constructive suggestions and/or criticism is welcome.   Apart from my short-term memory problem (when I tend to forget what I’ve read the previous day), all vegetable garden efforts are usually experiments on this hot west-facing balcony.

Once the really hot weather arrives, I have the air-conditioning on indoors and the outlet spews out hot air over the north end of the balcony, so usually much re-arranging has to be done.

Herbs?  Well, I used to have a large Herb Garden about 35 years ago, but that wasn’t a hot west-facing garden, so I am having to concentrate on more of the Herbs that will grow in hot sun nowadays.   The Meditteranean Herbs.

I wish I lived in the country, but then I suppose I’d have the larger pests crawling under fences and grazing on the grapevines and orchard as my brother has.