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.

THE WIND

The breath of life is in the sunlight and the hand of life is in the wind.
Kahlil Gibran

I love watching the wind rustling the leaves in the treetops, but the last couple of weeks, the gusts have been downright ferocious (as I mentioned in a previous post) and left many of my new Spring seedlings completely bent over like little old ladies planting rice paddies with a permanent stoop.

After another 2 day absence from home this past week, most plants have been revived with a good watering which encourages them to stand up straight again the next morning.   My Tuscan Kale had to be tied up between 3 bamboo stakes as it was just too tired to stand up on its own after yesterday’s wild wind.

Some other tiny seedlings like the Asian lettuce varieties are beyond recovery and will need to be replaced next time I go to the local Bunnings Plant Nursery.

My 3 tomato varieties are looking very ‘ordinary‘ and nothing like the lush thick foliage I had on my Tomato ‘Patio’ in the Spring/Summer of 2017.   I know they’re a different variety, but somehow, I really thought they’d have more foliage.

Perhaps they’re meant to have light foliage?  I’ve never grown these varieties before.

TOMATO #1 (left) Tomato Truss Sweet & TOMATO #2 (right) Tomato Sauce Maker

The Sweet Basil planted to be ‘companions’ have barely grown at all! (as you can see in the base of the Tomato plants above.

What is wrong with those Basil plants I wonder?  Not enough sun?  Too much wind?

I found 3 tiny tomatoes last week with 3 more miniature gems on the ‘Sweet Truss’ Tomato yesterday.

Tomato Plant #2 – Tomato Sauce Maker – has plenty of flowers, but no fruit yet (below).

Tomato Plant #3 – Tomato Genuwine – has only a hint of flowers (below).

The Beetroot plants have picked up in the last 2 days and are growing very well indeed.   I could use the leaves in salads already, but since I’m growing them this year for Beets, I’ll allow the leaves to stay in case they’re needed to keep the plant growing.

The Japanese Maple in front of my balcony has flowers!

I’ve never seen Maple flowers before and certainly not in the last 3 years since I moved to this western suburb.

………and the Superb Fairy-wrens have been absent, except for the bright blue feathered male below.

Even he was reluctant to show his face yesterday, as though he is embarrassed about leaving his ‘lady-loves’ stuck at home nest-sitting and bored out of their avian minds.

 

 

BEETROOT (Beta vulgaris)

In all my images and posts on my Balcony Garden this Spring, I think I forgot to mention Beetroot.   I love the tiny leaves in salads and the larger leaves as a steamed vegetable.   These larger leaves are an acquired taste though.   They’re stronger in taste than spinach.

A bit like Sorrel, but perhaps not as bitter.   Perhaps Kale is a better comparison?

In general, the leaves attached to the Beets in the supermarket are pretty stale and I throw them in the bin, but fresh, green and not too large, like those I bought a couple of weeks ago, are delicious.

Organic Beetroot from the Collingwood Children’s Farm farmer’s market near inner Melbourne

This Spring, for the first time, rather impulsively, I bought a punnet of seedlings and planted them in my large veggie trough as an experiment.   I don’t really have the room or deep enough pots for root vegetables, although I’m always open to a challenge – Trial and Error is my gardening philosophy (and some might say……my second name).

My book Small Space Big Harvest mentions root vegetables though (ISBN 978-1-74033-338-2).   By the way, I just love this book my brother gave me for Christmas 2 years ago.

It’s packed full of great advice, creative ideas, but more importantly, very good photos.  Many of the images are close-ups and much better than most gardening books.

I like to see examples in gardening and cookery books.

 

You’ll never ever know (if you never have a go).

13th OCTOBER, 2019 – MY EXPERIMENTAL BEETROOT SEEDLINGS ARE FINALLY STARTING TO GROW

Beetroot, as we call them in Australia (the U.S. calls them Beets), are an excellent root crop (and apparently will store for months).  Growing up in my family meant beetroot was on the menu daily in the summer and we never stored them fresh in a root cellar or dark pantry, as we ate seasonally from my Mother’s large vegetable garden (with the summer excess bottled and/or made into sauces or chutneys).   I don’t remember seeing bottled beetroot in the enormous dark cupboard above our fridge.  Perhaps we only ate it in summer.

 

In more recent times, I’ve started roasting them.  I even tried juicing them in my Nutri Bullet.   (my juice extractor died about 15-20 years ago and I never replaced it as it was such a chore to wash all the attachments).   I’m seriously thinking about buying another juicer, but in the small galley kitchen I have in this studio apartment, not sure where I’d put it.

Packed with essential nutrients, beetroots are a great source of fiber, folate (vitaminB9), manganese, potassium, iron, and vitamin C. Beetroots and beetroot juice have been associated with numerous health benefits, including improved blood flow, lower blood pressure, and increased exercise performance.

Beetroot is best grown quickly and responds well to fertiliser.  Beetroots require well drained, friable soil in a well mulched, sunny spot according to the plant nursery label.   The label also says to harvest when the roots are no bigger than a tennis ball.

IF mine grow, and I had my doubts for the first 3 weeks or so, I’ll probably be harvesting the beets when they’re much smaller.

 

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

Weather means more when you have a garden.  There’s nothing like listening to a shower and thinking how it is soaking in around your green beans.

Marcelene Cox

I HAVE BEEN WATCHING & WAITING, WATCHING & WAITING AND FINALLY, MY FRENCH BEANS ARE BEGINNING TO GROW – I’ve never grown beans before.