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.

VIOLA (or Heartsease)

Yesterday was one of those gorgeous Spring days filled with sunshine and the chirping of birdsong.   Perfect day to be outdoors gardening.

I planned on potting up my new Spring seedling purchases, but didn’t quite finish the task.

A second round of plant shopping at the local Hardware/Plant Nursery Warehouse on Tuesday meant I ran out of plastic pots yesterday and I couldn’t decide on what size container to re-pot my pot-bound Blueberry “Nellie Kelly” anyway.

The trouble is that the next size up from the current Blueberry pot is really quite large and when filled with soil may end up being too heavy to lift.

I have to lift, or turn, my potted plants every couple of days as they tend to grow towards the west (where the sun travels after rising over my apartment building).  To get even foliage growth on each vegetable, herb or flower, turning the pots regularly is mandatory.  And once the hot summer arrives and the air-conditioning outlet on the balcony spews out hot air, I have to move the pots mostly up to the southern (or left-hand side as I look out my windows) of the balcony.

I shall have to go back to the Plant Nursery – a third time in a fortnight 😀

Bunnings Hardware Warehouse plant nursery
Plenty of herb and veggie seedlings to choose from.

Methinks I’m a plant shopaholic.

Put me in a large Plant store and I’m like a mischevous child in a lolly shop (candy store).

I often feel tempted to look around the plant aisles in case I’m caught in the act of over-indulging.  I always get a shock at the receipt $$$ after the cashier has rung up the items in my shopping basket.

So many colours and plant varieties at the store forced me, (yes, forced me 🙂 , well that’s my take on the matter), to splurge out on a couple of flowering plants to break up the  mass of greenery in my balcony garden.

It won’t be until the mid/end of Summer, that my herbs have any flowers.

Violas are undoubtedly one the most delightful of all flowers to grow with their delicately marked, almost hand-painted-looking dainty flowers.  They are a picture for months on end.

You can find them in just about every colour of the rainbow with many featuring multicoloured blooms.  Violas have slightly smaller flowers than Pansies (which I also viewed enthusiastically at the Plant Nursery).

I used some of the new Tomato/Herb potting soil which is probably a wee bit too akaline, but never mind, if they grow they grow, if they keel over with the new potting soil – they keel over.

I potted up this plant in an old low terracotta pot which was the only spare one left and would do nicely to sit on my desk.

(after breaking all my beautiful ornate expensive pottery containers some years ago when I lived on the south-east side of Melbourne, I stick to cheap plastic pots these days.   This low terracotta pot is the only ‘breakable’ one left).

My lounge room gets plenty of light from the floor-to-ceiling windows across the whole width of the room.

(I have grown vegatables and herbs indoors, but some don’t like the reverse cycle heater/air-conditioner on the wall).

At least I got the Peace Lily (indoors) repotted up to a larger pot 😀

Supposed to rain today, so I’ll be indoors ‘pretending’ to do the ironing and household chores 🙂

P.S. I almost forgot, not in the photo above, but I bought another large Mint bush.   Can’t have the little Fairy-wrens running out of their favourite grazing ‘salad’.

So that makes 3 lush Mint bushes in round, or higher, pots and the rather pitiful remnants of the original mint plant in the low trough which the Superb Fairy-wrens and House Sparrows use as a smorgasbord for morning and afternoon tea.

The Mint in the low trough keeps sprouting new leaves and the Wrens and Sparrows keep snacking on the new young leaves leaving a rather untidy stunted mess.

Here’s a re-run of some of the images you’ve seen before (below).   The bush in the low trough looks rather unsightly, but since my young avian friends enjoy their picnic on the bush(es), I can’t bear to toss it out in favour of a large, more robust bush.

NO EXPLANATION NEEDED

If you’ve been following my nature blog and reading about my balcony garden exploits in the past, you’ll be pleased to hear…..

I saw a BLUE berry yesterday…….

Then I turned over leaves where I knew bundles of green berries had been hiding…….

Ate all the 6-7 berries straight off the bush……and then went to get the cotton bird netting to cover it.  Only comment I can say is that I hope the rest ripen through the netting.

…..and I hope, what I suspect is……the plant is pot-bound and that doesn’t affect the future ripening.  If the bush grows much larger, I’ll have to give it to my brother to plant in the ground up at his farm.

I suppose I should cut off a piece, but since it was a small roll of netting, I’ve just bundled the excess up with a rubber band and left it on the ground.

Whoopee! 😀

Blueberries for Christmas.

SHOT OF THE DAY

Yesterday was very windy (just as the other 360+ days of the year are around my outer western suburban apartment 🙂 ).

But my Shot of the Day shows there’s never time for a ‘make-up and hair session‘ before the day’s bird photography session.   So with feathers flying this way and that, here was the shot.  Can’t remember if it was through the glass window I’d washed the day before, OR simply, right angle, right time of day with no reflections or marks on the glass.

Probably the latter.

SUPERB FAIR-WREN (female)

I’d spent most of the afternoon in my balcony garden the day before and soon discovered all the larger pots are now too heavy for me to move around.  I suspected many were pot-bound and in one rather ground-breaking, (and somewhat sad), moment, made the decision to dismantle and ditch all large potted plants (including the 3 now-empty) pots  meant for this summer’s tomato crop.

Not sure that the next size pots I have are deep enough for a tomato plant (as shown in last summer’s tomato crop below).  You all know how excited I was in anticipation of another bumper tomato crop.

When I cut off all the tall Rosemary branches into small pieces and tipped out the plant/soil, I was shocked to discover just how pot-bound it was.

I couldn’t see any shred of soil left, only a basket weave of tightly woven roots in the shape of an elongated square.  I should have photographed it as, you gardeners out there would never have believed your eyes.

I didn’t.

I’ve never seen such a pot-bound plant……even on my favourite TV gardening show Gardening Australia where presenters have shown how to re-pot a plant that is pot bound.

If you’ve followed my balcony gardening efforts through recent years, you will appreciate what a hard decision this was.  But the recent heart scare and short stay in hospital re-inforced my thought process.  I have to be more sensible in lifting weight with (inherited) Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy.

Anyway, back to the garden…….

When that gorgeous Nemesia (above) is finished that large pot will be emptied.  Well, its supposed to be an annual, but with my micro-climate, it may bloom for some time yet.

I’ll keep the white Alyssum and Kale pots until the flowers/vegetable are finished and then empty those, although I hope to get some decent potting soil out of the lower half of those pots, being more recently planted and much more shallow-rooted.

I’ve already eaten all the baby leafed Spinach which I’d kept going for many many months, only plucking off the outer leaves each time I harvested a handful of leafy greens for lunch.

And, I’ve got a brilliant idea for those 6 large square pots.  They will be washed, dried and turned upside down to place the smaller pots on.  That will make 6 small pots easier to water and much easier to check for pests without having to bend over.

There’s always something good to come out of something less than desirable in my life.

There are always options.

You just have to be creative and imagine other possibilities when faced with less favourable decisions which have to be made.

Yesterday I had the thrill of the year when both a male Superb Fairy-wren in full breeding plumage and a female flew down to the garden at the same time.  I was so excited I couldn’t hold the heavy camera & 150-500mm lens still enough.  But apart from that bad camera shake, the clean windows didn’t offer any clear shot anyway.  But I’m still going to share the shots so you can get some idea of the adult blue feathered male and the plainer female together.

Since I’ve scattered birdseed in between many of the herb and spinach plants yesterday, hopefully I’ll get another photo opportunity when the sliding door is open on a warmer day.

Funnily enough, I’d been planning on going out and still had my jacket on.

I decided not to go out, but finish the article I was typing earlier and an hour and a half later, when the sun was lower in the sky, I got lucky and a tiny male Fairy-wren chick landed on the Sorrel pot which was further up the balcony space, closer to my desk.

If you look carefully in the second image below, or zoom in, you can see a faint pale blue tinge to the feathers.  This tiny wren was definitely a baby boy.

How strange that many of the birds visited this particular pot during the day, as I had no bird seed scattered around it and Sorrel (Rumex sanguineus) leaves, like the Mizuma ‘Red’ (Brassica rapa var nipposinica) up near the lettuces, are a bit peppery, or have a sharp tangy acidic flavour.

Anyway, I’ve put some bird seed around the Sorrel plant and moved it to a position where I hope there is no glass reflection this morning.  The House Sparrows have found it, now for the Fairy-wrens.

I’ve had several Superb Fairy-wrens and House Sparrows visiting already this morning, and at one stage, 5-6 birds at once.  For a change, I just sat at my desk watching all the birds visit every herb, flower and vegetable pot in turn and didn’t attempt any more photos.  Anyway, I think a trip to the archives is necessary as we’ve had enough balcony bird shots in recent weeks.

Today, the winds are even more gusty and storms forecast, but doesn’t it always rain when you’ve washed the outside of the windows 😀

Maybe that’s a tip I should share with other apartment dwellers trying to have a small Balcony Garden.

Wash your windows and balcony door – once a week at least.

PS I forgot to mention…….the Harlequin Bugs are back in town.

 

 

30TH JULY ?

Is it really only 30th July?

I thought it was Spring and time to plant my Summer herbs and lettuces  😯

The new Mint bush had 10 new leaves in 24 hours after I planted it.
It’s an invasive plant so best to keep it separate from other plantings.

But seriously, in my constant attempts to keep myself amused indoors this past Winter, I decided to do a little experiment.  I’d try an indoor garden to keep the Harlequin Bugs and Cabbage Moth Caterpillars at bay  😉 …….well, for the next month or two  anyway.  I found another 2 Harlequin Bugs on my Rosemary bush on Saturday – that makes 3 little insects that over-wintered in my Herb Garden.

I actually bought my seedlings last Wednesday and despite being short of potting soil, planted my indoor garden on Saturday.  With the wall heater set on fairly low, it should be warm enough indoors for the next 4-6 weeks for a growth spurt.

I bought my old blue painted TV trolley, (used as a potting bench outdoors normally), indoors after a good clean of winter cobwebs.  I removed the centre shelf to allow ready access for the light on the lower shelf.  I’ll rotate & turn all 4 planters so they get an even share of light.

Of course when the heat of Summer casts its spell over my west-facing balcony, my indoor garden will probably have to be moved outdoors.

I pull the block-out blinds down from about 2.30pm when the sun moves over my apartment building in summer and turns the lovely cool space into a sauna, (or hothouse).  The air conditioner will probably be too cold to raise summer crops also, as I have it set on 16C (60F).  I feel the heat terribly in Melbourne’s hot Summers and of course, being very fair, get badly sunburnt in about 10 minutes outdoors in the hot sun, despite repeated applications of Sunscreen when taking photos in the Botanic Gardens back in 2011,2012 & 2013.

…..and I do need to get a clear hard floor mat to catch any accidental watering spills too.  I put a folded tough green garbage bag on the carpet, but that looked too unsightly.

Anyone want to place any bets on the success, (or not), of my indoor garden?

NOTE: By the way, if you see any misspelt words/plant names, it’s that damn WordPress Spellcheck that keeps overwriting my typing, not actual typos.