A BALCONY GARDEN UPDATE

I AM NOT GOING TO BUY ANY MORE PLANTS.

I AM NOT GOING TO BUY ANY MORE PLANTS.

The above sentence is like a mantra which I say over and over again to myself, but ‘plant’ me, in the local Hardware/Plant Nursery warehouse (Bunnings) and its like I’m a small child in a lolly shop dashing back and forth trying to decide which lollies to buy with my ‘pocket money’.

I can easily spend an hour walking around the seedling shelves and only my constant sciatic pain prevents me from walking around all afternoon.

My Garden started to take over my lounge in my previous apartment located in the north-east suburbs, but was much easier to water.

Watering my balcony potted garden may be a tedious chore most of the year, but I can’t stop buying more plants, (especially during Summer when the caterpillars eat half of them and I need replacement plants to fill the gaps fairly regularly).

I think I have an addiction……but, at least its healthier than smoking or alcohol 😀

Maybe my new mantra should be……I’M NOT GOING TO THE PLANT NURSERY WAREHOUSE (at all).

Wooden floors in my previous apartment meant if was so easy to grow indoors too. No pale carpet to cart water over as in my current apartment.

Part of the reason I buy leafy greens to grow in my small garden is that buying the usual big bunch at the market is way too much for a single person like myself and sometimes the last half of a bunch gets thrown out as it deteriorates, (or yellows).  I don’t have room for a compost bin on my balcony and hate wasting fresh food.  Much easier and more economical to grow it and only cut the outer leaves as I need them each night.

THIS IMAGE WAS MADE OF THE SPINACH I GREW IN MY PREVIOUS APARTMENT.

Same with Parsley, Mint, Summer lettuces or Rocket.  Note: the aim in Summer is to have enough ‘green stuff’ growing on my balcony to pick for my salad bowl each night (as in the first crop at my previous apartment on the right).

The only time it is worth buying large bunches is when I make Spinach Soup in Winter (note to self: I must take a photo of my Spinach Soup for future blogging).

Yesterday’s plant seedling purchases.

Yesterday I caught a taxi to the local large Shopping Centre for a number of urgent errands and then decided to walk back the couple of hundred metres to the plant nursery to buy some more Spinach seedlings.

Seriously.

I was ONLY going to buy Spinach (but ended up with 2 bags of shopping and a large carry bag of seedlings & small bag of Blood & Bone fertiliser, so had to call a taxi to get home 🙂 ).

My 4 baby spinach plants are still growing well and will continue to flourish throughout the winter.  But cutting off a few of their tiny outer leaves, together with a Tuscan Kale leaf finely chopped and a handful of Parsley, is really only enough to add to a Herb Omelette.

Not enough to cook as a vegetable serving for dinner.

So………what did I buy in addition to Spinach.

I ended up buying another Kale – Kale Tuscano Nero (Brassica oleracea sp.) – slightly different variety to my previous Kale variety.  Then a Pak Choi – Purple (Brassica rapa) which I’d never bought or eaten before, a punnet of ordinary Spinach (Spinach oleracea) seedlings for my large vegetable trough, another punnet of 8 sweet-scented Alyssum ‘Sugar Crystals’ (Lubularia maritima) seedlings AND………a pot of colour I couldn’t resist for gloomy winter days……..NEMESIA (Nemesia fruiticans).

‘Punnets’ are a common and economical way to buy 6-8 tiny seedlings in Australian Plant Nurseries.

…..and for those not familiar with the term, here’s what Wikipedia had to say.

  • A punnet is a small box for the gathering and sale of fruit and vegetables, typically small berries. The word is largely confined to Commonwealth countries and is of uncertain origin, but is thought to be a diminutive of “pun”, a British dialect word for pound, from the days in which such containers were used as a unit of measurement.
  • Punnets were originally a round woodchip basket but typically are now rectangular and made of plastic; increasingly moulded pulp and corrugated cardboard are being used as they are perceived to be more sustainable materials. Decorative punnets are often made of felt and seen in flower and craft arrangements.

I had a spare large pot of soil remaining from where I’d pulled out the remnants of some Broccolini that the Cabbage Moth Caterpillars had demolished.

I’ve never heard of Nemesia, but hopefully it will continue to flower in my balcony’s micro climate and make for some variety in the winter colour, despite the plant label saying Spring to Summer flowering.

After all, if my other Spring flowering plants bloom in all Seasons on my west-facing balcony, it’s not in the realm of impossibility that Nemesia might 🙂

I usually like cool flower colours like Blue, Blue, Blue (did I say blue?), and occasionally mauve, purple, or white, but I did buy yellow Marigolds as a pest deterrent (which didn’t work in recent months, I might add).  I’m not a big fan of hot colours in my limited space.

I love white Alyssum too.

There are other colours in the plant nursery besides white.  The variety I bought yesterday has a larger sized flower than the variety I planted last Spring/Summer.  The flowers of my old Alyssum plants got eaten, but now the weather has a distinct winter chill, all my old Alyssum plants are flowering again and starting to cascade over the edges of their pots.  The Harlequin Bugs have definitely ‘gone north’ for their winter holiday as there is not a half-eaten flower or bare leaf in sight!

But, I still wanted some more (Alyssum).

The larger flowering variety of Alyssum I bought yesterday.

The old plants now look glorious in my two pots, but I think you can never have too much sweet-scented Alyssum when you have a balcony garden.

This is just one pot of Alyssum that is now about 20 times its original size.

My Rosemary is continuing to flower and my pink daisy has lots of tiny buds again (after being heavily pruned to remove the brown sun-burnt leaves a month or two ago).

All in all, a very satisfactory shopping trip indeed.

NOW……I AM NOT GOING TO BUY ANY MORE PLANTS….THERE’S, LITERALLY, NO MORE VACANT SPACE IN ANY OF THE LARGE POTS.

Maybe they should have adult evening classes for Plant-Buying Addicts (just as they have AA – Alcoholics Anonymous) 😀

Not that buying plants is a problem when you’ve got acreage in your back yard, but buying too many seedlings when you’ve only got a small west-facing balcony is sheer ‘gluttony’.

Now….IF…..I had….more room……I’d plant some Butternut Pumpkins (called Squash in the U.S. I think) and have long creeping vines trailing in and around the other pots.

I DO like my Sweet Butternut Pumpkin soup in Winter!

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COMFREY (Symphytum official) – The Herb Garden, Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

I used to have a large Herb Garden which I planted at my Parent’s Home about 30 – 35 years ago.  There were culinary as well as medicinal herbs and some……planted merely for their flowers or attractive leaves.  I think I had close to 45+ different herbs at one time, with 5-6 varieties of Thyme.  The variegated leaves were quite pretty flowing over the brick retaining wall of my Mother’s vegetable bed.    My Mother used to keep it watered in the Summer months when I was away working.

When my Parents moved into a retirement village (and I changed jobs and lived closer to the city), my Mother potted up quite a few herbs to take with them.  Apart from Parsley and Chives which my Mother knew well, this was the start of their using herbs more in cooking and in summer salads.

My own potted herb garden on my apartment balcony really only got going a few years ago.

Long-time followers will know I lived a couple of streets away from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne for many years and would spend many afternoons walking around the 38 hectare site, but my favourite place in Summer was The Herb Garden.  This became a sort of sanctuary after I had to quit working due to chronic illness and pain in early 2010.

It wasn’t until I walked its paths through every season that I came to know what Comfrey flowers looked like as I’d never seen them before.

Comfrey can become very invasive so best to give it an enclosed space.  It’s leaves are great in the compost heap too.

By the way, if you’re visiting Melbourne in Spring (Sept/Oct/Nov) and love gardens, ensure you visit the Herb Garden in the RBG, as that is the time when it’s at its best, although Summer is a good time too.

In winter the Herbs mostly die back and are pruned heavily and the deep shade can be quite chilly.

THERE’S A CATERPILLAR IN MY GARDEN……….

Post started a couple of weeks ago……

There’s a caterpillar in my garden

and I don’t know what to do.

Should I find a toxic pesticide

or hit it with my shoe?

*

When I saw it on the baby leaf,

I tried hard to grab & ‘quash it.

But the pesky little bugger (note: I don’t normally swear online, only in my garden)

dropped down in to a narrow slit.

*

Now I can’t find any sign

but know it’s in there hiding.

Should I stick around, for a while,

or pretend I’m not really minding.

I know the Cabbage Moth Caterpillar

is on my Tuscan Kale

‘Cause there’s holes and nibbled leaves

and the stalk is deathly pale.

*

If I accidentally ate the slimy squashy thing,

I guess I’d really never know.

‘Cause I chew each mouthful many times

as my Mamma taught me so.

*

I stop and ponder a minute more

but realise nothing matters.

Except to get that pesky ‘pillar off

before it gets much fatter.

*

Maybe I’ll just leave it for a while

and photograph another pest that’s easier to see.

The Harlequin bug on my plastic pot

is running wild and free.

I’d use a Herbal pesticide (we pronounce the ‘H’ in Australia, so it’s ‘a’ not ‘an’)

but can’t remember how to make it.

Maybe it’s on my DVD or in my Gardening Book?

Detergent? Garlic? Chilli? Shake it?

*

There’s a caterpillar in my garden,

but maybe now its gone.

Should I go out and have another look,

or forget it ever was?

*

I really can’t bear the thought,

of my one and only plant

of Tuscan Kale (Brassica oleracea sp.)

dis..a..pearing off the planet.

Tuscan Kale (and friends) BC………….Before Caterpillar

The label says it’s SuperFood

which I need as much as he.

Assuming that the ‘pillar

is a boy (and not a she).

*

Decision made, I go back outdoors

into the hot and blazing sun.

Can’t find a thing on any leaf

so the ‘pillar’s  on the run.

*

I come back indoors and shut the roller blind,

pretending I really don’t give a damn.

Fresh herbs for lunch, but definitely not the Kale,

Lunch is only Tomato…..Parsley….. Eggs & Ham.

PS.  Ok, so there was no ham in my omelette, but nothing else rhymed 🙂 🙂 🙂

***************************

It’s now 2 weeks later

and I really needs some hints.

The ‘pillar holes are everywhere

especially Basil, Sage and Mint.

*

The Bok Choi has a different bug

that leaves creepy crawly lines.

I’ve forgotten what that pest is called

just know that pest is mine.

*

Today’s luncheon omelette was made with

eggs, onion, herbs and Kale.

But be assured the Kale was bought

at last week’s Queen Vic. Market sale.

*

My easy grow Snow Pea seedlings

are finally climbing up.

With fine green threads around the frames

that I’ve made from Bamboo ‘stucks’.

(I never said I could spell).

*

My Italian and English Parsley

are among the very hardy Herbs,

that are free from creepy crawly critters

and don’t require rhyming words.

*

I better upload this WordPress post

before it gets too long

And followers go to sleep,

or break out in raucous song.

*

Perhaps I’ll ask Mr Google

what to use on all those pests.

And finally stop this tedious post

and put the matter to rest.

*

PS I almost forget to mention

my second crop of fruit.

Green Capsicum babes are growing

from the end of green-leafed shoots.

PPS  The Broccoli Patio Baby Bunching

is growing soft leafy greens.

It produces small sweet tasting delicate heads,

of veg. I’ve actually never seen.

PPPS.  I forgot to mention the flowering

of the Rosemarinus officinalis plant.

At least that is free from pests –

‘Pillars, bugs, slugs, worms and ants.

THE END (phew!)

 

 

Hope that keeps you amused until the next WordPress Post.

 

TASK #1 – Balcony Garden

Spring never ceases to amaze me.

One day there are buds on the branches, then the tiny feathery fronds of foliage appear and next minute………………..a young tree full of leaves a couple of weeks later.

My little friend Mr House Sparrow and I looked over the scene today and agreed…..Spring really is the best time of the year.

I beckoned him to come down to look over the last couple of days of hard work I’d put in.  (Not really days per se, afternoons are about as much as I can manage when it comes to re-potting and bending over with a bad back).

A quick drink and then he turned around to see what he could see.
Mr House Sparrow agreed that the sore lower back I earned from my Spring gardening work on my apartment balcony was well worth the effort.  He surveyed my finished and re-configured garden late this afternoon.

Note: none of these plants need staking, but with our ongoing fierce winds in Melbourne in the past few months, I figure I may as well put the bamboo stakes in now and tie the trunks loosely just in case of another gale.

 

BALCONY GARDEN UPDATE……

It’s been raining overnight and I’ve woken up to a rather chilly day.

While the first month of winter – June – is nearly over, we’ve had surprisingly little rain so far in Melbourne.  It’s been mainly light showers in the western suburbs (where I live) for this last week, but enough to stall my efforts to get outdoors for some walking and fresh air (and/or nature photography).

More frequent showers are forecast for the next few days though.  I have to be honest and say that at least 2 days this week, I’ve spent most of the day watching my favourite Italian detective DVD series with the sound turned off, reading the subtitles only and a hot pack on the back of my neck.  Seems to be the only thing that truly reduces this long-running severe headache. Earlier this week,  I received a referral to a Neurologist who specialises in migraines, but when I got a quote for his initial consultation, I silently said “Ouch” and put the heat pack back on my neck.  Gee, some of these specialists cost more than my food budget for 2 months.  Maybe I’ll try some acupuncture, as at least that’s partly covered by my private health insurance. I’ve only just realised (in my foggy brain pain state) that the wonderful Chinese Doctor and Acupuncturist who I used to go to (in early 2010) is only a tram ride away.  Now why didn’t I think of her 5 months ago, I ask myself.  All I can say is that I’m forgetting lots of things these days.

My west-facing potted garden on my balcony is still thriving, despite the intermittent nature of Mother Nature’s rain drops.  I gave all my herbs and flowers another massive haircut a week or so ago and the flowers have spread their colourful petals even more.  Will this blue Bacopa and pink Argyranthemum ever stop flowering, I’m wondering?  Herbs love a good prune regularly and although its winter, only the Sage, Oregano and Lemon Thyme have really died back for the season.  My Rosemary, Mint, English and Italian flat-leaf parsley are surging ahead with the speed of a ‘Road-runner’.

For the first time, I’m growing Sorrel and Tuscan Kale.  Both are looking rather lively, although the Tuscan Kale seems to be rather slow to start (for my dinner table). Apparently, Sorrel tastes a bit like Spinach, so I’m keen to give it a trial run in my limited balcony space.

NOTE: all the images in this post were made yesterday.

Even my Rosemary has got new blue flowers on one spike.