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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HAVE I GOT A ‘GREEN THUMB’ ?

Perhaps not, but  I have got some green tomatoes on the 3 “Patio” Tomato plants on my west-facing apartment balcony.

I couldn’t count them all, but I figure I’ve got somewhere between 50 -60 fruit at the moment.

I just hope they don’t all ripen at once !  😮

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……and it looks like I’ve got some baby Capsicums too.  I’ve never grown Capsicums (red peppers) before, so I’m not quite sure what their babies look like.

It’s been hot, humid and sticky in Melbourne in the last couple of weeks, with more than a few thunderstorms threatening (depending on what suburb you live in), although I did miss the flooded streets in Melbourne one day last week.

I’ve been mostly housebound (hence no new photos).

WILLIAMSTOWN – Part 2 – JAWBONE BAY & CONSERVATION RESERVE

……..continuing from Part 1 in the previous post.

If you’ve read Part 1, you’ll remember that I walked right to the end of the Esplanade towards the west and thought I might fall into the sea as there seemed to be no fence or way forward……..unless I could walk on water I might add.

Then I saw the top half of a walker coming out from behind the rock retaining wall on my right.

Of course if I’d thought of taking my crumpled map out of my pocket, I would have seen that the esplanade turned at a right angle 🙂

Just around the corner, I was delighted to see a tiny boatyard with small fishing boats intermittently tied up between several board walks behind a chain wire fence.

I looked down in front of the chain wire fence, but could only see a channel of water with a few seaweed-covered rough boulders scattered here and there.

Having spent some time in the UK in the mid to late 1970s, I had a sudden mental picture of some of the picturesque fishing villages I’d visited on the southern coast and got kind of excited at the prospect of some fishing boat images right here in Williamstown.

One of the few sorrows of my current life, in early retirement, is not having a car to travel along some of my state’s spectacular coastline and possibly, the occasional quaint fishing town or boatyard to do some photography.  I’d been to one once when on a few days holiday with a friend and the boats and quay were restored as it might have been in the early days of the 19th century, no less.

Anyway, last Sunday, I walked slowly down the chain wire fence trying to see a way in, but the only entrance was through what looked like a ‘clubhouse’ or boat repair shed.

Obviously, PRIVATE PROPERTY – no through path.

So I followed the cycling/walking path round the corner and onwards past a small inlet.  According to a Google map this was Jawbone Bay & the start of the Marine Sanctuary and it looked like low tide on Sunday.

I was facing straight into the brilliant sunlight and most of the houses and low-lying coastal scrub was just a silhouette (so the above shot has had the shadows lightened to reveal some detail).

The tiny bay, (or inlet), was covered in sparkling stars from the reflected sun on the rippling water surface and really quite enchanting.  The wind had dropped a little and walking was really pleasant under the blue Spring skies with just a smattering of whispy cloud cover creeping in from the horizon.

I heard a weird sound and looked up to see 2 gyrocopters (?) with broad ballooning parachutes spread over them.

Then I looked across the low-lying scrubby salt-resistant landscape across patches of yellow Oxalis and some other yellow weed which I couldn’t identify.  It wasn’t Wild Radish, but something similar.

I walked down a narrow path towards the water.

Definitely low tide, but with cameras and other gear in a wheeled bag and what amounted to tennis shoes on my feet, (not my normal lace-up leather walking shoes), I couldn’t walk across any of the wet sand, or to peek in the shallows looking for crabs and other water creatures.

I’d deliberately brought my short 17-50 f2.8 lens and Canon DSLR in case I came across some rock pools.  I also had my Canon 50mm f1.4 lens which is the only remaining lens from my early Photography days some years ago which had the right-sized polarizing filter to photograph through water.  Now I’ve sold and traded a few lenses, I need to reassess the filters lying in their dust-free containers.

So I continued onwards stopping every now and then to admire the low-lying landscape and brilliant patches of green, yellow and other multicoloured low-lying plants.

I photographed a few other weeds, but the images weren’t particularly good so they got deleted.

I couldn’t help but be envious of the surrounding houses and their picturesque views over Port Phillip Bay.  If anyone had a glass-windowed loft and was high enough up with a ‘widows walk’ and/or telescope, they would be able to see all the shipping, leisure boats and yachts coming in and out of Port Phillip Bay.

Imagine living in the house below.

I am descended from the early Whaling Captains that plied their trade in the southern oceans and called Hobart, in the southern island state of Tasmania, home.  I can well imagine the wives watching and waiting in those early 1800s for all the months these whalers were at sea.  Some of my Ancestors ship’s instruments are in the Maritime Museum in Hobart, the capital of  Tasmania.

My Mother (now deceased), so my 91 year old Father now, has a copy of the original Whaling Captain’s diary in which my G/G/Grandfather’s brother ran away to sea at the age of 13 and worked his way up to the rank of Captain.  It’s a fascinating story and one day I’ll borrow it back and make another attempt to put the diary on computer.  My eyesight is poor even with prescription glasses.  I’m never really 100% sure whether my images have sharp focus when reviewing them on my 27″ computer monitor.  Don’t ask me how I take photos.  After some 80,000 images made over 7 years, I’ve just learned to guess, or compensate, with what I can’t see clearly through the viewfinder.

My G/G/Grandfather was hit on the head with a whaling spike and died in his fifties off New Zealand, so my G/Grandfather was brought up by the older brother who was a well-known whaling Captain.

Anyway, as I gazed up at this spectacular house with what appeared to be a third floor with 360 degree viewing windows in Williamstown, I immediately thought of my ancestors’ wives.

Waiting and looking out to sea each night for months on end.

Watching and waiting.

Waiting and watching.

Anyway, there were no spectacular seascapes to photograph on Sunday, but the stroll in the winding gravel path towards the Jawbone Arboretum entrance was thoroughly enjoyable all the same.

So all in all, it was a very enjoyable walk and the warm sun did its very best to break the effect of the brisk sea breeze that sent my jacket flapping and needled its way under my thin shirt.

Next visit, in warmer weather, will be to explore the Range Lakes system shown on the map at the top of this post………preferably with the long 150-500 telephoto lens to do some bird photography.

SHADES OF GREEN

From the Archives……over the last 7 years.

Just how many (mainly) green photos can you shoot when you’re Living in Nature – I seem to have hundreds.  Here’s a small selection.