Archive for the ‘On the balcony’ Category

Second Harvest 2011
May 2, 2011

Thank you guys so much for your comments last week! I really appreciate them! And thanks to Daphne from Daphne’s Dandelions for hosting Harvest Monday!

Last week I picked some cut-and-come-again lettuce from my balcony – the first balcony harvest this year! I took a picture with my phone but couldn’t find the SD card reader to transfer it to the computer… but let me tell you, it was delicious! I also harvested a lot from the parents garden. But like last year, the bok choy is already starting to bolt! We’ve had some warmer days about two or three weeks ago, then it got cold and rainy again – not exactly what I’d call bolting weather. Any advice on how to prevent bok choy from bolting?

Clockwise from behind/left: Wild garlic (Allium ursinum, a little hard to recognize from the small picture) for pesto, lovage for salad dressings, "Easter egg" radishes, bok choy, lilacs for sirup, Asian greens and rhubarb in the middle. Please ignore the mess in the background.


5 Things That Didn’t Work In 2010
February 21, 2011

Looking back on 2010, there were some things in the garden that didn’t work so well:

1. Guerilla gardening. Remember this? Yes. It got thrown out two weeks later. Anyway: I’ll try some guerilla gardening again this year! I got a primrose gifted last week and I’m looking forward to planting it outside when it’s done blooming and the weather right.

2. Underplanting tomatoes: Epic fail. I underplanted my tomatoes with basil, marigold and begonia and none of them continued to grow. They just stopped. ’till I threw them out, like, 5 months later. I’m not gonna try it again.

3. Leaving dead leaves on the soil. What might work in a garden in the ground in this case doesn’t work for container gardening at all: There are no worms or bugs to decompost dead leaves, so they just stay on top of the soil, keep moisture and hence are perfect for any kind of soil born diseases: mold, fungi, you name it.

4. Keeping the oleander pest-free. Didn’t work this winter – again. Spider mites infested my baby once more and it looks pathetic now.

5. Overwintering herbs outside. Well, now I can tell that most – if not all – of them are dead. I tried to leave them outside because I know that they’ll only get ugly and leggy inside. Although I put them to the window sill (outside) where it’s the warmest, when the temperatures hit -10°C, they must have froven through. Well, it was worth a try.

I’m reviving thig blog – so stay tuned for more!

Harvest Monday Week 38
September 27, 2010

Thank you Daphne for hosting Harvest Monday!

Last week was just… terrible! I had so much work and couldn’t catch up with all your comments. I couldn’t even catch up with harvesting… I’m trying to answer comments asap and comment on your blog as well, bear with me guys!

The harvest is red and green this week. I had to break down 1.5 tomato plants yesterday. They were literally eaten up by white flies, spider mites and cracking from the rain we had during the last weeks. I took the green tomatoes inside, I’ll weigh and include them into the tally as soon as they ripen. They might ripen faster on the counter than they would on the vines, because it’s warmer at night. I also harvested many Tumbling Tom tomatoes green, because they just drop off as soon as they change color – and fall over the railing, never to be seen again.

Mung bean sprouts

More sprouts and micro greens are to be harvested this week. Look forward to nice shades of green during the winter!

Harvest in numbers:

Hot peppers: 398 fruits, 1286 g = 45 oz = 2,8 lbs

Tomatoes: 157 fruits, 2585 g = 91 oz = 5,7 lbs

Sprouts: 62 g = 2 oz

About 3,93 kg / 8,7 lbs by now!

Harvest Monday Week 37
September 20, 2010

Thanks to Daphne from Daphne’s Dandelions for hosting Harvest Monday!

I was away last week for a few days, so there were bigger, but fewer harvests. The hot peppers are at their peak. I think from now on everything will ripen slowlyer. The Venus von Willendorf pepper (NOT hot!) is having a hiatus, while I got a wave of fish peppers. Time for the plant portraits, isn’t it? I’m mostly drying the peppers now, but will try to make pickles. I’ve never made pickles before.

The tomatoes are mostly on their way out. They are still producing, but less. Tumbling Tom is a disappointment so far, the fruits took forever to ripen, the taste is okay, but not great, and there are only about 5 fruits ripening per week. The cherry tomatoes are still my favourites. Even now, they are reliably ripening and taste very good!

I also started my “fall garden”, which consists of mircogreens, sprouts (indoors) and cress (outdoors). I’ll include these into the tally from now on.

The eggplant failed again twice to set fruit – it has now lost 4 blossoms. Dad’s comment: “Yes, they sometimes do that. Means that somethings missing, fertilizer or light or so.”

Anyway, this weeks harvest begins with wheat sprouts:

I have an almost infinite supply of wheat and rye. I bought the grains once to use them as rice subsitutes but they have to be cooked forever and will be still hard. So I’m sprouting them! Wheat tastes sweet and buttery. Then I went away for a few days, when I came back, I harvested this:

Clockwise: Tumbling Tom tomatoes, Red Mushroom peppers, Cherrybomb and Tennessee Tear Drop peppers, Venus von Willendorf peppers, Fish peppers, Riot peppers, cherry tomatoes. And a tiny harvest today because I overlooked some fruits yesterday:

Harvest in numbers:

Hot peppers: 331 fruits, 1077 g = 38,5 oz = 2,4 lbs

Tomatoes: 144 fruits, 2417 g = 86 oz = 5,3 lbs

Sprouts: 22 g = 0,8 oz

About 7,8 lbs by now!

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day September 2010
September 15, 2010

It’s Wordless Wednesday as well, so please enjoy:

Harvest Monday week 36
September 13, 2010

It’s Harvest Monday, hosted by Daphne from Daphne’s Dandelions!

More nice shades of red this week with two “firsts”:

Peppers and the first Tumbling Tom tomato! + 8 cherry toms, eaten before pictured

Lots of peppers!

Cherry toms

The first Red Mushroom peppers! Plus one "Cuore di bue from Lampedusa" tomato not pictured. It was picked green and left to ripen on the counter

Harvest in numbers:

Hot peppers: 279 fruits, 890 g = 31,7 oz = almost 2 lbs

Tomatoes: 128 fruits, 2254 g = 80,5 oz = 5 lbs

About 3,15 kg / 7 lbs by now!

Plant Portrait: Marigold
September 12, 2010

I have to admit: I didn’t like marigold (Tagetes) until i started growing them myself. I always thought they were boring and dull. I was so wrong! The truth is there is a broad range of marigold varietys available. They come from Mexico and are used there to decorate tombs for the famous “Day of the Dead”. A special variety, Tagetes lucida, is even considered to have psychotropic effects. But I wouldn’t count on it… another variety, Tagetes tenuifolia, is cultivated not only for it’s beautiful looks but also for use in teas and perfume (mainly in Asia). Tagetes minuta is the most potent variety for seasoning, but has only tiny flowers and grows tall and spindly.

Marigold and lizard. Marigold died later, guess the pot was just too small. Lizard is doing well.

When we go to garden centers, what we see are usually cultivars of Tagetes erecta (African marigold) with huge flower “balls” or T. patula (French marigold) with smaller, often bicolored flowers. They grow about 10-100 cm tall and from very pale yellow to deep red-brown almost any blossom color is possible. Besides for gardening , they are cultivated in China, India, Thailand and South America, mostly for the perfume industry or festive and religious purposes, but also for the pharmaceutical industry. Marigolds contain lutein which might help prevent macula degeneration (a certain loss of sight affecting elderly people).

Marigolds are often used for companion planting: They repell white flies, nematodes (creepy worms living in the soil) and aphids. They also seem to have a fungicide effect, at least that was proven in labs. Marigolds companion well with plants from the nightshade family that can be particularily prone to pests.

Flowers just picked

When grown in the ground, marigolds can be a slug’s favourite food – so be careful! Start them indoors (or outside in a pot, far off the ground) and plant them outside when they are strong and big enough. I’d recommend you to plant them on a cloudy day when no rain is forecast and the soil is dry, that will keep the slugs away for some time. When the plants are well established, the can’t be eaten up easily. Marigolds like full sun and a well draining soil, but will grow in other conditions as well. Just try it! They don’t need to be fertilized. Blooming starts in May or June and continues until the last frost. Marigolds are annuals, but you can easily pick seeds: Just let the flowers and seed pods dry completely, then pick and store airtight and cool (a jar in the basement will work just fine). My dad and I have been doing this for years now. I think the last time we bought marigold seeds was in the 1990’s. The colors of the flowers may vary every year.

In containers, marigolds also grow very well. They don’t need a lot of space to become huge, so be careful that they don’t outgrow other plants. They will do well on sunny and part-shade balconys. They can also take some wind. Just be careful not to let them dry out too often, they can take some drought but not regular. Although they may bounce back.

Branch that was ripped off during a storm

As an edible flower, marigolds offer a nice color for salads: Cut off the petals and add them to a fresh salad. The petals can also be used to color oil and vinegar. I personally like to dry them and add them to tea. They give a herbal tea a nice yellow-orangish hue and add a tangy but floral taste. Marigolds kinda taste like they smell, just not so strong. I prepare the petals for drying:

Collect some nice flowers

Cut off the petals

Be careful that nothing "green" is in the petals. And no bugs of course

You'll end up with something like this

Spread evenly on a paper and lay out to dry (bright, but no direct sun)

About a week later, they'll be dry

Well, not the best picture ever taken of my hand, but anyway: put the dried petals in a jar. You're done!

You can also use the leaves, they are supposed to go well with meat. I’ve never tried it myself, but in case you did, let me know how it tastes!

If you want to know how to save marigold seeds, MrBrownThumb has got a great post about it!

This week’s harvest
September 6, 2010

The tomatoes are coming in at a steady pace again after a small hiatus during the last two weeks. I’m very happy with the production of the cherry tomato plant – and with the taste! The beautiful, pinkish Italian heirlooms “Coure di bue from Lampedusa” (as I call them) are producing the biggest tomatoes. They taste great! The oval tomatoes are coming in just one by one, the fruits are rather small. Not so happy with them, neither with the striped tomatoes, they’ve failed to produce since July. I might throw them out very soon. The red round ones are on a hiatus, but there are still some fruits on the plant, so I’m hopeful. I’m also awaiting the first “Tumbling Tom” tomato this week.

Harvest from 30th August, a substitute for yesterday's harvest. I ate it before I remembered to take a picture

I’m really, really content with the hot peppers. They come in reliably at a steady pace. Only two kinds haven’t ripened by now: red cheese and red mushroom. Especially “Riot” is producing great. They are the classic, thin, long hot peppers. I dry them in a kind of Ristra. Many “Fish pepper” plants are on their way out due to spider mites (?), but I don’t really mind, they’ve produced well and taste nice when green too. Overall I’m surprised by how well the hot peppers are doing!

Today's harvest with some marigolds

I harvest two or three colanders like the above every week. Besides the peppers and toms I harvest a lot of marigolds (for tea) and some herbs like basil, sage, rosemary, thyme, cinnamon basil, scented pelargonium, mint. I don’t weigh them – maybe next year! I’m still waiting for my first egg plant. Two flowers broke off, the third seems to be pollinated successfully – I just want one fruit, that would really be enough, I just want to prove it’s possible. Keep your fingers crossed!

Harvest in numbers:

Hot peppers: 210 fruits, 645 g = 23 oz = 1.4 lbs

Tomatoes: 104 fruits, 1940 g = 69 oz = 4.3 lbs

More than 2,5 kg / 5.7 lbs by now (if I calculated it right).

I’m participating for the first time in Harvest Monday, hosted by Daphne from Daphne’s Dandelions! Thank you for inventing this great day!

New roommates
May 24, 2010

Once upon a time, two lady bugs found their way onto my balcony. One of them vanished the next day, but the other one stuck around quite a long time. I transferred it from one aphid infested plant to another, and trust me, it had some good meals out there. After some time this lady bug vanished as well.

Today I realized that my lavender in heavily infested by aphids. Who thought lavenders are resistent to aphids? Think again. They enjoyed it and must have been there for quite some time, but just on the back side of the plant (the side facing the wall), so I didn’t spot them earlier. After some brushing of I took the plant to the shower, where masses of aphids came off. I left the plant and did some cleaning on the balcony. As I sat by the table for a break, some gross black bug appeared on my leg. I panicked, of course. As I filled the watering can, I saw another of these bugs swimming there. And suddenly it hit me: lady bug larva! I rescued it and put it immeadiatly onto the lavender. Then I searched the balcony for the other larva, found it and put it on the lavender (showering only got part of the aphids) as well! There they are, munching happily.

Seeds sown in week 15
April 22, 2010

Last week I sowed the following seeds on the balcony (on Saturday, 17th)

  • radish in the pot with nasturtiums

Radish is said to grow quite good in containers. There are different varieties, I sowed “Aspern”, which are rather big. They are already sprouting and seem to like the cold weather. I started the nasturtiums indoors, but they’ve already been outside for about three weeks. They were quite leggy, but they recuperate and become bushy. Nasturtiums are one of the easiest plants I know. They have beautiful flowers, and are edible as well. My variety is small and bushy, non clinging, the flowers are supposed to look rather “normal”, as you are used to, which means yellow, orange, red. The only disadvantage is that they attract aphids. Some gardener use this as advantage and plant the nasturtiums near other delicate plants, to attract to aphids to the nasturtiums and away from the other plant. I’m not so sure whether that really works…

  • cilantro

Is said to not mind the cold weather. Hasn’t sprouted yet. I’ve never grown this before and am not really familiar with the taste of cilantro, so I’m looking forward to the first harvest!

  • lovage

Many non-central-europeans don’t know it, but pu-leeeeease try it, it’s great! It tastes like a famous soup spice called “Maggi” in german, so some people call lovage Maggi-herb. You can put it (lovage) in soups, which adds a spicy taste. I personally like to put it into salads. As it’s name says, it’s lovely! The plant can grow up to 1 metre high and is perennial. Not yet sprouting.

  • mesclun

Forgot about the variety, but it’s already sprouting! I plan to harvest only the outer leaves, so it will grow again for a second and maybe third harvest.

  • arugula

Same as with mesclun. I plan to let some plants of the greens bolt, to get the pretty flowers and seeds for next year. Yes, they are sprouting!

The weather is still rather cold, especially in the morning and at night, that might be the reason why the herbs aren’t sprouting yet. I plan to keep you up-to-date on what’s growing with photos every Saturday. Plus I’m gonna show you what has started indoors and what I sowed this week. By now, the focus is more on edible than on mediterranean – it’s just so much fun!