The balcony - it's alive!

I had pretty much decided to forgo the garden this year due to lack of money - then when money wasn't as much of a problem, lack of time - but my blank, empty, boring balcony kept mocking me and I gave in. I'm so glad! A few fresh veggies and herbs to nosh and some pretty flowers to brighten the view make all the difference. It's just the right balance of plants to keep me entertained but not over-burdened.

lotta semi-crappy balcony garden pics underneath - I really need a new digital cameraCollapse )

I'm also happy I decided to leave the bird feeder up. I usually take it down in the summer and just leave the water because the seeds invade my pots and grows like crazy forcing me to weed! But the little guys feeding are not only amusing for me, the keep Phoukathecat entertained for hours on end. The single grackle that found the feeder (he pays even more attention to the water) was OK, but he brought a flock of friends yesterday to I took the feeder down for the day. They either got the message (doubtful) or they have a look-out watching for movement and scatter when I'm around. *G*

My hummingbird feeder continues to be one of the best investments I ever made. I still find the little guys endlessly fascinating, esp the one that kept hovering down and peering in the balcony door yesterday. It seemed like every time I looked up there was the little Peeping Thomasina (Tom). The sight of them never fails to make me smile.
  • Current Mood
    calm calm

reviving bamboo

I have a not-so-healthy bamboo plant, and I'm wondering if anyone can educate me on how to help it.

The plant is at least six years old and is still in its original container. It has two stalks, each with one branch. The branches are each about a foot long and very dry. One is almost withered to nothing, and flops under its own weight. The other is bright green underneath the dried husks and stands very straight. All the leaves are at the top of the branches - the strong one has a strong burst of leaves, while the weak one has droopy, sad looking leaves.

I don't know much about bamboo plants - should I clip this plant? Can I get new leaves to grow from the dried branches, below the surviving leaves, or must new growth come from the top? Should I transplant the stalks, and/or should I cut anything off? If so, where?

Sweet Potato

I have a single sweet potato/yam (the purple one with the orange inside). It has been sitting on my garden window sill since November with sprouts. It seems nice and healthy. I want to plant it. Should I just stuff the whole thing into one container or should I cut the individual sprouts of in sort of cube formation and plant them in individual containers.
ixchel-spiral goddess

(no subject)

Early this spring I told myself that I was going to show restraint in what I bought and planted. It was great in theory but yeah, didn't work so well. I keep telling myself though that I'm going to do 3 season planting - you know, spring plantings, followed by the tomatoes and peppers that I always have, plus something for the fall? Best intentions and all that. Last year I spring planted tiny dwarf bok choi and little Pack Man broccoli and they turned out pretty good. I don't know why I didn't follow up this year. I missed out on a couple of herbs I wanted, too - thyme, sage and dill, so I did a little planting today. I'll be bringing them in as house plants this fall along with my other herbs, so it's not too late. I also planted some broccoli raab for the cool weather and some Red Shiso or Perilla, an oriental herb that's also a beautiful plant that I'll bring indoors. I'm also going to try sesame more for a novelty because it also supposedly makes a pretty house plant. Plus I planted several pots with Red Robin Tomatoes for this fall and winter indoors.

Then I began just drift around on the 'net and here's a handful of interesting things I came up with:

Here's a great idea for people with very limited space:
A 3-tiered, stackable planter - each with 3 openings. You can actually stack up to 9 tiers. It also has a chain for hanging but that might get pretty heavy. They're also self watering. What a space saver!

EasyBalconyGardening is a fantastic site! It talks about apartment (indoor gardening), small balconies, greenhouses, organic pesticides, vertical gardening, winter gardening and even how to use what you produce. It's just jammed full of great information.

I picked up Crops in Pots at the library and what an interesting book. It shows you how to plant combinations that are attractive as well as useful.

The Balcony Gardener is a fun, unpretentious little site with some good information.

Here's an interesting looking little book for those of you gardening further north: Northern Balcony Gardening. Unfortunately there isn't a great deal of information on it. Possibly it's available in your local library.

A Cheapskate’s Guide To Urban (Rooftop/Balcony) Gardening Some good ideas, especially for beginners.

This is a subject close to my heart and my eventual goal: Creating a Permaculture Balcony Garden.

Space Saving Tips for Patio & Balcony Gardening"

And another article on space saving tips.

I ran across on video entitled 'Balcony Gardening' but their idea of balcony gardening was a huge stone terrace with huge concrete couches and armchairs with little planting areas in the arms. No exactly mainstream, huh?

So, who else has a great site for container gardening in small spaces?
ixchel-spiral goddess

Tomato bondage - I need to go back to dom school

I had to break down and pull the 3 largest, fist-sized green tomatoes off of that long branch hanging over thin air. (I've had good luck so far with them ripening outside but in the shade.)Then I realized there was another branch arching out near that long one that was unsupported and arching downward with several large tomatoes.

That white zigzag going up the plant are wide strips of muslin binding that long vine I was unaware of to the longer one that already has support. I hope like hell they make it. the 3rd vine is the one that's bent over a couple of times but not broken and I have it tied into place with mummy strips, too.

I went out this morning and found my other tomato had made an attempt to break free from bondage, too. It was heavy enough that with the stronger winds we've had in the last couple of days it snapped the thin bamboo stake I had it tied to. So I splinted it with 2 more bamboo pieces, bound it all together with more muslin strips and then tethered it to the other stake of the shorter, stouter patio tomato next to it.

For the last 3 years I've always been unprepared for the tomato droopage but I thought I had it covered this year. I just wasn't prepared for my unprecedented crop success this year.

Tomato cages. Definitely tomato cages. o.O

BTW, here's Phouka the Cat in his bird blind in the Anaheim pepper/basil pot.

He doesn't exactly blend in, does he?
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    hopeful hopeful
ixchel-spiral goddess

More tales of tomato bondage...and breaking free!

2-3 weeks ago I posted this pic:

of the tall Black Krim tomato arching out over open space beyond my balcony railing. I hadn't been paying proper attention to the shorter of the 2 main vines and I woke up one morning to see it bent over under the weight of growing green tomatoes. It wasn't broken so I carefully straightened it and secured it as best I could. A couple of mornings ago I woke up to find my bondage efforts had failed and it was slumped back over. It still hasn't broken so I'm not going to tempt fate any more. I just secured it where it's laying along the wide railing as best I could.

Now, the longer vine? This is what it looks like now:

That top tomato (which isn't really because there's one nearly as big but about 6 inches further out that you can't see from this angle) is nearly a yard beyond the railing. I have no idea how I'm going to get them! When my 6'2" brother comes over later this week I might have to rearrange everything so he can get as close as possible on a stool and hold onto him while he plucks them green and I let them ripen on the shelf. I'm afraid otherwise I'm going to wake up one morning and find them 3 floors down on the ground, because a couple of those suckers are the size of sofballs!

My other 2 tomato plants gave me a surprising bumper crop this last week:

That biggest one is softball sized. Along with some of the fresh peppers and herbs, plus a few fresh veggies from the store, I had a wonderful, fresh vegetable soup over the weekend. Delicious!

I'd sure like to know if my unusual success this year is more due to my growing knowledge of gardening, the unseasonable weather, just dumb luck or (more likely) a combination of all of the above.
  • Current Mood
    curious curious
ixchel-spiral goddess

Ornamental sweet potato vine

Impomea spp - a.k.a. ornamental sweet potato vine - is absolutely beautiful. I have the 'Blackie' and it makes the hanging basket with my red wave petunias and the dracaena look lush and dramatic.

The site I listed says it doesn't need excessive water after it's established because it stores water in it's large roots. Obviously mine has never 'established' because it's the most extreme water hog I have on my balcony and that includes the 7 1/2 ft tall Black Krim tomato that's loaded with fruit. It's a little water vampire and when denied water for more than a few hours, even on mild days, it begins to wilt and droop pathetically, mooching along until you water it yet again.

The first thing I do in the morning is give my beautiful water suck a big long drink. Depending on the weather, it'll probably need another drink around noon, then again in mid-afternoon and again in the early evening. Hell, I only water everything else twice a day, even in high heat and sun!

Besides the Blackie there's also the Margarita which has brilliant light chartreuse green foliage (so different than the rest of the green foliage. I might give them both a try next year but I'm certainly going to make sure it's either in pots with a water reservoir (maybe a 1 liter bottle planted in the soil), plus a lot more insulation and maybe water retention crystals.
ixchel-spiral goddess

Bondage! A gardener's tale.

I'm becoming quite the expert in plant bondage. Velcro plant ties, zip strips, bungee cords and now strips of muslin. I swear, next year - tomato cages! I don't care how much trouble I have storing them when they're not in use, I'll find somewhere.

Some have suggested the hinged ones that can lay flat; doing a little cosmetic surgery on them to form them into a triangle. I'll have to look into that, see if it's feasible and how big the end product would be - whether they would fit in the pots. OTOH, the more common conical cages do stack inside one another and only take up maybe 2 ft in diameter of floor space.

They may not look that appealing, but it's better than wondering how my tomato and pepper plants are going to fare when the wind starts whipping up. Plus I won't have to worry so much about upper limbs breaking when they're heavy with fruit or how I'm going to harvest those tomatoes hanging 3 feet out into open space, 3 stories above ground. O: Not that I'm complaining too much mind, I'm just thrilled I'm having so much success with the fruit setting on.

This year I restrained myself on the diversity of my plants. It only looks so bushy and lush because I bought a big box of petunias and other flowers on a whim whem they went down to half price. But I still wound up with 3 different tomato plants, 2 Anaheim peppers and 2 basil.

Next year, only 2 tomatoes, and one basil (I'm going to try to grow basil inside this winter so I won't be so starved for pesto come summer time). I'm going to try zucchini and/or a cucumber. Round ones! Ronde de nice or Eightball zucchini and Lemon (round yellow not flavored) cukes! I love growing unusual things. A couple of years ago it was Tri-color peppers - variegated purple, cream and green foliage with small, hot purple peppers that turn red when ripe. Beautiful!

And BTW? If you all don't know about Container Seeds do take a look through. They don't have a huge variety but they've been picked because they grow especially well in containers. They even have quite a few items like this Red Robin Tomato that stay small and are bred for their ability to set fruit in lower light conditions. I'm going to try these indoors this winter, too.

And for those of you who want more variety to choose from than the same old varieties supplied by your local greenhouse but can't afford to spend $2-3 for a packet of seeds that you'll only use 2-3 out of? Try Le Jardin du Gourmet. They offer sample packets of usually 3-10 seeds (depends on the vegetable, herbs, etc) for only 35 cents apiece. Great deal! You can try all sorts of things you never could have before because they were just too expensive. I got all kinds of different greens (mache, arugula, red and green shizo, different spinach types, etc.) plus herbs and a few vegetables.

I love sample packets!

Now, with this hot weather (summer has finally descended) I need to water my garden 2-3 times a day. It's a demanding mistress. But worth it.