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6th July 2011
ixchel55 @ : 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.
5th January 2010
ladytairngire @ : 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?
25th August 2009
glaukopis @ : 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.
23rd August 2009
ixchel55 @ :
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?
21st August 2009
ixchel55 @ : 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?
17th August 2009
ixchel55 @ : 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.
15th August 2009
ixchel55 @ : Ornamental sweet potato vine
- 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.
8th August 2009
ixchel55 @ : 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.
6th August 2009
ixchel55 @ : Lush petunias!
Someone nicely complimented me on my petunias, bemoaning the fact that hers were always scraggly. Well, until this year, mine were, too. I'm not that experienced at growing flowers.
Last year I bought a beautiful, established hanging basket of petunias. About half-way through the summer I realized that the tops of the vines were filled with nothing but dead leaves and the bottom was all scraggly. It pretty damn ugly. So in desperation I just cut everything off to a couple of inches, expecting it to die. To my surprise I soon had a beautiful, lush, blossom-laden plant.
This year when my petunias were being hit by budworms I realized they were getting spindly, too. Too many scraggly vines, fewer and fewer blooms. I knew there had to be a less drastic way of pruning than just snipping off the whole vine so I went scrounging online and came up with a little video. In just a second I'll post it so that others can see it to. Next year I'll start doing this even earlier for a much bushier plant.
5th August 2009
ixchel55 @ : Spreading my joy!
I know the weird weather has been giving a lot of the US fits this year, but I can't help but be personally grateful. Not only has the cooler weather made it more bearable for me physically (and for my electric bill), but I think it's one of the reasons my garden has been doing so well.
I'm really blessed that this is the site I see when I sit on my couch and look out:( lotsa picsCollapse )
4th August 2009
ixchel55 @ : An alternative for blossom end rot
Well, looks like the one application of lime to my tomatoes back toward the beginning of June wasn't sufficient. I'm getting some small green tomatoes with the dreaded blossom end rot. I still have tons of healthy tomatoes, though.
So I was snooping around on line, trying to find out how often lime/calcium should be applied (I did make another application about a week ago) and found other options since lime will definitely change the pH of your soil to perhaps too alkaline.This is a good all-purpose info page for tomatoes that recommends gypsum (which apparently won't change your soil pH) as an amendment.This site
recommends lime as only a quick, temporary fix and recommends dolomite or gypsum as a more permanent solution to soil imbalance problems.
I suppose the smart thing would be to get a soil test kit and test the pH of my potting soil, but I don't have the spare money right now. If you're using a potting mix straight out of the bag it should list the pH on the sack. I do add a lot of peat to my soil for water retention and to make it lighter and peat is very acidic. I see gypsum and/or dolomite in my future gardening endeavors.
Ah, the trials and tribulations of tending the soil! You plant, you grow, you learn.
ixchel55 @ : Eggshells in the garden
I came across this article
today and thought I'd share.
Even pulverized to a fine powder I think eggshells would take longer to dissolve to calcium than I would want if I were already experiencing blossom end rot. I've seen the suggestion of Tums made in a couple of places. They're meant to dissolve quickly and they'd be an inexpensive alternative to someone with only 1-2 plants. But the ground up shells would make great soil amendments and I also found another 3 uses for the humble eggshell. Be sure and read the original comment to the article (that'll be the one at the bottom) for the 3rd great tip!
3rd August 2009
ixchel55 @ : Help your potted plants beat the heat
The north American Pacific Northwest has been experiencing some unusually high temperatures the last week or so and all of us in the northern hemisphere are coming into the dog days of summer. It's important to keep container plants from overheating and sometimes protect them from the sun. I came across this article
on lots of tips for doing just that and I thought I'd share.
BTW? Container Gardening
is a really nice news letter to subscribe to. Lots of concise, pertinent information in occasional newsletters. There are tons of other 'back issue newsletters' to browse through, too. What's even better is they don't spam you!
27th July 2009
morningdozer @ : Weather question...
So it's supposed to be in the 90s pretty much all week (which is NOT the norm around here in the Pacific Northwest) and I'm wondering what special care I should give my plants this week? I don't have many right now, a cyclamen, small herb garden with basil, rosemary, oregano, thyme and lavender, and some young tomato plants. I live on the second floor, not much breeze, full sunlight from about 7 am to about 3 pm. I don't want to kill my poor plants!
25th July 2009
ixchel55 @ : How does my garden grow?
I'm no expert but I've had such amazing results with my tomatoes this year and people have asked questions so I thought I'd do a little post of what I think I've done right. What size pots?
I plant mine in 5 gal planters (deeper than they are wide because they need a lot of depth for the roots). I'd say 5 gal is the minimum size but I see pictures where people have had good results with smaller pots. I also have much better results with pots that have some sort of water reservoir at the bottom. Some of my pots have an external opening to fill from (my favorite) and some just have a reservoir that fills by trickle down through the soil. You want to make sure there's an escape route for excess water so the roots don't stand in water. Mine have a seam about 2-3 inches from the bottom for overflow. How do I pot them?
Since I garden on a balcony I try to minimize weight as much as possible. I put 3-4 inches of torn up styrofoam packing material and packing peanuts (not the biodegradable ones made of cornstarch that dissolve in water) in the bottom for extra, light weight drainage. Lasts for years and doesn't go in the landfills. My potting mix is about 1/3 commercial grade potting soil, 1/3 peat moss for aeration, lightness and water retention and 1/3 compost of some kind. This year I'm using cotton burr compost and my plants seem to love it. Perlite for the same reasons as the peat moss - a couple of cups per 5 gallons. I also mix in 1-2 cups of slow release fertilizer pellets. I have a 20 gallon tub that's used for storage most of the year, but in the spring it's a mixing tub. Before I plant I empty the soil from the pots and remix just like I was starting from scratch (adding 1/3 each of peat moss and compost to enrich the soil - maybe less perlite although the little light weight pellets work their way to the top of the soil and wash away). At the bottom of each planting hole I add a handful of Epsom salts (something my grandmother always did!) - and next year I'll add a handful of lime with a couple of inches of soil on top of that before putting in the plant (it gives the roots something to grow for *G*). Be sure and strip the bottom limbs off of your little tomato plant and plant it deep (roots grow off the buried stem for extra vigor and strength). Someone asked 'how high' should the plants grow?
That depends on so many things. The type of plant for one thing, the size of the pot, constant *regular* supply of water, growing medium, fertilization, weather, etc. Until this year my average tomato plant height from top to soil was about 4-5 ft. My heirloom Black Krim is a whopping 6 1/2 ft. I also have a Patio Tomato that's only about 2 1/2 ft. The seed packet or catalog description should give you an approximate height, but I've found that container grown ones don't usually get as big.Tending during the growing season.
Absolutely as much sun as they can get is critical. With partial sun you might have a nice plant, but fruit will be smallish and more scarce. Regular watering. Don't let the soil dry out completely. It dries up the roots and makes it nearly impossible for them to take in the proper moisture. I fertilize once a week with just an all purpose liquid fertilizer - about 1/2 strength of what the label calls for if it recommends less frequent feeding. After the plant starts growing, strip off the limbs from the bottom 5-6" of the stem to keep them free of the ground. They won't produce anyway and they'll just suck water and food. Ditto for the *suckers*, those tiny limbs that start growing in the V of 2 other limbs - they just divert water and nutrients and make your plant bushy. Next year I'm going to try selective pruning and limit the number of limbs on one of my plants like some books recommend and see what the results are. In another week or so I'm going to scatter a handful of lime on the surface of the pots and water well to dissolve it. Various tips.
a). If you're seeing a lot of blossoms but no or very few fruit, the blossoms aren't maturing into fruit for one reason or another - look in your garden shop for a 'blossom set' product. b). If you have a ton of small tomatoes that never get very big and you want big ones, either keep the blossoms plucked down to fewer or pull off small tomatoes so the plant feeds more nutrients to fewer fruits. c). If your tomatoes develop big brown spots on the bottom of the fruit you have blossom end rot which can be attributed to uneven watering or not enough lime in the soil. The bag of horticultural lime I bought this spring for $5 is going to last me for probably 3 years and it dissolves almost immediately with watering (follow the directions on the bag) and I had pretty spectacular results. d). Give your plants room to breathe, don't jam them too close together. That tends to breed disease and pests. If I were growing at ground level mine would be too close together. As it is, in my area and on a 3rd floor balcony, air circulation isn't a problem. e). Tomato cages! I am so investing in them next spring! I have a feeling they'll make my gardening life so much easier. f). Cracks in the skin can mean uneven watering. Some fruit are more prone to cracks than others. My Black Krim are very cracked on the shoulders but extremely healthy otherwise. These are 'dry cracks' - they've been growing with the fruit all along. I've had tomatoes that have suddenly split into 'moist' cracks after they've started ripening, like they got a giant grow spurt and began growing out of their skins. These I pick immediately. They'll draw pests and rot.
All of these tips seem to work damn well on my peppers, too.
These are just the things that work for me. What works for you?
As always, cross-posted so sorry for the spam.
24th July 2009
ixchel55 @ :
That settles it. I don't care how much trouble I have storing them in the off-season, next spring I'm getting tomato cages instead of trying to the plants staked up. Through trial and error the last couple of years I've learned to stake up all
the branches of the tomatoes plants because I've had the branches heavy with tomatoes break off. Not this year! But...
This year I found that adding lime to the soil not only took care of the blossom end rot my tomatoes have been suffering from, but also gave them great energy. I've never had so many tomatoes that were so big. I have one on my Black Krim that's the size of a pretty big grapefruit! The Black Krim is also a good 2 feet taller than the Early Girl. So tall that with lashing I had to improvise a taller stake and then secure the plant about 1/2 way up to the balcony railing to keep it from toppling, even with no wind. Unfortunately I should have done that with the Early Girl, too.
The wind's been kicking up pretty fierce today and a few minutes ago I was able to watch my Early Girl topple off it's 1 1/2 ft high platform. The fall knocked off 3 baseball sized green tomatoes & cracked one of the smaller branches about 2/3 way up. It also pulled out most of the stakes. I managed to get it upright and re-staked without any more damage. I think. I also secured the bigger tomato better to make sure the same thing doesn't happen. I need to get taller, sturdier stakes that the ones I have and shore the plants up better, especially before I try to put the plant back on the stand where it can get the best sun.
I'd also been letting the peppers on one of my Anaheims get as big as possible (pretty darn big 1/2 dozen between 6-8" long), but it was threatening to pull my plant over so I had to harvest them all. Oh well, that give others a chance to grow.
*sigh* The trials and tribulations of successful plant raising. We learn through adversity!
If anyone has any tips on securing tall, top heavy plants in pots I'd welcome the suggestions.
As always, cross-posted so sorry for any spam.
21st July 2009
ixchel55 @ : Victory!
Last week I complained about something eating and shredding my petunias. nagasvoice
lent their expertise and identified the probable culprit as the notorious budworm. nagasvoice
recommended bacillus thuringensis (aka BT spray).
I don't usually go for harsh pesticides, but since these are hanging, non-food plants, and the information said that the pesticide was very target specific and wouldn't hurt beneficial insects like spiders and lady bugs, and can actually be sprayed onto edible plants as late as the day before harvest, I thought I'd give it a try. The caterpillars actually have to ingest the pesticide for it to work and the instructions said it could take a couple of days to show results.
Even the next morning I noticed a lack of the severe munching of blossoms. That continued for a couple of days. Today I actually found the lax, dead corpse of one of the little bastards hanging in the foliage!
Victory is mine!
It's been raining off and on for the last 24 hours so this evening (night time is when the insidious little pests feed), I'll spray the plants again. The BT spray is a little pricey - $12 for a pint - but since a gallon of water only requires 1 tablespoon of the solution, I think I'm going to have enough for many future outbreaks (cross your fingers that's not necessary).
Since I pruned the plants last week to encourage a more bushy and less straggling habit, they're not looking all that colorful right now. But I see lots of buds from new growth. I'm expecting lush color by next week and hopefully they'll be blooming in a budworm-free environment.
Cross-posted so sorry for the possible spam.
15th July 2009
ixchel55 @ : Help!
Something is eating my petunias.
It's mostly the blossoms until they look like colorful Swiss cheese (and sometimes totally tattered like the sails off of a ghost ship!)
Whatever it is nibbles on the leaves a bit, but not too much. It doesn't bother the hibiscus or the vegetable or herb plants, just the petunias.
I've inspected the plants and can't find any critters. I did find tiny round black specks that I thought were dirt at first but now I'm thinking maybe bug poop? Or eggs? I don't have a magnifying glass strong enough to get a better look at them but they're definitely not alive (at least not right now).
Hee! I got a speedy answer from my own flist - budworm!
According to my gardening friends:budworm (usually called tobacco or geranium budworm) is the most common culprit for this. It's a caterpillar, you can spray with bacillus thuringensis or one of the most artificial sprays for it. They're small enough you have to look close to handpick them. They tend to ruin geranium, nicotiana, and petunia flower buds and few others.
It could be this:
One of the most common pests of petunias is the budworm caterpillar. These small green worms appear in late June and July. You won't often see the worm itself. Instead, you'll see the droppings, which often are described as small black seeds. The worms feed on the flower buds, making small holes in the buds and the leaves.
12th July 2009
ixchel55 @ : Just a few ideas!
I've been poking around on the internet and came up with some interesting sites for people interested in container gardening:
You do know that you don't need that much dirt to grow potatoes, right? Just enough for the roots to grow in.Tater Totes
. There's a short vid and step by step instructions below it (click on each of the steps for more in depth instructions). Instead of placing the totes on the ground, there's no reason they couldn't be placed on top of a pot or a small storage tub. This would be a really cool idea for small batches of those exotic fingerling potatoes of different colors that are so expensive in the stores!
Self watering pots are so freaking expensive. I've seen instructions before on how to make your own 'earth boxes' out of storage tubs, but even that gets kind of expensive and it's a little bit of a hassle. Here's an inexpensive and what looks like a fairly easy substitute. Self Watering Plant Containers
I thought this was so cool and I'm so trying this next year for salad greens and herbs. I think it would be fantastic for strawberries, too. Great idea for people with very limited space: Vertical Gardening!
Cross-posted: sorry for spammage.
8th July 2009
ixchel55 @ : Not too much activity here, but...
I just made a fairly image heavy post in my own LJ
and I invite you all for a tour. But here are a couple of samples:
For those of you who're members of more than one of these LJs, sorry for the spammage.