Saturday, 30 April 2011

The first real planting

Well, it's been a busy day on the balcony today. There's lots to tell you about. First things first, I have planted out some wildflower mix (so that some bees will come to visit) and in another pot, some mixed salad and rocket. I'm not sure how big these will grow - I'm a little worried that I have put too many seeds in there, but I figured that I could always pull some out.
I never believe anything will actually grow at this point..
My mum has given me this great pot for strawberries - perfect for space saving on the balcony. It holds 6 plants, and I've got 5 in there. I think the strawberries are the thing I'm most excited about growing. I always have a debate with myself about whether I like strawberries, raspberries or blackberries best, and I still haven't decided, but it doesn't matter - they are all amazing. Strawberries seem to be the easiest to grow of the 3 so that's what I've started with. 
Hands off, pigeons
I've moved some tomatoes and broccoli out of the seed trays and into small pots. It was such a delicate procedure, I was so worried about damaging them! I held them by the leaves and levered them out with a pencil. A few hours on the tomatos are looking fine, the broccoli is looking slightly peaky. I not sure I haven't moved them on too early, they had hardly any roots. I've kept the others (and there's loads) in the seed tray as a backup in case this all goes pear shaped.

Lastly, I got some new beans from poundland and I have planted those straight into pots. Let's hope this works. I wonder if beans are going to be my gardening nemesis. That would be pretty embarrasing, I remember beans were something we grew at school when I was little!

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Royal Wedding

In celebration of a certain wedding that's happening this week, our balcony has gone all regal!
Congrats Wills & Kate!

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Sixteen Beans

Inspired by the success of my broccoli, I have decided to plant the runner beans. Although not "plant" in the traditional sense, but in the lay-gently-on-a-wet-bed-of-kitchen-towel-in-tuppaware-and-put-on-the-windowsill sense. This isn't bean related madness, apparently it stops the seeds from rotting before they germinate and I found the method at gardenhive.

Usually people plant beans to grow up canes or poles, but only having a balcony I am slightly restricted. I had an idea to put netting up on the glass around our balcony for it to grow up, but do beans need to grow to a certain height? Our glass is not much over a meter high. If anyone knows about beans (mine are the red rum variety) or has any bean growing gadgets suitable for a windy balcony I would love to hear about them.

There's got to be a witty comment in there somwhere...
Also, my tomato seeds have started coming up. Phew!

Have a lovely Easter weekend everyone.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

There's life, Jim!

You won't guess what's happened. Well, actually you probably will - but my broccoli has started coming up - there's actual plants growing! Half of my seed tray is full of tiny green and white shoots. It started yesterday, and there was only a few, but now most of the tray has one or two little plants coming up. I feel really proud!!

However, the tomato side of the tray is doing nothing at all. Should tomatoes take longer? I'm seeing a slight flaw in my plan of planting two different vegetables in the same tray. So I've put the broccoli side out in the light and covered the tomato side with a folder to keep it dark.

I have taken to checking the tomato side of my tray morning, noon and night for any sign of life. I'm speaking encouraging words to it, and trying to start a little friendly competition among vegetables. Here are the little broccolis (or is the plural of broccoli just broccoli?) in all their tiny glory. I'm chuffed.
Aren't they splendid?!

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Planting begins!

Exciting news - I've planted my broccoli and tomatoes. I compacted some soil in the bottom of the trays, followed by some slightly less compact soil, gave all the pots a good soaking and put two seeds in each tray. Well, approximately two - it's quite frustrating with wet muddy hands to get the tiny seeds to go where you want. The first ones are very neat but towards the end there may have been a few missing or extra seeds per pot. Never mind, we're all friends here.

The tomatoes wanted to be covered with 6mm of soil and the broccoli with 10mm. Fussy much? I had no idea how much that was so each has a sprinkling of compost on top, with slightly more on the broccoli. I gave that a slight push down and another spray, hopefully that was right.

Strangely, I felt really bad about losing any seeds. Each one has so much potential, it's a whole plant in there waiting to get out. I hope I don't become too emotionally attached to my plants. Apparently you grow two in each pot and only keep the stronger plant, so if all these little seeds make the effort to grow, I then have to kill half of them?! This could be tricky.

My trays are currently sitting in a dark-ish place, they want a constant temperature, and once leaves start to show then I should put them in the light. They won't need any more water for a while. Fingers crossed everyone. What on earth I will do with 40 broccoli plants and 40 tomato plants if they all grow I have no idea.

I forgot to buy any of those writing-on-in-your-best-handwriting labels what you just planted. But it's ok, I'm 90% sure which side is tomatoes and which side is broccoli. So now we wait :) I'll keep you posted...

They're in there somewhere

Choices, choices

Well then. I've been down to Focus and got myself a few bits of kit, so I think I'm ready to get started. I've got some seed trays and lids, some compost and a sprayer. I've got the following seeds I've been collecting from random places over the last year or so:

Chinese Broccoli
Normal Broccoli
Runner Beans
Mixed Salad & Rocket
Salad Onions
Hot Yellow Peppers
Sweet Thai Basil

So where to start?! I was thinking peppers, but my book doesn't even mention those so that's a non starter. Paul says that you are supposed to plant onions on Christmas Day. Right. Will remember that next year. Apparently you should plant salad where you want to keep it as it's difficult to move, and I don't have any pots yet. Beans sound difficult - I think I am going to need some canes or something for them to grow on. Tomatoes are popular and surely quite easy - I think I'll start with those, and I will do the normal broccoli to add some variety, and because I don't know what Chinese broccoli is. Paul says that broccoli should have been planted in December, but never mind, the packet says April to June so I'll go with that. Here's my kit:

Ready, steady, plant

The Gin Deck

There's a slight issue with the Grand Plan which is that I don't actually have a garden, or an allotment, or even any grass. Our flat has a balcony, which luckily is a reasonable size and gets the sun for a lot of the day. So this is where my masterpiece (or Greek tragedy) will be played out. There's nothing out there except 4 chairs which were here when we moved in. We've not used it yet as we moved in in January - the only exciting thing to ever happen on the balcony was that once I came home and found a dead pigeon on it. (I say exciting, actually was quite terrifying. My b/f rescued me by pushing it over the edge with one of the chairs.) But anyway, I digress. The balcony - it's quite boring. Here's some photos:
Scene of pigeon homicide
Soon to be full of plants (fingers crossed)
We're also quite high up - we're on the 7th floor. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Possible upsides: no danger to plants from foxes, rabbits or slugs (I don't think slugs can climb, can they?) Possible downsides: my bumper crop of strawberries will be extra tempting to passing birds and window cleaners, and it's quite windy up here sometimes. I'll have to be careful that things don't blow away. Also, pigeons die here sometimes, hopefully not often.


I've been tempted to grow some things for a while, and here's some of the reasons why.
I lived in a shared house in London that had the most amazing magic garden. It had mint and lavender growing everywhere, apples hanging over from a neighbour's tree and grapes growing along the fence. Grapes! I thought they only grew in hot places. The best thing about this garden was that no-one looked after it, watered it, pruned it (apart from gathering of mint to make mojitos...) or did anything to it, but it grew things, all by itself. I have a photo actually:
The Secret Garden
(That's taken with the hipstamatic app on the iPhone - makes any photo look retro and amazing. Definitely recommend it.) So Clapham showed me that things can grow in small spaces and they don't need much looking after.

Patio Produce
I got this book from Amazon called Patio Produce by Paul Peacock, and I really recommend it. It's a great guide to growing things in small spaces. It's given me lots of tips and inspiration. There's sections on what you need, how to get started, and help on loads of specific plants.
Take a leaf out of his book
So Paul, my new teacher of all things green and spatially challenged, thanks for writing a really awesome book and I look forward to working with you.