Sunday, 26 June 2011

The story so far (month 2)

It's a gorgeous sunny morning on the balcony today and the perfect time to take stock of how my little growing project is going.

My tomatoes are a great success. I took a good look at them yesterday and discovered I had missed a few side shoots which had turned into large stems. I performed a bit of surgery and they are looking better now. There's lots of flowers on all 3 plants and some fruits forming. They are growing visibly every day.

The chillies are also thriving, they love their sunny spot, it's the hottest place in the house. There are so many flowers and fruits forming I can't even keep up. They are still green at the moment (I am pretty sure they will turn red when ripe) - it shouldn't be long before we can pick these.

Similarly the beans and peas. They seem to love the netting and are growing happily.

My strawberries are a little healthier since the trim, I haven't lost any more leaves so that's a bonus. Still, I find myself quite indifferent to them now and I don't even know if I should make the effort to keep them for next year. 

I've got more salad on the go - something a little milder this time because the spicy mix was so strong we could hardly eat it by the end. This one is a mild green mix, and sown in nice neat rows this time so that they are easier to thin out!

Also my sunflower kit has produced 2 healthy plants, I'm looking forward to seeing how they turn out - I love sunflowers. It's all quiet on the chilli kit front, although I did plant those a little later.

P.S. A note on blogging

I had never blogged before 2 months ago when I started my little balcony garden and this blog, and I am thoroughly enjoying both. I find blogging therapeutic, creative (especially the photography) and the perfect way to record the developments of my gardening. But the best part about it by far has been the comments and messages from other gardeners - help, advice or just a friendly "hello" from people all over the world. Thank you to everyone who has read my blog, given me advice or wished me well, I really appreciate it and I love reading all of your blogs too.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

To bee, or not to bee

My pollination attempts began a while ago with the chillies, due to the fact that my house is rather lacking in both wind and bees. So I've been helping my chillies "get it on" by moving the pollen around the flowers on the plant with my finger. It seems to be working well as there are loads of fruits forming. Sometimes I must miss one because occasionally the whole flower and it's stem just drop off.

This chilli's seen some action

I hadn't been worrying about the plants outside because I presumed that they could sort this kind of thing out for themselves. Although I haven't seen any bees (do bees get vertigo do you think?) we certainly have plenty of wind. Most of plants seem to be happy - there are tomatoes and peas forming and I haven't had a hand in that, so some magic must be happening on it's own: 


But recently my runner bean flowers have been falling off and after a bit of googling I think that they might need some manual intervention. The last 2 nights I have been out with my paintbrush to transfer the pollen around and between the flowers, although I'm slightly hampered by the fact that I don't know my anthers from my stigmas and it isn't as obvious as it is with the chillies.

Hopefully this is what they were after. Once again my plants are educating and amazing me.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Lemonbalm & Heartsease

Well I'm not sure what this plant is, but it sure isn't Lemonbalm. I think Mum has just given me a weed! Does anyone recognise it? I'm intriugued as to what is is though, if it is useful or pretty. It's certainly healthy. Does anyone know?


However, we were at Gardeners World this weekend and I have managed to get a REAL lemonbalm plant. I was really happy when I found it - I have no idea how common it is. It smells so fantastic. Here is is settling into it's new home.

I also bought this - Heartsease (Viola Tricolore). I'm so excited about this because you can eat the petals. I'm not usually a flower person but you may have noticed I like any plant which is useful! I had it once in a salad and I have been on the look out for it ever since, but not known what it was called. It's a herb and you can eat the leaves and the petals. They don't taste of anything but they look very pretty. You can also candy the petals to use them as decoration on desserts. Isn't it gorgeous? I will let you know what I use it for!

Gardeners World / Good Food show was so much fun. I recommend it, it's a great day out. We had some amazing food and saw some beautiful flowers. There was a great stall where people were giving advice, so I asked about my strawberries and apparently it is powdery mildew - I have chopped off most of the leaves and I'll see what that does, else you can get a spray for it. Poor things are looking very bald. I also ditched the broccoli, there isn't room or time for it. Everything else is growing like crazy though!

Friday, 17 June 2011

Unhappy campers

My strawberries are not happy. And I am not happy with them. I was wondering why they were producing lots of new leaves but no flowers, so I did some googling, and it appears that strawberries don't produce any fruit in the first year, which is a shame. I am recovering from this disappointment but I don't think the strawberries are. All the older leaves are brown / purple, dry and curling up, and the newer leaves are covered in some sort of white dust. The plants are producing lots of new lovely green leaves, but after a while they all turn like this. Does anyone know what's going on? Are they doomed?

And the broccoli (which I admit was planted without really thinking about what it needed & where it would go) is not happy either. The bottom leaves are drying out and dying, the whole thing has a rather unhealthy hue, although I suppose that this might be normal. They haven't grown much at all. To be honest I am tempted to throw them out. If anyone would like to make an argument on behalf of the broccoli, please do, or else it will be the big compost heap in the sky for them!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

More flowers and other happenings

There are some amazing things happening on my balcony. Here's a couple more flowers you haven't seen yet...

Runner Beans



Look at my pea plants - I find this incredible. It's reaching out to grab onto anything it can, and it's growing up the net nicely. Things like this always brings me back to the question "how do they know how to do this?" I am really enjoying seeing this stuff happen on a daily basis.

This is the most exciting news though, there are real, actual, proper chillies and tomatoes growing. Look!

Note to self: stop taking so many close up photos on new camera, remember to get the bigger picture too!

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Plant Kits

For my birthday (yes, I know my birthday was ages ago but it's been spreading itself out this year!) my friend bought me two plant kits. The first is sunflowers - a mini variety - and it comes in the most beautiful little yellow bucket:

The other is from the pocket garden range - some chillies. The other chillies are doing so well so fingers crossed for these ones too.

It's raining, windy and grey on the balcony right now. I've been away since Thursday so I want to go out and see what's happening but I can't face the weather so I am snuggled up inside with the laptop. At least the plant kits mean I can have a little gardening fix. And Gardener's World on iPlayer. My b/f thinks I am old before my time, but I love it! You learn so much!

I hope everyone had a lovely weekend.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

First flowers

There's the very beginnings of some flowers on a lot of my plants, I think over the next week or so I'm going to bore you with lots of pretty pictures. My tomatoes are about 50cm high, and they have started making some buds:

My beans kept growing and growing even past the netting and into the sky. The first one I chopped down is ahead of the rest - it really has put it's energy into the lower leaves. Look what I spotted today:

The top of the chilli plants are looking promising:

And here's the best for last, my first proper flower on the jalapeno plant :)

Saturday, 4 June 2011

More tomato drama

This post is a tale of danger, excitement, daring and rescue on the high seas (or balconies). My tomatoes have put on a growth spurt in the last week and had reached the top of the greenhouse so it was time to take them out. They look great - the stems are thick and strong and they smell AMAZING. I love that earthy smell of tomato plants. This morning began as a beautiful sunny day, so I moved the tomatoes out and supported them with canes as so:

I was happy, and they looked happy so I came indoors and got on with some other things. That's exactly when the wind decided to make an appearance - typical. Met Office were saying that there would be a strong north easterly wind today and tomorrow and the tomatoes weren't looking so good. I had a bit of a panic because the leaves were getting battered and I could see them snapping off soon. Luckily my other half was around and came up with an ingenious engineering solution to the wind by using both of the covers for the greenhouse (I managed to buy only a cover rather than a greenhouse the first time round from Wilkinson online). We created a space for the tomatoes which means that they are protected on the sides but open at the top to let them grow. And we didn't loose any leaves along the way!

It ain't pretty but it works!