Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Balcony herb garden update No.2

It's time for some herbs! This is a follow up on my balcony herb garden, as the No.2 in post title indicates. To get the whole picture, be sure to check out my Balcony herb garden update No.1!
Sometimes I wonder if I overdid it with the number of plants on my small city balcony, it's really a green jungle within a concrete jungle. Maybe it's just a little bit overcrowded. In fact I even lost a few plants due to lack of space and their stronger neighbors overgrowing them.
I had a great Thyme variety that was shaded by her much bigger neighbors, so it looks pretty much dead right now. This was a classic example of planting without planning, but we live and learn. It was a herb used for many dishes in my kitchen, offering great taste and aroma. Fortunately enough, I have another variety that's growing fine, but again it's not as tasty as the other one was.

Here's just one of three Rosemarie plant varieties I grow
on my balcony, my bushy Lavender plant and some heavily harvested Parsley.

Here's another Rosemary variety guarded by a garden elf.

One more Rosemary plant.



And that's it regarding the herbs on my balcony garden! I think the list is complete, but who knows, maybe I'll be growing even more herbs, even more varieties very soon! Lets hope so!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Balcony Tomato Emergency

Another extremely windy day on my balcony, once again with serious consequences for my balcony plants. Again, mostly because of their height, my balcony tomatoes were the ones most damaged!
I can tell you, it wasn't a pretty sight! My tomatoes were all tangled, the stems and branches were heavily bent and tossed all around. The wind had no mercy for my balcony plants! Here's a picture of my balcony tomatoes that might show you what I'm talking about.

I hurried to save my plants, but most of the damage had already been done. However, I had to help my tomatoes somehow! Italman to the rescue! Considering the jungle they created on my balcony garden, it takes some acrobatic skills to prune, stake and tie them. It's almost impossible for me to approach some branches, but I hope I managed to tie them enough and they won't brake under this sweet weight they're carrying. I even inserted a few additional stakes, but I can't find one tall enough for my crazy growing urban tomatoes.

That's the best I could do, but on a brighter or better said greener side most of my herbs seem to be fine. However, I'll be sure to check out the state of my entire balcony garden(plant by plant) early in the morning! Balcony herb garden update No.2 follows!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Italman's dinner

I went to the marketplace earlier today and bought some lettuce, pepper and chicken breasts.

And here's my dinner!

Balcony herb garden update No.1

As I've said many times before, I really enjoy growing herbs and I can't imagine my balcony garden without them. They keep good company to my veggies and keep my urban home free of flies and mosquitoes. Not to mention the fragrance and the taste...hmmm!! If you love to cook like I do, you'll be sure to find some space for a little herb garden of your own!
You could see from my previous post that my purple basil is growing just fine and is constantly rewarding us with fresh basil leaves. However, I have some additional young basil plants growing in a small container waiting to get transplanted.

I like growing more plants of the same variety, as well as more varieties of the same plant specie. Not only because of a greater harvest, but because that gives me the opportunity to experiment and learn the specific needs of each plant variety I grow. My green basil variety has given us a significant amount of fresh leaves for the past few months. Unfortunately, I don't know the name of the variety in question, but I bought it anyway. The old lady that was selling plants at the local market really seemed to have a green thumb. All of the plants she was offering were looking happy&healthy and she was very kind to share some great gardening tips. When I buy my plants, I tend to do it from local gardeners. There are several reasons I do this, but the most important are supporting the community and creating real human relations. Big up for green thumb granny! Well, back to my basil plants! Here are a few smaller plants that I intentionally left to flower, because I would like to have some seeds of this particular variety for the next year.

Here's another flowering herb from my garden and also a very rewarding one. It's a Mint variety I like to use in some dishes, but it's especially great in all kinds of beverages. It's a pretty invasive plant that tends to fill out your garden space very quickly, but constant pruning&harvesting will keep them in control. Take a close look at these photos, behind my Mint plant and you'll see that there are a lots of other herbs growing in my garden!

Even if you couldn't recognize any of the herbs from my somewhat lousy photos, I'll be posting more on those in my Balcony herb garden update No. 2.! For now, I'd like to show you another Mint variety I grow on my balcony. This plant makes a great tea, of course sweetened with some Stevia Rebaudiana leaves(the second photo)!

Enjoy your herbs!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Pruning Basil

Herb gardening is a convenient choice for every family, living in urban or rural environment. Don't be discouraged if you live in a small apartment and don't have a balcony, you can grow your herbs on a windowsill. All it takes is plant box(container), some potting soil, seeds or cuttings of your favorite herbs and you're on a right way of becoming a proud owner of a herb garden.

Basil is one of those herbs I can't stop growing, as well as using I might add. It's a pretty easy plant to grow and comes in lots of varieties you can choose from. Basil varieties differ in color, aroma, taste, leaf size
and flowers, and are commonly used as ornamental plants, as well as in culinary practice. It's also a very rewarding plant to grow offering a continual harvest of fresh leaves throughout the season. However, proper pruning is crucial when it comes to growing basil and will be the factor that will determine how much herb you'll be able to harvest. I might say pruning is a number one gardening tip when it comes to successful basil growing. I've already stated the importance of pruning in Pinching basil plants, but now I've made more photos, this time of my purple basil.

I prefer pruning, i.e harvesting my plants every week or so, and that way I always have enough fresh basil in my kitchen. Here's the flower forming, but it's going to be snipped off, with some leaves of course.

Here I'm pinching flowers off my basil plants.

A pinched off basil flower.

Taste some!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

After the Storm

Fortunately enough, apart from a few broken branches and a dozen of lost flowers and fruits, most of my balcony plants seem to be more or less o.k.! I have tied and splinted my cherry tomatoes as best as I could, but it's a jungle on my balcony and it's pretty hard for me to provide them the support they need to produce optimally.
The corners of my balcony garden(where the tomatoes grow) are somewhat overcrowded and in spite all of my efforts(pruning, staking and tying) I have to deal with a real urban jungle environment.

Take a look!

Hmm sorry, here's the other angle! Isn't it a real urban tomato jungle!?

Here are a few examples of what I have to do to keep my plants supported. It's not a pretty sight, but it will do it job for the time being. After all, it's all about the homegrown!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Rampage on my balcony

After a week or so of extremely sunny weather with temperatures ranging from 20C(night) to 36C(day), we've had some rain finally. The temperatures I mentioned above were measured in the shade of course, but in the open, in the concrete jungle, even in my apartment it gets a lot hotter!
However, it wasn't just raining, it was extremely windy and the only thing I can tell you is that my balcony garden plants aren't lonesome in their suffering. As soon as I came home, I hurried to the balcony to check out my plants, but most of the damage has already been done. I really don't want to get in details right now, but I can only say it wasn't a pretty sight. I have additionally tied,supported and splinted my cherry tomatoes, but it looks like about 30% of my crop is gone with the wind. After I've done all I could to help my plants, I went on a bicycle ride to clear my head and get some fresh air. Soon, I stumbled on some casualties........

This tree needs a hug, at least a good bye one!

It was a good shady spot to park a car on a sunny day, but s... happens!?

Hmmm, after all I can only be grateful that most of my urban grow plants are more or less o.k. Soon I'll be able to assess the real damage done on my balcony garden, but for now I can only hope that my plants will heal and keep producing fruit as they were!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Cherry tomato collage

My balcony garden is blushing, i.e. my cherry tomatoes are, and I just can't wait for some homegrown salad. This year I haven't grown any lettuce, so the whole thing(salad) wont be 100% homegrown, but I've made some mistakes this year that I don't intend to repeat in the future. However, we live and learn!

The fruits of my balcony gardening and the anticipation, hmmm......

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Urban revolutionaries

A few days ago I stumbled upon a great web site owned by Dervaes family, a family of real urban revolutionaries I might add. I was really overjoyed with their work and I definitely support their mission.

The name of their web site is Path to Freedom and as they say it i
s a grassroots, family operated, viable urban homesteading project established to promote a simpler and more fulfilling lifestyle and reduce one family's "footprint" on the earth's dwindling resources. The Dervaes family managed to transform their ordinary city lot in Pasdena, California into an integral urban homestead. Apart from producing most of their own food, they've managed to decrease their homestead’s reliance on earth’s non-renewable resources using solar panels, energy efficient appliances, and biodiesel processor. It really seems like the Dervaes are doing their best to live as sustainable and self-sufficiently as possible in an urban environment. There's also an important educational dimension in their work, to quote them Path to Freedom's mission is to educate individuals and families to integrate sustainable living practices and methods into their daily lives. Take a look at their magnificent urban garden and enjoy!

Thanks to Path to Freedom for inspiration and for bringing permaculture closer to the people!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Garden where you can

Even though my balcony garden plants get the most of my attention, my balcony isn't the only place where I grow plants as I've already mentioned. I have some plants in my apartment, as well as in front of my apartment and on the stairway, growing in bunch of containers.

For every urban grower space is one of the greatest limitations, but there's always a way! I garden everywhere I can and even in some places where that seemed impossible at first. You have to be creative and do a lot of experimenting, but in the end it all pays back! There's usually not a lot you can do regarding the conditions(amount of sun, temperature, air movement) you're faced with, so you'll have to take care good care while you choose where to grow certain plants. For example, I have a few cherry tomatoes on my stairway(inside of my apartment building) that are growing very slowly, while those on my balcony garden grow as crazy. I guess you would assume it's the lack of light that's causing this, but it's not, it's the lack of air circulation and very high temperatures. Something I can't change, even if I wanted to. However, although such conditions aren't favorable, some of my urban grow plants seem to grow there quite well.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Extremely hot and sunny

Last few days were extremely hot and sunny, and the weather forecast says the same for the next week. It's hard for me to function normally these days, not only because of very high temperatures, but because of a terrible toothache I'm experiencing.
However, I'm very happy that my tomatoes will receive enough sun in this crucial time and I know it will make them taste ooooh so great. I have to be patient, another week or so and it's tomato celebration day! Take a look at my balcony tomatoes, ripening and enjoying the sun!

Garden Pests Prevention and Control

Well, to continue one of my previous posts Garden Insects & Pests, I'm going to bring up some of the things we can do in our gardens to keep our plants happy and healthy. Keep in mind, it can all be done without using any man made chemicals, strictly natural!
All kinds of garden pests, diseases and fungi can attack your plants. However, there's a lot of stuff we can do in our everyday garden maintenance to prevent such unwanted guests from visiting our gardens. On the other hand, if allowed to thrive, extreme control measures are necessary to get rid of them.

It's better to be safe, than sorry!

  • Cleanliness/tidiness is a very important factor in pests prevention and should be incorporated in every gardeners routine. Removing the garden debris in which many insects live will help for sure. Don't let the leaves to accumulate on the soil surface and try to keep it as tidy as you can. And one more thing,always keep your garden tools clean(you can only guess why)!
  • Pruning is also very important, it will increase airflow, encourage new growth and improve the overall state of your plant. Healthy plants are much more disease resistant and while pruning your plants when it's needed, you will simply be removing diseased or dead parts of the plants!
  • New plants in our gardens our always a joy, but there are those times when they become our worst nightmare. When importing new plants in your garden always be sure to check them out properly for possible pests and diseases. A single, beautiful new plant in your garden might bring you a whole lot of problems in your garden, so I advise you to think twice.
  • Companion planting is also a very helpful way of keeping your garden plants healthy. Certain plants are known to discourage certain insects. This way you have an everyday natural insect repellent in your garden. I can say that my apartment is almost 100% fly and mosquito free and it's all thanks to the choice of the plants I've made this year. Growing so many herbs on my balcony garden turned out rewarding in so many ways. Choosing the plants you grow in your garden is very important if you want to create a healthy organic garden, so do your research before you do any planting.
Even with all preventative measures taken, sometimes pests and diseases will take over your garden. When that happens things go downwards pretty fast and you have to take control!

  • Manual removal is an option, but only in very early stages of infestation and for people with good eyesight, a lot of patience and not too many plants.
  • Natural organic sprays represent significantly better option that should help you get rid of your garden infestation. I like to use neem oil which is very effective against all kinds of pests, very easy to use and pretty inexpensive. Spray the foliage of your plants(under the leaves also) heavily and that should do the trick, if not repeat the process a few more times.Just recently, I've used Neem oil to protect my cherry tomatoes from aphid and spider mite infestation and again it worked great. Pyrethrum based sprays work o.k. also, but are unreasonably expensive from my point of view.
  • Biological control or introducing predators and parasites into your garden is also a great way of controling garden pests, as well as a great preventative measure. If you don't have a ladybug or a lacewing in your garden don't despair, today it's possible to order them online. If you like the idea, check out this site with loads of info and a great offering of beneficial insects.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Turning Red

There's a lot of things going on in my home garden these days. Unfortunately I'm on a pretty tight schedule and right now I can't find the time to document all of them.
However, my cherry tomatoes certainly deserve a word or two, and a photo of course! Finally, the fruit started to change color a few days ago and it's getting redder and redder! I can't wait to pick the first cherry tomato from my balcony garden!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Another perspective

I've been quite busy for the last few days and I haven't had the time to do all the gardening chores I intended to. However, I sprayed all of my balcony plants with Neem oil what should take care of my aphids&spider mites problem for now.

I should go to sleep right now, because tomorrow I have to get up
early, take care of my urban garden and give some love and nutrients to my plants. There's a lot of stuff going one on my balcony garden, but I'm still quite busy with some other stuff I'm doing. I'm also without a camera which would enable me to record the present state of my Urban Grow plants!!! Nevertheless, here are some out of date photographs of my balcony garden flowers. You could have already seen those Pelargonium flowers on my gardening blog, but this time I offer you another perspective!

And here I am!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Will it be enough?

Well, it's still raining, but at least now my plants are standing upright. I've added some additional support for my balcony tomatoes and tied everything as best as I could. I wonder will it be enough!? For sure, it will make things better for my plants, but still I couldn't find a stake big enough for my crazy growing tomatoes. The plants that were injured were taken care of and now I can only wait for them to heal. I can only hope it wont stress my plants too much and effect flowering and fruit producing. Unfortunately, I haven't had and still don't have a camera to record the state of my balcony garden before&after the night that caused problems in my urban garden. However, here are a few photographs of veggies taken a few days ago after the rain.

Wet Tomatoes

Still I haven't done anything regarding the aphid and spider mite issue, but I hope rain will do some of my work. Right now, there's no sense in applying Neem oil because the rain would wash it off. Nevertheless, I'll have to spray some on my plants as soon as the rain stops falling. I'll be posting some information on Neem oil, soon too. Hopefully, I'll have the camera to record some of the stuff I'm writing about in this garden blog of mine.

Windy Balcony Garden

It has been raining almost all night&day and temperature has fallen significantly. I have a feeling that my plants love it, but it was extremely windy and that's certainly not a good thing for my balcony garden plants.

My tomatoes are supported with stakes, but they overgrew their support couple of weeks ago. Insufficient support is becoming a problem, especially when strong wind is in question like these days. When not supported enough branches and vegetable flowers get tossed around a lot and you can easily loose your crop. Last few nights were pretty fatal! I can see that a lot of delicate cherry tomato flowers are missing. i.e. have fallen off. Not to mention that few of my cherry tomatoes got injured, so I'll have to do some splinting and patching. I hope I wont loose what's left of my veggie flowers, i.e. future veggies. The thing to do right now is create adequate support, but I can't find a thing in my apartment tall enough to fit this purpose. I'm not focused on balcony or garden design, I just want to make my plants happy and I'll do what I have to do.

It's time for some urban garden action!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Garden Insects & Pests

Gardeners across the world usually share a significant amount of mutual interests and problems. Some of those are: pests and diseases, over watering and under watering , fertilizing , growing techniques, propagation, pruning issues and many other common gardening issues.

Urban gardening isn't so much different from any other form of gardening. After all, we all try to grow happy and healthy plants. Therefore, whether you garden indoors or outdoors, in urban or natural environment, you've already or certainly are about to have some experience with insects and pests in your garden. Insects are an important part of every naturally balanced garden and as everything in nature, they have they purpose in the ecosystem as a whole. Some of them are beneficial to our gardens, as they feed on pests or pollinate the flowers of plants. The ones we call harmful create problems by feeding on our plants and are therefore undesirable. However, most pest problems can be prevented, but if left unchecked extreme control measures are often necessary. Prevention and control are two main aspects of dealing with garden pests and insects, but most importantly it can all be done in natural, sustainable manner.

It's important, for me at least, to live my life in a sustainable manner and try to get back to my roots, to natural living. Being environment friendly isn't something you can teach your kids, while at the same time you destroy and pollute that same environment in every possible way. Kids need an example, something and someone to look up to and right now they are not looking at a pretty picture. Everyday we have the opportunity to do something good for our planet or maybe, better said not to do so much wrong. Equally, every gardener has a choice: organic or chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides or natural alternatives.

I made my choice! It's organic!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Balcony Flowers

As I said earlier, a lot of my balcony plants are in flowering stage. I'm having some problems trying to Google the names of all the plants in English, but that's mostly because I know them by names used in Croatia(by local people). However, I'll be gradually posting all of their photos and I would appreciate if you would help me discover their English names.
For now, I'm going to make my Mum happy by posting some pictures o
f her Pelargonium flowers!

Balcony Flowers(Pelargonium)

Veggie dinner

My fridge was kind of empty, but I found some veggies and that was enough for a hot day like this. Some pepper leftovers, one and a half zucchini, some feta cheese and a little bit of corn bread(not on the photo). I can't wait for my own homegrown veggies to ripen!

Still green

My balcony garden is in flowering stage and there are veggie flowers and baby veggies popping all around. Almost everyday I get a close look at my tomatoes, but still they are all green.

Although my two Saint Pierre Tomatoes aren't producing any fruit, that isn't my main concern right now. In one of my previous posts, I mentioned that I've planted too many plants in one plant box/container. Even then, I knew that the plants wouldn't have enough root space, but at that time it was the only way for me to grow them. I have a habit of sowing to many seeds and therefore I keep ending up with more seedlings than I can handle. Usually I share most of them, so it's a good thing in the end! Like the overcrowding issue isn't enough, the other day I realized that my veggies are under aphid and spider mite attack. Some leaves were severely damaged so I had to cut them off. I have to take care of that problem as soon as I can, because these pests can really suck out the life out of a plant. Neem Oil works pretty good with such problems and is totally organic. More on Neem oil, soon!

For now, take a look at the progress my baby veggies are making.

Saint Pierre Tomato

Cherry Tomatoes


Sunday, July 8, 2007

Balcony Garden Jungle

I just realized that I've never mentioned that apart from cherry tomatoes and pepper, I also grow regular size tomatoes. There are hundreds of tomato varieties from which you can choose.
The variety I grow on my balcony garden is named Saint Pierre. The seed package I bought offered little information on the plant characteristics, but it's allegedly a late strain. Currently, there are three Saint Pierre tomatoes on my balcony and all of them are in flowering stage. However, only one of them is producing fruit. The other two plants are a lot bigger and producing a lot of flowers, but they keep falling off and there's no sign of fruit yet. That worries me a lot and I was even thinking of cutting them down, but I'll give them a few more weeks. Still, they are growing like crazy and that gives me some hope. My balcony garden is starting to look like a real urban jungle!

Urban Grow Jungle