Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Final setup completed!

I am finally finished putting all the plants into their final pots. Unfortunately I had to dispose of one of the tomato plants because there just isn't any space on the balcony. I ended up making 3 5-gallon self-watering buckets for the tomatoes and putting the fourth plant into a 4/5 gallon container I had left over from walmart. My balcony is going to turn into a jungle!!  I definitely have more plants than I originally planned but I am happy. I like to have my morning cup of tea up there, just watching all the plants and checking out the little vegetables that are starting to fruit. It makes me happy to watch them grow!

I couldn't capture the whole balcony in a picture and I may try to capture it by video. Here are some pictures showing how my balcony transformed from empty balcony to a full container vegetable garden!
Empty balcony with a lone table
Some plants potted up and barricaded to prevent wind damage
Putting up wind barrier
All plants potting up, final face of container vegetable garden

Monday, May 30, 2011

It is hotter than my thermometer!

The temperature according to weather.com is 96F. But my thermometer on the balcony says otherwise. It is so hot! In between movies, BBQ and going out to dinner I've been gardening (there is so much to do!). There is so much to do! I am determined to pot all the plants I started from seeds so my balcony is going to be more crowded than I originally planned. I just can't get myself to throw away them away.
It is unbearably hot on the balcony, but the sun is good for the herbs. I thought they were happy when I had them indoors, but I realized that they are much happier outside. Clearly the thyme and rosemary are much stronger and greener now. The rosemary are actually growing upward rather than scrawling around all over the place.
I made 2 self-watering pots using 18gallon containers. I was initially wanting to put 3 plants in each container but quickly realized it is too small for 4. I put 3 of the pepper plants (Chinese giant sweet pepper) in one and 2 tomatoes (either homestead or supersweet 100) in the other. I have 5 more tomato plants left so I plan to make 4 5-gallon self-watering container and put the last in a 4/5 gallon bucket from walmart. I used to water the plants using empty juice and soda bottles. Now this is not manageable so I invested in a hose making the watering process much quicker. An great upgrade for the balcony container garden!
The wonderful hose and 3 pepper plants in 18 gallon bucket
2 tomatoes in 18 gallon bucket
I also transplanted all the basil from the seaweed experiment and one tomato seedling and put in a pot up front with the petunias. I'm not sure if the tomato will fruit but it is worth a try. Hopefully the slugs will not get the basil!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Flowers on the peas!...and tomato leaves curling

The peas are growing very quickly and they are starting to outgrow the trellis. I'm not sure if I should build a taller support because I wouldn't be able to reach that high anyway. I'm wondering if I can coax the plants to grow sideways. I also noticed some flowers yesterday, I didn't notice it earlier because they camouflage pretty well with the foliage. I'm very happy to see the flowers because I was thinking it might be too hot for the peas to produce any pods. Looks like I might be able to harvest a couple of peas!
Super Snap pea flower
The peas shooting up above the trellis
I noticed that the tomato leaves were curling up. I was a little concerned but I read here and other sites that this type of curling is the plant adjusting to changes in the environment (it has been really hot the past couple of day). I know I haven't been over-watering so I definitely think the plant is adjusting to the heat (makes sense to try to reduce surface area by curling). I also read that sometimes if the foliage grows quicker than the roots, it curls up like this to reserve energy for root growth. I feel so bad that this plant is confined to this container so the roots can't really grow so much. Hopefully it will do OK.
 On a happier note, the arugula is coming back I think! I moved it from direct sun to a space under the balcony - I think it is much happier there.
Arugula on the top, mescluns in bottom container
I just love the flowers on the ichiban eggplant. I didn't know I was such a flower person, but I guess I am!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Such generosity!

Yesterday I got this in the mail from Granny.
I was expecting a few seeds but she sent me a whole bunch of seeds for varieties that she thinks will do well in containers. So nice!! I have to evaluate how much space I have and see if I can try one of them this year. If not, I have SO much to look forward to next year!! \\(^o^)// Thanks granny!
I potted the 3 plants I bought at the nursery. So much fun!
Thai Dragon hot pepper in ~2.5 gallon planter
Fairy tale eggplant in ~2.5 gallon planter
Gretel eggplant in ~4/5 gallon planter

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Quick pics of little little veggies

The weather is getting more summer-like. The hot weather must be good for the plants since I found a couple of small vegetables forming (in addition to the zucchinis). Great progress on this balcony container vegetable garden! I'm getting a little preview of the harvest to come?!
Little Ichiban eggplant
Little jalapeno pepper
Little Early Girl 50

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

More space and fertilizing

I think I am going to move some of my plants, maybe peas to a very narrow space on the ground floor where one pot of peas and 2 zucchini plants reside. I will decide a little bit later which ones to move.
The zucchinis here are quickly outgrowing their pots.  I really don't want 4 big pots of zucchinis since the leaves get so large and take up much space. I'll keep these two in the little pots and maybe try to add soil to the rim. They'll just have to stay small:)
The majority of the pots I'm using are mainstay self-watering container from Walmart. The smaller one I am using takes 41 cups of soil (~2.5 gallons) and the larger is either 4 or 5 gallons. I really wanted to make 5 gallon buckets but trying to get free buckets from restaurants/stores was stressing me out so I bought these instead (cheap and pretty looking). The zucchini, eggplant (large pot), jalapeno (small pot), peas (small) are doing OK in their respective planters, but the larger pot is definitely too small for the early girl tomato.
Zucchini in the smaller 2.5 gallon pot (left), and larger 4-5 gallon pot (right)
 The tiny zucchinis forming in the smaller container were getting curled up since there wasn't enough space for them to grow straight. I decided I need to put some soil underneath the plant so that the the leaves and tiny zucchinis are sitting closer to the rim of the pot (thus more space to grow).
Adding soil underneath the zucchini
The surgery was successful, but I had a couple of casualties :-(
I also fertilized my plants. I bought these "organic" fertilizer.
 I'm not sure how I feel about organic versus non-organic fertilizers. I don't know enough to make an educated decision about which is better. At the store, I correctly remembered seeing the Jobes fertilizer here, which makes me feel better about using it because I think she has an amazing rooftop garden out in Brooklyn.
Here is the fertilizer pellet, I used 5-6 for the big and 3-4 for the smaller pot
I  feel better buying something that says "organic" but what really is "organic" fertilizer? Plus my soil came with fertilizer so probably my garden is no longer truly organic. I'll just do my best for now. As I get more experienced I am sure I will figure out what organic gardening is, and what works and doesn't work for me.

Monday, May 23, 2011

My plan worked!

I read that zucchini flowers open in the morning and close in the evening. I went out to the balcony first thing in the morning with Q-tips with the intention to hand pollinate some zucchinis and other flowers. The zucchini female and male flowers were in bloom, but I quickly noticed little bugs flying around the flowers I bought to attract beneficial insects. Upon closer inspection, it was clear that my master plan was successful. Buzzing around the flowers were tiny tiny insects (bees, I think) that were really cute! I think I mentioned this before, but I am not good with insects. I really don't like most things that crawl, squiggle or flies (even butterflies). So you will never hear me say "cute" and "insect" in the same sentence. But these little bee looking things were really cute! I think gardening will be good for my insect-phobia. I noticed the other day that I smiled when I saw a lady bug. I am totally changing! Here is a picture of the flowers I bought....can you spot the bee? You definitely need to enlarge the photo.
My camera isn't very good with zooming (or I cannot used it correctly) so it is not so easy to spot. But look closely...here he/she/it is!
This next one is a little harder. I had to look for a while and I took the picture!
Can you see it? can you? If you did, then you probably did well with the "where's Waldo" books. Here is the little guy! Again, so cute:) I wish I had a better camera!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Seaweed/Nori fertilizer experiment

I'm very sad to report that my nori seaweed fertilizer experiment will come to an end with inconclusive results. As I suspected, the quality of the non-fertilized soil that the seedlings in this soil is stunted. The clear winner is the MG soil, but again the difference is not due to the type of fertilizer that was used but rather the soil quality. I could keep going, but I feel like the poor seedlings are screaming at me to get transferred to a better home. I still have the huge container of seaweed fertilizer and wish there was a way to test its effectiveness. I probably will only use it (if shown effective) if I had a plot in an isolated location because it just smells really really REALLY bad. I would not want this on my balcony. Following are the before after photos (before 5/3 - top, after 5/22 - bottom).
Clear winner is MG potting soil
Regular soil, no fertilizer
RS + liquid MG
RS + nori fertilizer
RS + compost tea (one of the basil is completely burnt from the sun)
I feel like the seaweed fertilizer treatment and liquid miracle gro looks a little better than the other two. A little greener and healthier looking. But it may just be my imagination. Here is a side-by-side of all the seedlings in the non-fertilized thing they called "soil".
From left to right, Regular soil (RS), RS + liquid MG, RS + nori fertilizer, RS + compost tea
I may keep the seedlings in the same container for a while until I find a new home for them. I don't really expect to see improvements or differences between the treatments. I hope that someone else with the correct non-fertilized soil/potting mix can test the effectiveness of homemade nori-seaweed fertilizer (and also figure out a way for it not to be so stinky)! Two posting in one day...too bad the results aren't more exciting.

Need more space!!

I visited valley view farms, garden center and nursery yesterday to pick up a couple of flowers to attract more bees to the garden now that I have so many flowers. This place was amazing! I've been there a couple of times during the winter but never in the summer. They had amazing selection of vegetables and herbs. I tried to resist, but I found 2 eggplants (Greta and Fairy tale) and a pepper plant (thai pepper) that was calling my name so I relented. But after bringing the plants back home, I realized that I don't have much space left over on my balcony with these new plants plus the 10 seedling of tomato and peppers I have hardening off. I think I will have to grow some of the vegetables in front or back of the house! I love living in the city, but just for this I would like to have a backyard!
The new kids on the block
The other seedlings that will be competing for space on the balcony
 I also bought marigold and a plant called pink alyssum that looked really cute. I want to put it on a these flowers on the railing and bought some brackets that doesn't quite fit on the railing. I will have to go back to get the adjustable kind that I wanted to avoid since it was pricey.
I am sad to report a death in the garden...the arugula. I left the planter outside and I guess the sun and wind was just too strong. I'm going to see if the stronger ones will survive but I think, sadly, this batch will not make it. I will have to try again but maybe wait until it get cooler or something. I didn't want to grow it inside because it just breeds fungus gnats and I don't like the little buggers inside the house.
I've also noticed these little red bugs on the balcony that are tiny tiny. I'm not sure if they are harmful for the plants but everything so far seems to be OK  so I'm not going to worry so much about it. After googling tiny red bugs I think it could be spider mites. Hopefully they will not be harmful.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Basil and little little salad

Last year I had a pot of basil growing in the kitchen windowsill. When I bought the basil the women at the store told me to nip the tip to promote the plant to become more bushy. You want to cut it down to where there are 2 sets of leaves forming.
Hopefully this will make for a bushier basil plant and more basil! With the leaves that I trimmed and tomato I made bruschetta. I used some sort of whole grain chips that I did not like. Need to get some good bread. I'm not sure if I can call this a harvest...but it was good. I wish I had tomatoes from the garden...it will happen soon I hope!

Also here is a little salad I made from the mesclun green. I had just enough for 2, but I had to supplement it with some watercress I had in the fridge.