Recap on the garden 2015

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Hi everybody, it has been a while since my last post on my balcony garden.

I did not get to do as many posts as I wanted last season. Sometimes everyday life just ticks on and you are caught up in doing everyday things and that is what happened to me last season. So I thought that I would give a recap on how the 2015 garden season went before starting the 2016 season.

I thought I would start where I left off with the tomatoes and peppers being ready for their final pots. They looked really good and ready to go out into the world or just on the balcony.

Tomatoes and peppers ready to go into the balcony garden
Tomatoes and peppers ready to go into the balcony garden

I waited until middle of May and I thought the weather was perfect for putting the plants on the balcony. It turns out I was very wrong. The very night I put out the plants a great storm with very strong winds and hail hit Copenhagen. That storm just beat and battered my plants and the next morning not much was left. I was devastated and a bit heartbroken.

Just after the storm
Just after the storm

After a couple of days I had to cut of most of the leaves as they had lost all structure from being battered and were crumpling.

All that was left of the garden
All that was left of the garden

There was so little left I did not know if I would have a garden season or not. I was contemplating sowing new tomatoes and peppers but it was so late in the season. Eventually I decided to put my faith in the plants recovering and see how it would turn out.

It took two months for them to recover but they came back strong and I did get a garden.

The garden in July
The garden in July

The tomatoes even produced quite decently given the circumstances. The peppers didn’t ever really recover and only gave a couple of small peppers toward the end of the season. My experiment with tomatillos also produced a good amount of fruit.

Tomatoes and tomatillos in the garden
Tomatoes and tomatillos in the garden

What else happened in the 2015 season

I made elderflower cordial as I always do in June. I have a park close to where I live away from the roads where I usually get my flowers and turn them into lovely cordial. If you want the recipe you can find it here: Elderflower cordial

Elderflower codial
Elderflower codial

I also made red currant jelly from berries I got from my mother in law. It is a favorite in our house both on bread but also in sauces especially for Christmas. Maybe I will do a post with recipe at a later date.

Red currant gele
Red currant jelly

I put most of my herbs on the walkway in front of my flat to share with my neighbors. We can’t use all the herbs our selves son why not share them. It is a very good way to meet your neighbors and have a little chat.

Herb garden in front
Herb garden in front
Herb garden in front
Herb garden in front

I made tomato sauce for the winter season of some of the tomatoes and I pickled tomatillos, tomatoes and the last of my apples.

2015-09-27 18.26.03

Pickled goodies
Pickled goodies

I ended the season with the annual seed saving. I decided to take seeds from this seasons tomatoes as they proved to be incredibly hardy. They kicked that storms a.. and produced great tomatoes anyway. A great quality in a plant – that is a keeper.

Making tomato sauce and savng seeds at the same time
Making tomato sauce and saving seeds at the same time
Tomato seeds from the garden put on coffee filters to dry
Tomato seeds from the garden put on coffee filters to dry

What happens now?

I have started my tomatoes, peppers, one chili and a cucumber and I was looking forward to getting started. I will show you in the next post.

Unfortunately we just got notice that our facade will be undergoing renovation from March until October and my balcony might be covered and occupied by workers for the entire summer. No, no, no… Not happy…

I am going to talk to the superintendant to hear more about the exact plans for the renovation. Best case scenario is if they start where we live or end where we live so I can still have somewhat of a garden season. Worst case scenario is me exploring how much you can grow indoors with a great big scaffolding blocking the windows and the light. I am keeping my fingers crossed.

Happy growing season 2016 – Sara

 

 

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Homemade stock – a heavenly thing

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At some point during the last couple of years I decided that I did not want to keep using store bought stock. It is full of salt, taste enhancers and chemicals and I wanted to do something else. So I started looking at making my own stock and I thought it would be a lot more difficult that it is. But it is really not. I have even found that it helps me use more of the scraps that you get in a normal household. I use my freezer to save scraps from preparing and carving meat, bits of bacon, vegetables gone soft, spinach and herb stems from my garden and so on. All good things that you can use.

Homemade stock

Actually you can use a wide variety of ingredients but these are some of the ones I use.

Ingredients:

For 4 pots giving about 1.5 liters after reducing.

8 carrots – two pr. pot

4-8 onions including peels – 1-2 pr. pot

1-2 leeks – 1/2 pr. pot

Pork or beef scraps – as many as you have and evenly distributed among the pots

Spinach stems

Asparagus gone soft

Bacon scraps – as many as you have and evenly distributed among the pots

Ginger

Herbs

Garlic

Peppercorns

No salt – I don’t use salt as I prefer to add the salt to the dish the stock is going into. It also prevents that your stock gets too salty when reducing.

Some of the ingredients for stock
Some of the ingredients

You start of by searing the meat scraps and then you add the rest of the ingredients chopped into chunky pieces except herbs.

After searing add rest of ingredients exept herbs.
After searing add rest of ingredients except herbs.
The stock looks good already.
The stock looks good already.

After searing the ingredients with the meat for a bit add the herbs.

Add herbs to the stock.
Add herbs.
A good amount of parsley helps any stock.
A good amount of parsley helps any stock.

Add as much water as the pots can hold and bring to a boil. Leave at a slow boil.

Add water to the stock.
Add water to the stock.

When the stock is boiling remember to skim of the foam. There is a lot of grit in the foam and it is not nice to eat. So at regular intervals skim the foam into a bowl and throw it out.

The no good foam.
The no good foam.

It is looking good and you just have to wait for it to reduce. This is the part that takes time but it is something that can more or less mind itself. You just need to check on it once in a while.

Good stock.
Good stock.
Really good stock.
Really good stock.

As it reduces I empty the pots into each other. I try to keep as many of the ingredients but at some point they will not fit any more. At that point drain the liquid through a strainer into a pot. There is no more use for the vegetables unless you have pigs or chickens you can feed them to. If you make vegetable stock you can put it on your compost but if there is meat it has to go in the bin.

You now need to reduce the liquid until you have a stock with an intense flavor. For me 10 liters become about 1.5 liters of good stock.

1.5 liters of reduced stock.
1.5 liters of reduced stock.

Then the big question becomes – how do you save it in a way that allows you to use it over time. Some use bottles and keep it refrigerated and that works well if you plan to use it in the near future. I need it to keep longer than that so I use ice cube bags and put it in the freezer. I can then take the cubes I need for the dish I am doing.

Stock in icecube bags.
Stock in ice cube bags.
Frozen stock.
Frozen stock.

I make stock 3-4 times a year and I find that it is time well spent because it tastes great, helps me use scraps and helps me avoid some of the nasty  things in store bought stock.

I hope I have inspired you to experiment with your own stock – enjoy Sara

 

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Spring in the balcony garden part 2 – A photo story

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When your window sill turns into a small jungle you know it is time to move into bigger pots and make a jungle out of your living room instead. That is what happened next in my spring.

The small jungle
The small jungle
Those who are ready to move to bigger accomodations
Those who are ready to move to bigger accommodations
Getting the gear ready - washing and cleaning
Getting the gear ready – washing and cleaning
Those who are left in the small jungle in order to do a bit more growing
Those who are left in the small jungle in order to do a bit more growing

I don’t really have the option of making a big mess when planting as I do it in my kitchen in my rented apartment. So I use a mixing pot for mixing the soil I use. The soil is a mixture of “old” soil, new soil and organic fertilizer. All my soil on more or less my entire balcony goes through my hands every spring.

My mixing pot
My mixing pot

I always use clay pellets at the bottom of the pot. They help retain water, provide air to the roots and prevent rotting of the roots. In Denmark they are known as Leca but in other countries they are known as clay pellets for hydroponic gardening. They are very common in Denmark.

Leca clay pellets
Leca clay pellets

I have removed the leaves at the bottom as I plan to put that part of the steam underground. That helps promote more roots.

In with the new tenant
In with the new tenant

One tomato happy in its new 10 liter pot.

Happy spring
Happy spring
Dirty hands are the proof of a gardener
Dirty hands are the proof of a gardener
All the new tenants happy in their new homes
All the new tenants happy in their new homes
More from the small jungle join what is aiming to be the big jungle
More from the small jungle join what is aiming to be the big jungle
And even more - this is now quite a big jungle
And even more – this is now quite a big jungle

Last year I had great success sharing some of my crops with my neighbors. Salad, herbs and peas. Especially the peas made the one year old next door really happy – that and my cat Luna. So this year I am planning on doing the same. I have decided on mostly herbs and a window box with edible flowers. But before that can happen I need to get the herbs ready and into new pots.

All new pots
All new pots

I have had an apple tree for 4 years now and last year was the first time I hand pollinated it. The first year it did not give any apples and the year after only one. I figured there were not enough insects and decided to give nature a hand. That resulted in at least 50 apples last year and I had to prune off fruit to not strain the tree. So I decided to repeat the success and here I am with my brush.

The beauty of the apple blossoms in spring
The beauty of the apple blossoms in spring
Me and my brush
Me and my brush

End of part 2 – Enjoy Sara

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Spring in the balcony garden part 1 – A photo story

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Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans. That apparently means that all your plans for doing a lot of cool post on what is happening in your garden gets waylaid by life. So I have decided to do a photo story in 3 parts about my spring –  the blog stood still but the gardening did not.

This is where I left you in February with a garden still in the wraps of winter and a lot of seeds in pots on the window sill.

February 2015
February 2015

The first signs of life outside.

Rhubarb making its way towards the light
Rhubarb making its way towards the light
Lemon Balm peeking through
Lemon Balm peeking through
The Chocolate Mint has survived
The Chocolate Mint has survived
The Garlic Chives has started as well
The Garlic Chives has started as well

Last year I lost one of my window boxes with forest strawberries to clogging in the self watering part of the window box. It was the one that had wintered from the year before. So I thought I would make sure that did not happen again. So begins the mission “Unclogging”.

First you turn out the entire patch of dirt, roots and strawberry plants.
First you turn out the entire patch of dirt, roots and strawberry plants.
The you clean the window box for roots and dirt
The you clean the window box for roots and dirt
Then you put the dirt patch back and you are good to - I hope
Then you put the dirt patch back and you are good to – I hope

Starting on releasing the garden from the wraps of winter.

Taking a little at a time - the garden might be small but the work load is not
Taking a little at a time – the garden might be small but the work load is not
Still a ways to go
Still a ways to go before spring

During April more and more green finds its way to the balcony and you really start to get the sense of spring.

Mint
Mint
Thyme that survived the winter
Thyme that survived the winter
The Parsley are coming along nicely
The Parsley are coming along nicely
I do love the color of Basil
I do love the color of Basil
A new patch of Garlic Chives
A new patch of Garlic Chives
The tomatoes and peppers are coming nicely
The tomatoes and peppers are coming nicely
They grow and grow
They grow and grow

As April progresses the outside is picking up more and more speed and weekly you see more green.

The apple tree is getting its leaves
The apple tree is getting its leaves
The Rhubarb is no longer just peeking through
The Rhubarb is no longer just peeking through
Lemon Balm
Lemon Balm
Chocolate Mint
Chocolate Mint
Garlic Chives
Garlic Chives
Some Forest Strawberries decided to move in with my Apple tree - waiting for spring
Some Forest Strawberries decided to move in with my Apple tree – waiting for spring

End of part 1 – Enjoy Sara

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The spring season of 2015 starts indoors

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This is the time when the indoor spring season starts – at least for me. Some might say it is still too early and you will only get long and spindly seedlings due to the lack of light. Last year I started 2 weeks earlier than this year and the seedlings turned out great. You also have to take your available space in to consideration. I have great big windows that let in a lot of light. That helps with getting healthy and strong seedlings.

Windows in my living room.
Windows in my living room.

My season started with the arrival of new seeds from the seed swap I participated in through my garden group: The Vertical Veg Club with seeds coming from all over the World.

Seeds from the seed swap.
Seeds from the seed swap for te spring season.

Among the seeds were some catnip seeds. That made the envelope a cat magnet and she had a lot of fun with that envelope. I thought it was hilarious.

My cat Luna trying to get in to the envelope.
My cat Luna trying to get in to the envelope.

Now that I have most of the seeds I need for the season I make a plant overview. I think back on the last season and evaluate last year’s choices. This year I have chosen to focus on tomatoes, peppers and herbs as my primary crop. I also want to add more flowers and make room for experimenting with new sorts. Quite a few things didn’t make the cut this year; no potatoes, no beets, no carrots, no squash, no Edemame beans, no Stevia.

So I ended up with 12 types of tomatoes, 4 types of peppers, tomatillos, my first try with melon, lots of herbs, lots of different salads, beans, pea shots, onions, lots of flowers, dwarf sunflowers, rhubarbs and my apple tree. I have based my choices on yield and what crops I actually enjoy and use.

My plant overview so far.
My plant overview so far for the spring season.

The first thing you need to start of your indoor season is soil. I try to recycle as much of my soil as possible but for my seedlings I always get fresh soil from the garden store. I find that it gives the seedlings a good start in life. Usually I get soil meant for organic gardening as I try to keep my garden as natural as possible.

I live in a big city so I don’t own a car and probably never will. So I use my trusty bike to get my supplies and you will be amazed how much you can get home on a bike. This is two 50 liter bags of soil and 10 kg of organic fertilizer for preparing the recycled soil for use. The 10 kg bag in my bicycle basket and the two bags of soil on the back with a string to secure them in place. After a good walk with my bike I got the soil and fertilizer to my front door on the third floor.

Two 50 litre bags of soil and 10 kg of fertiliser.
Two 50 liter bags of soil and 10 kg of fertilizer.

Pots and lots of pots are the next thing you need. You might think that I paid a lot of money for all of this but actually all of it was free. I got the pots from a florist and the trays from a supermarket. The florist doesn’t use the plastic pots the plants come in from the nursery, they just throw them away. Where I used to live the florist saved the plastic pots in a certain spot and people were allowed to take what they needed for free. The trays were trash from the sale of flowers in the supermarket. So all of it free.

I usually clean the pots and trays before using them again to get rid of the old soil and whatever bacteria might be present.

Pots, pots, pots.
Pots, pots, pots.
Trays...
Trays…

These are the plants I am going to start indoor. They need a good head start before they get moved outside sometime in May. I am fortunate that I have a decent amount of space to keep them inside until it is warm enough outside. They get quite big towards May.

Seeds for starting indoor.
Seeds for starting indoor.

I have been told I am quite organized and I to try to keep track of what go in to which pot. So I make labels a tape them to the pot.

Seed labels.
Seed labels.

Soil, seeds, pots and trays in their proper places after a couple of hours of work. Spring season well under way.

Tomatoes, peppers, tomatillo and melon.
Tomatoes, peppers, tomatillo and melon.
Dwarf sunflowers and pots of basil and parsley.
Dwarf sunflowers and pots of basil and parsley.
Chives, different kinds of basil, rams onions and terragon.
Chives, different kinds of basil, rams onions and terragon.

I put my seeds in soil little over a week ago and so far only a little has gotten above ground. One of the peppers, the garlic chive and the very first peek of one of the basils.

Pepper.
Pepper – the very first of the spring season.
Garlic chives.
Garlic chives.
Basil peeking through.
Basil peeking through.

I hope you are getting started on your season as well – enjoy Sara

 

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