Category Archives: Container garden

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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Winter holidays and waiting for spring on the balcony garden

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I wish you all a happy holiday and a happy new year.

The blog will be on a low burn until early spring as I decided not to any winter gardening this season. But I will be back in early spring with soil, seedlings, garden planning, recipes and all those good things.

The garden waiting for spring.
The garden waiting for spring.
Garden waiting for spring.
Garden waiting for spring.

When I look at my balcony garden right now I see empty containers stacked at one end. All they contain is soil and the promise of next year. I am already thinking abut what I want to do next year and sometime in February/March the balcony garden will slowly start to take form inside with the planting of seeds and watching seedlings grow.

There will be some changes next year based on the successes and failures of this season. Because of my limited space I have to be tough when it comes to what to grow. Next season will be about trying new sorts and a whole lot of tomatoes. Tomatoes are my favorite crop and I have already gotten a whole batch of new sorts with beef, cherries and tomatoes in all colors. The most difficult thing will be choosing what to grow. I participated in a huge seedswap through the garden club; The Vertical Veg club and I am so exited to try some of the seeds I swapped for. Check out http://www.verticalveg.org.uk/ if you want to be part of the club or just want inspiration on urban gardening.

I leave you with proof of the warmest year in history here in Denmark which means flowering forest strawberries in December.

Forest strawberries flowering i December.
Forest strawberries flowering i December.
Forest strawberries almost ripe in December.
Forest strawberries almost ripe in December.

A happy and productive new year to you all – Sara

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What didn’t work this season in my balcony garden

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Usually there are always a couple of things that go wrong in any season when growing. It is the things you learn from. You find out if crops are right for your conditions, if the sort is one you are happy with and lots of experiences won through trial and error. I had a couple of things that didn’t work out for various reasons.

Mildew in my chamomile

My chamomile were growing fine, lots of beautiful white flowers. I was looking forward to saving a lot of flower heads for tea during the winter. But alas one day I notices a white powdery substance towards the bottom half of the plant. Mildew has come to visit and I tried a mixture of baking soda, alchohol and water to rid my self of this visitor. I don’t use chemicals in my garden, so I will try most “natural” remedies. Unfortunately it didn’t work and my chamomile got cut down to prevent spread. That is the way of growing things and not using chemicals, sometimes you loose.

Chamomile with mildew
Chamomile with mildew in my garden.

New sort of bean – Bon Bon

For the last couple of years I have had an ordinary green bean, the kind where you just buy the seeds in the supermarked. It was really good and it even flowered twice every season, so it gave me a really good amount of beans for the space. Unfortunately I didn’t save any seeds as I ate or saved most of the beans. So this year I had to find a new sort and I chose: Bon Bon – Phaseolus vulgaris. It was supposed to be a great variant, easy to grow and high yielding, but alas me and the Bon Bon did not get on well. I seeded the beans inside and that was a mistake as it did not adapt well to going outside. So that is one lesson learned – don’t seed my beans inside and then mowe them out. Sow beans directly in the permanent growing space. It did give me some beans despite the scrawnyness but they were not to my liking. So I will be on the lookout for a new sort of bean for next season.

The Bon Bon bean.
The Bon Bon bean in my garden.

My love affair with forest strawberries got flooded

I have had some really good experiences with forest strawberries in window boxes. The are high yieldig, sweet and the are producing even now inlate October. Last year was my first season growing them and the plants wintered well. I even planted another window bo with even more strawberries. But there was one thing I had not considered. I was using a selfwatering window box and I thought that was great. But what I had not considered was that when the plants stay in the box for more than one season the roots get big and might clog the overflow drain in the window box. That is exactly what happened and my entire box of lovely forest strawberries drowned. Not a pretty sight. I am not sure what I will do with the other box of strawberries as it might do the same next season. I might try to turn out the plants and cut the roots but I don’t know if that will work or maybe I just have to be really observant next season, so they don’t flood.

The drowned strawberries look sad in the garden.
The drowned strawberries look sad in the garden.

Onions, onions, onions…

I like growing onions and this year I had planned quite a lot of onions; large Mamut onions, red onions, spring onions, ramsoms, chives and Chinese chives – all in the onion family. But apparently me and onions don’t get on well. For some reason none of my Mamuts came, I planted Chinese chives twice without succes, only one red onion came and is now the size of a thumb, the ramsoms didn’t come and the chives are a sad bunch. The only onion that was just a little succesful this season was spring onions and mostly those I have replanted. You can replant the bottom of the spring onions you buy and it will grow again. So I am debating wheter to have onions next year, last season was a decent onion year; so I have not decided yet.

The sad onions in the garden.
The sad onions in the garden.

The curse of growing zuchinies in a pot

I have tried for 3 seasons to succesfully grow zuchinnies in a pot. They need quite a big pot and they have gotten the biggest pot I have. I have even tried 3 different sorts; an ordinary green squash, a yellow stribed zuchinni and this season an 8-ball zuchinni. It has not been a succes. There has been a lot of flowers and even though the flowers are a delicasy, I have not found a way to use them in my cooking. Only 2 fruits over the entire season and the dreaded mildew had another victim. The mildew came early in the season and I kept it at bay with the mixture of baking soda, alchohol and water, but eventually I gave up. So in the future you will not find the zuchinni in my balcony garden. It is to much work for to small a reward and it takes up a lot of my very limited space.

Another mildew victim in the garden.
Another mildew victim in the garden.

The only flower in my otherwise edible garden

I had gotten some Cosmos bipinnatus seeds with a magzine and though I would try having flowers in my garden. I usually only grow things that you can eat but I thought I would try. I came fine but when July came and went it still had not flowered. It was almost 2 meters high and no flowers in sight.

No flowers...
No flowers…

I though I would leave it be and see what happens and in middle of September it suddently began to flower. The lilac flowers were very pretty and I enjoyed them.

Liliac flower lighting up the garden.
Liliac flower lighting up the garden.

A week after the picture above was taken it started to storm and the 2 meter high plant was getting knocked around pretty bad. After having picked it up 4-5 times I thought I would bring it inside. It was windy and it was also getting cold and I wanted to see all the buds flower as I had waited 2 months for it to flower. It looked good for about a week or so and the I noticed that it had gotten spider mites. Within days it was completely covered in spider mites and I had to use a couple of hours cleaning everything with alchohol to get rid of the mites. So the flower were beautiful but I am strongly considering sticking to edibles from now on.

Spider mites everywhere.
Spider mites everywhere.
Even more spider mites.
Even more spider mites.

This is what went wrong for me this season. What went wrong for you this season? Please share and leave a comment…:)

Happy growing – Sara

 

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Saving your favorite seeds for the next season

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The summer is turning into autumn and soon the days will get darker and darker and we will miss the sun. The plants are getting ready for the winter and starting to seed. This is the time to start planning for next year and that means taking stock of the season and finding out what seeds to save for next year.

I want to save some of this season’s successes and hopefully repeat them next year.

Tomatoes

One of the winners this year was my “chocolate berry” cherry tomato and “brown berry” cherry tomato.

A mix of "brown berry" and "chocolate berry" - they look very alike. So I had to be carefull when taking the seeds to get the right one.
A mix of “brown berry” and “chocolate berry” – they look very alike. So I had to be careful when taking the seeds to get the right one.

They are just delicious and so full of flavor. They grow well and produce a really good amount of tomatoes. There is a little work involved in saving tomato seeds as they have a protective coating or skin around them when you take them from the tomato. I have found that the easiest way to get rid of the skin is to put them in my mouth and use my teeth. I used to this a lot as a kid just for fun. Who would have thought that would come in handy. You can save them with the skin; I have not found it makes a difference but they don’t stick together if much if you remove the skin.

Chocolate berry seeds.
Chocolate berry seeds.

Peppers

Another winner this year is my red peppers. I had 2 different sorts; “sweet banana” and “Alma paprika”. My favorite is the “sweet banana” as it does indeed have a great sweet flavor. They have both yielded well and the “Alma paprika” is still flowering and setting fruits well into September.

The long one is "sweet banana# and the other "Alma paprika".
The long one is “sweet banana# and the other “Alma paprika”.

It is very easy to save the seeds from the peppers. You just set the inside of the pepper aside to dry. When dry you just pick of the seeds and save them.

"Sweet banana" seeds.
“Sweet banana” seeds.

The seeds have a lovely color and from just a couple of fruits you can get enough seeds to last you years. Not all seeds can be saved for years but I have not had any trouble with peppers or tomatoes. If you experience that your seeds won’t grow maybe it is time to save some new ones.

"Sweet banana" seeds.
“Sweet banana” seeds.

New Zealand spinach (NZ spinach)

NZ spinach.
NZ spinach.

This is one of my all time favorites. It has small but very meaty leaves and a great taste. I have had normal spinach as well but have chosen to only keep the NZ spinach. If you compare it to normal spinach:

  1. Normal spinach has some lovely leaves early on, but when the leaves grow bigger they can become bitter. NZ spinach grows small leaves all season and never becomes bitter.
  2. If you want a steady supply of normal spinach you have to keep planting. The NZ spinach just keeps growing and gives you more leaves without having to plant any more.
  3. I have had a lot of trouble with pests in normal spinach; especially black aphids that just cover almost all of the plant. I have so far (3 seasons) not had any pests in my NZ spinach.

My NZ spinach seeds so much I have a supply for years.

NZ spinach seeds. They look very funny.
NZ spinach seeds. They look very funny.

Just dry them and you will a good supply for the coming seasons. A funny fact about the seeds is that you will get 3-4 plants from one seed.

NZ spinach seeds.
Dry NZ spinach seeds.

 Salad

I planted a variety of spicy and Asian salads this year and I have let some of them go to seed.

Salad gone to seed.
Salad gone to seed.

They look lovely and the honey bees are still buzzing to get the last of the pollen. The salad sets seedpods which are the ones you dry.

Salad seed pods.
Salad seed pods.

When they are dry you take them out of the pods and save them for next year. I just bunch them all together so I will get a variety of different salads. Remember to only choose seeds from plants that have the qualities you like.

Dry salad seed pods.
Dry salad seed pods.
Salad seeds and pods for discarding.
Salad seeds and pods for discarding.

Herbs

I like to save some seeds from my herbs; especially the annual herbs you have to plant each year. Some of the ones I save are; basil, lemon basil, oregano and maybe not technically a herb Stevia. I was very lucky that my Stevia flowered this year so I could save the seeds.

Stevia flowers with seeds.
Stevia flowers with seeds.
Basil flowers and seeds.
Basil flowers and seeds.
Lemon basil flowers and seeds.
Lemon basil flowers and seeds.
Oregano flowers and seeds.
Oregano flowers and seeds.

I dry them and separate the seeds from the plant parts; well sometimes I do; sometimes I don’t. I leave the basil seeds in their pods as it is too much work to get them out. It does take a little longer for the seed to sprout because the moisture has to go through the pods first but as long as you know that it is not a problem; at least not for me.

You can save all kinds of seed but you have to check that the plant is not a F1 hybrid. The F1 hybrids do not give on their qualities to their seeds; the F1 hybrids are created to only last one season and then you have to buy it Again. So look for old sorts and heirloom sorts for saving. It will say on the package if it is a F1 hybrid.

Enjoy your seed saving – Sara

 

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The tomato wall

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When all you have are glass walls and nothing above you; how do you manage your tall tomato plants on a balcony? You build a tomato wall.

Balcony without any green.
Balcony without any green.

This is my balcony as it looked in 2013 when I moved in and before it got overgrown with greens. As you can see there is glass on all 4 sides with a wooden railing and because it is a rental apartment there are definite limits to what I am allowed to do with my space. So what to do when you want to grow tomatoes which can get 2 meters high on a balcony?

Last year

Last year I used bamboo sticks in the centre of the pot. It worked ok but there were a couple of issues.

  1.  If your tomato divides into 2 or more branches it gets really crowded on the single bamboo stick in the middle.
  2. The plant usually gets top heavy and then it gets very sensitive to wind and toppling over. Last year I had to pick up my tomatoes more than once because they fell over due to wind.
  3. The stick is never really long enough to hold the entire plant and getting a longer bamboo stick would make it all even more top heavy. Last year I had to trail my tomato plants along the railing and tie them down. That is not very practical and the tomatoes are at risk of falling of the balcony, which it did a couple of times. I grow beef tomatoes and thankfully nobody got hit.
  4. If you grow beef tomatoes like I do or have a lot of tomatoes on your plants, the tomatoes gets quite heavy and needs support if you don’t want the branches to break.
Tomato plants with a single bamboo stick.
Tomato plants with a single bamboo stick.
Tomato plants with a single bamboo stick.
Tomato plants with a single bamboo stick.

So I thought I would try something different this year.

1. Experiment

My first experiment was to buy a roll of 60 cm high garden fence and make sort of cylinder for each plant.

Tomato plant in a garden fence cylinder.
Tomato plant in a garden fence cylinder.

My plan was to trail the plant along the inside of the cylinder and wind it more and more as it gets bigger.

Tomato plant in a garden fence cylinder.
Tomato plant in a garden fence cylinder.

It worked well for a while but at a certain point there was just too little space in the cylinders and I was worried about the air circulation around the leaves and the disease that can follow poor air circulation.

So that would not do…

2. Experiment

I was pondering what to do instead and the idea came to use the garden fence in a slightly different way. In essence I built a flexible, extendable but solid tomato wall.

The materials you need for a tomato wall.
The materials you need for a tomato wall.

I measured the space where I wanted the tomato wall and cut 2 lengths of garden fence. I cut two because one length would not be high enough.

I attached the first length of fence to the glass wall and the railing and attached the second length to both the railing and the first length of fence. I cut the bottom of the top length of fence and used the remaining ends to attach the top length to the bottom length.

The ends I used to attach the top length of fence to the bottom length of fence.
The ends I used to attach the top length of fence to the bottom length of fence.

Everything is secured with metal wire.

Wire and cutters.
Wire and cutters.

I used bamboo sticks to reinforce the tomato wall and to make it extendable. Every second stick of bamboo can be pulled upwards to get more height.  You can even add more bamboo sticks if you need them for extra branches on the plants.

 Extendable bamboo Sticks.
Extendable bamboo Sticks.

You can also use string to hold branches if needed.

Using strings to hold branches.
Using strings to hold branches.

This is the result.

The tomato wall before the tomatoes.
The tomato wall before the tomatoes.

The development of my tomato wall

Here you can see how my tomato wall has developed over the summer so far and how I have extended it higher when I needed to. It started at 1.25 meters and now stands at 1.75 meters and I am expecting it to get a bit higher still.

10th of June.
10th of June.
15th of June.
15th of June.
6th of July.
6th of July.
17th of July.
17th of July.

Happy growing – Sara

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