Friday, August 28, 2009

Spring Planting - part 1

Ok so it's technically not spring yet. Just. But you'll forgive me with the weather we've been having. I was planning to give it another couple of weeks but the snow peas had some sort of mould... Pruning turning into pulling which led to the pulling of other plants and while we were at it I might as well plant some of those seedlings and so on. I am by no means finished but have made a start on my spring garden.

The snow peas on the top tier are now gone, as is all the lettuce (I can actually see dirt!). Half my beetroot and carrots were still miniscule so I transplanted the lot. I can imagine how big of a no-no that is, but I'm keeping an eye on them to see if I can get a little bit more growth.

In their place I've planted that leggy tomato seedling I had growing inside. I wasn't planning on sacrificing space for another tomato plant outside but it was so desparate looking I felt sorry for it. I've also planted one of my bean seedlings. He's shot up so fast, I think he will be happy outside.

A capsicum seedling.

One of the shadier containers on the right now has pak choi and silverbeet. I'm a little unsure about how things are going to grow in the 3 containers with shade but I'm willing to give it a try.

I'm now just waiting on harvesting the rest of the broccoli and cauliflower so I can take over their containers. The broccoli is still doing reasonably but I haven't had much luck with the cauliflower. The heads are becoming loose before they get to a reasonable size. I'm guessing it might have to do with the warmer weather we've been having. It's not very successful but I'll harvest what I can.

I'm also waiting on the broccolini. Maybe it wasn't so smart to try experimenting with seed collecting... however, my seedlings don't need to be planted as yet so I guess I can afford the space for the moment. They look terrible.. so mangy! but the pods are swelling. I'm including the photo only because I commented I would. Its really not inspirational. Half the stems have fallen over but still seem to be doing ok. The flowers dropped off a while ago. This is what they look like.

Still with me? =P
So hopefully I can plant out the rest of my seedlings in the next few weeks. I'm also planning on interplanting herbs and flowers in the containers instead of having them separate. Lettuce too, though I'll keep it to a reasonable amount this time ;) Keep the warm weather coming!

I'll close on the "bountiful" harvest collected during all this gardening. If you squint, and mistake the size of my cherry for a roma tomato, then it could pass for a decent harvest... almost ;)

My First Ever Ripe Tomato!

4 months of love and care in this newbie's garden and there it is. I should have left it a tad longer, but its been staring at me for days! I was too excited to resist. Regardless, it was so good! I can't wait for the next ;)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Broccolini Learning

My attempt at collecting broccolini seeds a couple of weeks back came undone when I compared my collection with the original seeds I had bought. This time, I think I may have got it right, or at least I'm closer to it!

The stalks started growing pods! It dawned on me to check if anything was inside... Ah ha! I have a very real chance that these are broccolini seeds. Shape. Check. Size. Check. Consistency. Check. Colour. Not so much, but I'm hoping that will change once they dry.

I've progressed. Now I have to work out how to dry them. Do I leave the pods on the plant? Do I dry the pods? Do I dry the individual seeds? I have no idea so I'm going to experiement with all of the above. I still have seeds for planting should I fail. Any advice or experience would be most definately welcome =)

Feathers and... the Thing

This morning feels like my balcony has turned into an urban wildlife haven of some sort. There is a couple of pigeons that are treating it as a resort. They've been enjoying themselves for the last week- I've been hearing random cooing whilst I've been home and I did get a glimpse of the lovely couple this morning. It is a compliment that they find my balcony homely, I dare say I find it beautiful too, but I could do without the presents left behind thank you very much.

I did have more feathered visitors today. I feed lorikeets at my kitchen window and this morning a couple were enjoying a relaxed visit amongst the greenery on my balcony. I opened the door to say hello and one flew onto my head, not a usual occurence but I didn't mind. He then invited himself inside on the tv and flew onto my arm when I presented it. Needless to say, he was rewarded for his persistance ;)

They say things come in lots of three, so my story wouldn't be complete without another visitor for this morning. Sigh. I am a newbie gardener, that I have made clear and I am not used to dealing with certain.. visitors. We scared each other at our unexpected introduction and were not pleased by the meeting. Might I present.. the Thing.

Yes its just a caterpillar. But he was THIS big! Ok, he wasn't _that_ big but he was at least 5 cm which is pretty big if you put it into perspective of how small a garden I have. He was uninvited and I don't know how I missed him for that long. Some weeks ago I was finding this guy's brothers and sisters, mainly amongst my tomatoes. They were absolutely tiny and as all things small, quite cute. My kindness did not extent far though, they could not win me over with their cuteness completely and I got rid of every one that I found. I guess I missed one. Please don't say it. I may have missed more.

What's so funny?

Cheeky bugger.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Pruned, Groomed and Pollinated

I've been busy baking cupcakes for the RSPCA Cupcake Day. Not much to do with gardening besides being the reason for the lack there of. I've baked 75 cupcakes in the last 2 days with the report from my sellers being a sellout success! I'm very happy for the animals and love being involved. Just between you and me though, I'm exhausted!

I did drag my tired self out to the garden today. I've pruned, groomed and watered and the balcony is look quite spiff. I even hacked at the overgrown lettuce- in slow preparation for pulling them out in the near future. May as well encourage some more baby leaves before they go.

Told you I had a lot of rocket!
Some of the lettuce are beginning to go to seed. Below is the first to seed if you can think back to an earlier post. Its flowering now and quite pretty.

I spent some time pollinating my tomatoes this morning for which I use my hubby's electric shaver. He's slowly come to terms with its dual use and now knows where to find it if its not where its supposed to be (oops! my bad). I think he gets a kick out of it now and tells everyone I've been 'sexorising' the plants (his word, not mine). I'm not even sure if the tomatoes need the help but its been working so far so I figure why stop a good thing.

Here's some baby pearly pinks from this morning. You will notice I have lost a couple of buds (pollinated ones too :/). This has happened a couple of times, I think it may be a lack of consistent watering (I try but during the week it can be difficult) and turning the tiered pot they get disturbed. I'm aware of it now so I try and take extra care.

And here is one of my stars- my first and biggest of the tomatoes. They have been getting lighter and its hard to tell from the photo but the colour now is almost white. I'm hoping they'll turn red real soon ;) I can't get enough of looking at these beauties.

Speaking of beauties, my cactus is flowering. It opens flowers from random points and has been doing so for weeks. I absolutely love the colour.

Remember my concern for my broccoli and cauliflower to hurry up? Well they listened. All my broccoli now have heads (Yay!) and the side shoots on the harvested plant are beginning to grow.

I don't often venture to the back of my tiered pot (due to the risk of disturbing my tomatoes) but I did turn it a little today. I probably squealled a little too loudly (God only knows what the neighbours opposite me think sometimes) when I discovered my first 'visible' cauliflower! I know we went through this last week... but this one is actually big enough so I don't have to dig through leaves to find it. Who knew the (slightly more neglected) plant at the back was doing so well. So this week my tally is four out of six plants with cauliflower heads (yes, even the miniscule ones count ;)).

Two of my cauliflowers are also sporting appendages. Is this baby cauliflower? I don't see what else is could be. I certainly never planted anything near it and its growing from either the bottom of the stem or right next to the roots. It looks like cauliflower.

My beetroot has been growing a lot more leaves recently and for some reason they're all dark. The previous leaves have all been varying shades of green. I hope this recent spate of leaves means the roots are growing well. Or growing at all!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Seeds, Seedlings and Such

It feels like spring! The weather has been lovely for the past couple of weeks and I've been getting a bit impatient. But I couldn't start planting even if I wanted to. I've harvested 1 broccoli out of 5 plants and can (after a bit of snooping) just make out the first of my cauliflower coming through. I think they have to hurry up before it starts getting too warm. I got them as seedlings in April, who would've thought they'd take so long. Although, I must assume it has to do with the amount of sunlight as the broccoli I've harvested was the one in prime position and Mr B from work (who I shared my seedlings with) apparently has heads of both. The lettuce I'd be happy to pull up at any moment but the snow peas are still going and the beets/carrots not quite ready.

I decided to compromise and have started some seeds indoors.

I've planned out what I want to grow and have sown what I'll need. Last time, my first go at such things, I overcompensated thinking that nothing would germinate. This time with more know how and time up my sleeves I haven't planted any extra. If nothing germinates I've got plenty of time to sow more.

Speaking of seeds, I thought I'd try my hand at those flowering broccolini plants! A lot of petals have fallen leaving bare stalk with... seeds? I had a brief read about what to do and taking into account these seeds looking quite dry already I proceeded.

It wasn't as hard as I thought and quite fun. It reminds me of gathering grasses with seeds for my birds over the years and always puts me in mind of hunter/gathers (I'd definately belong to the latter ;)) I thought I even had a good result with the broccolini as you can see below... until I compared them with the seeds I had bought (top right on the right photo). They're organic seeds so I know they haven't been coloured by any chemicals and their shape is very regular. Am I collecting the right thing? I would assume so... Maybe I have to leave them on the stalks longer before collecting any more?

Really enjoying the warmer weather are my tomato seedlings. I started these about a week after my outdoor tomato plants and while they... lived... they never flourished. They did better once I put them outside (about a month and a half ago) and in the last two weeks have really grown. They about doubled in size! I have 2 pots of 2 and 1 pot of 3. The 3 are tommy toe and the other 2 pots got mixed up a long time ago, although I reckon I can tell by their colouring.

I started them in my enthusiasm and not actually imagining that the ones I planted outdoors would thrive in winter. Boy was I wrong. I've asked a few people if they'd like to adopt any and everyones said yes but not at the moment. Since they've grown I really think they'd appreciate being repotted or put into a garden so I'll see what I can do about giving them away shortly. Not only have they grown, but have started buds =)

I also have a tomato seedling inside, he was my first and strongest to germinate indoors. Just to prove how grossly I misjudged, I thought this might be the one if any to flower over the winter. He's a lot bigger than the other seedlings and has also grown well in the last couple of weeks. No buds though. At this point I'm unsure what to do with him. I had planned on keeping him inside but since my outdoor tomatoes are doing so well, his life's purpose may be better served with someone else.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Got Lettuce?

I do. And half of it is rocket. I cut some this morning and probably got a little over-enthusiastic but I felt compelled to do a little tidy up. The lettuce was my first lesson in gardening 101. Its so easy to sow half a packet of tiny seeds... but how much lettuce can one couple eat? And green salad is not the most comforting of winter foods. The funniest thing of all is that I have so much rocket.. I don't even like rocket all that much! Definately learnt my lesson.

Amidst all the cut back rocket I did discover one of my mesclun mix sprouting buds. Might try for a lesson in seed collecting.

Also back amongst the follage are my beetroot and whats that poking up? Finally deciding to make an appearance, my first beetroot... root... weee! As you can see there is a little bit of a bulb on the one next to it but the rest have nothing. Even with *ahem* little bit of clearing I can't see anything. I'll have to wait for the others to catch up a bit.. no point harvesting one baby beet is there?

So here is today's harvest. You're gonna have to turn your head a little, sorry. I've uploaded it a couple of times from its landscape! location. No idea how to rotate here yet =(

I'm thrilled about harvesting my first broccoli, I can't believe that came out of my garden!

The other thing of note is today's garden visitor. A bee! He was very handsome buzzing around my tomato flowers, legs laden with pollen. By the time I focused the camera on him he decided he had enough and left. I don't know why I should feel so excited to see a bee in my garden, I've seen wasps, but that's not quite the same. I think the bee represents the ultimate sign of approval and proof of life. My little garden is now offically... offical!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Sunny Saturday

Now that the intro is done we can get into the thick of things ;) I thought I'd highlight what's going on in my garden today.

For me, the most exciting accomplishment to date, are my tomato plants! Reflecting for the most part my lack of knowledge of such things, they have far exceeded my expectations in size and productivity (with a special commendation to one of my pearly pinks, which is at least double the size of the others!). When I planted them, I was trying to get a head start, thinking they could grow before they bloomed (or not) in spring/summer. Here we are in the middle of winter and I counted 20 baby tomatoes last week! The branches are full of blooms and buds and... tomatoes =)

These were my first tomatoes to come through (on my star PP plant) and in the last week or 2 of warmer weather have lightened in colour considerably.

The other variety I have (tommy toe) are rounder in shape and darker. They look to me like tiny apples =P

Another thing growing well are my snow peas. I've harvested a few already from one plant, now all 3 are blooming. I'm really glad I grew these, they've grown and produced so quickly and with such little fuss, I think they're the perfect beginner's plant. The only thing I stuffed up on is not anticipating how high they would grow and thinking they might be wider and bushier. They have run out of stake but don't seem to mind too much, the vines are grabbing hold of anything in reach.

I've sown alpine strawberries which are taking their time to grow, but seem to have enjoyed the recent warm weather. They are all about the same size and look healthy to my eyes. I am really hoping they do well and I get to sample strawberries this summer. I have dreams of making strawberry sorbet and smothering them in chocolate! mmm... the dream is a long way off but I'm encouraging them with lots of love.

My first broccoli head is soon to be harvested. I hope I haven't left it too late, the florets are a lot looser then when I last looked and its pretty big for a dwarf... or so I assume. After waiting what seemed an eternity for something to appear, the head grew quite quickly.

Another broccoli head coming through.

From broccoli to broccolini. That was one of the first things I harvested in my garden. I haven't been able to find much information on growing broccolini, I've just been assuming its similar to broccoli and using my best judgment. I had read somewhere it is a perennial but in the last few weeks its bolted so rapidly (luckily there were only side shoots left) that I've just given up on it and intend to pull it out to make way for something else. I've left it for the moment in the hopes of getting some seeds from it. Realistically though, I know even less about seed collecting than I do about gardening, no idea how I'll tackle this one. At least the flowers are pretty. They have a delicate perfume and add some colour to the balcony. Unfortunately, they are also colouring the house as I trapse them in from outside.

I will leave you with a pretty picture. While I had the camera out I took a couple of pictures of my indoor daisy. I am partial to purple and pink and I am love with my little plant. Its colouring is just divine and I love the stripes on the petals. I thought it pretty enough to don my blog heading where you can see my noob photography skills trying to capture its shadow.

The Accidental Gardener

Hello and welcome to my blog ;) What a funny thing to be saying. I always wondered who these people were and what they had to blog about, and now, here I am! This blog is my attempt at keeping a journal for my garden, more for myself (as I can't imagine that my ramblings will be of any use to anyone), but if you are out there and reading this, please feel free to leave a comment or advice. I may need it! Please be kind ;)

A year ago, my husband and I bought our apartment from my parents. I had briefly moved out and was now back in the place that had been home for most of my life. It is a small apartment, perfect for a young couple, in an ideal urban location close to the city. My dad had left a couple of pot plants on our little balcony which he had to keep reminding me to water. Enough is enough I thought, if I have to water these things, I may as well grow what I want!

I loved the idea of a veggie patch but what with such a small balcony, that was impossible. Or so I thought until I read about container gardening and stumbled across a multi-tiered pot on the net... Did these things really work? There was only one way to find out.

That was back in April and in these last 3 months I have discovered a love for growing things I never knew I had.

It's so lovely to have a little space in the world that is mine and which I can do with what I will. It is the most amazing feeling to plant a seed and see it grow- I've even harvested a few. Now that has spun me out! How exciting! Lol. I feel like such a dork but its true.

I am very much a beginner gardener. I've tried to read up as much as I can which, really, amounts to very little in the scheme of things, and have no practical experience whatsoever. I am so glad however, that I decided to give it a go. Who would have ever thought gardening would be so much fun?

Here is a picture of my vegetable garden when I first started with a couple of seedlings and lots of seeds.

Here is the latest pic from a couple of weeks ago.

As you can see, things are actually growing! When I started it was autumn, seasonally, I planted the wrong things, I had no concept of space and really, didn't even know what half the plants would look like! And yet, they grew =) I think its testimony to the fact that you should just give things a go. My tomatoes are flowering and now fruiting in the middle of winter, yes, the middle of winter! If I had listened to what I was "supposed" to be doing and hadn't tried it for myself, I wouldn't have tomatoes ripening now.

Saying that, I think I should make a point. Sydney is a temperate climate, and I believe I have some micro-climate happening on my balcony! For reference, it is north facing and we are on the top floor of our building. I am assuming, since my tomatoes are flowering in winter, I am going to have a hard time in the heat of summer. Just how hard a time, we'll find out.

So here's what I'm growing =)
The edible things anyway!

cherry tomatoes (pearly pink and tommy toe)
lettuce (mesclun mix, rocket and osaka purple mustard leaf)
spring onions
baby beets
baby carrots
snow peas
dwarf broccoli
dwarf cauliflower

was growing zucchini, RIP. A victim to powdery mildew.

Not quite a banquet, but with the idea to suppliment what we buy with fresh and organic (food mile free!) produce. So far I've harvested loads of lettuce (definately not growing that much again =P), zucchini flowers, broccolini, snow peas and of course, herbs. The pic below is what I'd garnered to add to dinner one night.

And so that's my story. My attempt to beautify a little of the world, create my own thing and learn- Learn to grow yummy and nutritious plants, and learn to grow in appreciation of all around me. Hope you'll stay for the journey.