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Summer Balcony Garden 2013

Like most folks around here, we got a late start on our summer garden this year. Because of late cold weather and the impending threat of hail everyday for two weeks in May, we didn’t plant until Memorial Day. (Usually I shoot for Mother’s day at the latest.) So this year’s garden is a little smaller than it usually is by this time.

catonbalcony

The other thing that’s different about this year, is that we have Minerva, who has been attempting to escape from our second floor balcony ever since it got warm enough to go outside. Minerva loves to be out on the balcony. It is her own little jungle, and we have done our best to make this year’s garden a safe and friendly place for the cat to be.

glassbottlebarrier
First step was to create barriers so she could not actually jump off the railing. Here, we collected glass jugs filled with water so she couldn’t jump up on this side. This also doubles as a way to warm the water we give the plants with sunlight.

catgarden
Next was to further secure our usual trellis. Instead of tying it to the inside of railing, this year it is tied to the outside so Minerva can sit on the railing securely without the possibility of losing her balance. (She has grown more graceful in the last few months, but she is still a kitten, and sometime pretty clumsy.) You can see the old scrap wood Brock reinforced the trellis with and the scrap yarn used to block the holes at the railing, because she can fit through the trellis there. Of course, we also gave her a high seat for bird and people watching.

catgarden2
All of the world, as far as she can see, is hers.

catthronebirdwatching
There is just as much to watch on the balcony.

spideplantbirdhabitat
Until yesterday, we had a clutch of baby birds living in this spider plant. She was very keen to catch them, and catch them she did. Two out of four got away safely, one we got away from her before she was able to do any damage, but she did get one before we realized they were leaving the nest, and the poor thing didn’t make it. She was also very upset when we took it away from her.

catthrone
Under Minerva’s throne, we planted the cucumbers, which are growing vigorously.

cucumberstarts
They are wearing little cup braces until the get rooted enough that Minerva can’t overturn them when she stalks through that container. Last year, we only got one cucumber before the heat shriveled up our vine. This year, I planted six plants in the hope that we get at least six cucumbers.

sadpotatoes
The potatoes, which are next to the shelf, have not been so lucky. The potato bag has been a favorite place to bird watch, and I’m fairly certainly Minerva could care less about trampling potatoes. (I also planted them very late, so I didn’t expect much from them, but thought I might as well give it a shot since I had them.)

eggplantandsanmarzano
Next to the shelf, on the garden table, we have our paste tomato plant on the right and our Japanese eggplant on the left. Last year we had great luck with eggplant, so I put it in exactly the same place this year. (Some spider plant starts are in the pot. We’ve got a ton if anybody wants any.)

pepper
While I only have this horrendous picture of it, I am trying my luck with a pepper plant this year. I have never done peppers before. This is a tobasco pepper, and I’m hoping to make my own version of tobasco sauce at the end of the season.

brandywineandmortgagelifter
Two more tomato plants. Brandywine on the left and Mortgage Lifters on the right. For awhile, I didn’t think the Mortgage Lifter was going to make it, but in the last few days, it has taken off so quickly I can’t seem to keep up with pruning the bottom branches. You can also see our basil in the little terracotta pot. I harvested a bunch last night for the pasta I made, so it looks a bit wimpy this morning.

sage
We also planted some sage for the first time this year. It’s tasty.

mint
Athrun’s mint is threatening to overrun it’s pot. I need to harvest some and dry it for tea. Mostly, we just munch on the leaves occasionally.

summerbalconygarden2013
I am excited to see what sort yield we get from these plants. I am so ready for fresh tomatoes, I can’t wait to be up to my eyeballs in them!

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2013 Balcony Garden

The balcony garden is officially started. Not everything is planted yet, nor do we even have all of our seeds or seedlings, but we got the balcony fully de-winterized this weekend and a bunch of stuff planted. It’s only a matter of time before we are resting cool behind our food-bearing wall-o-green ™.

sugarsnappeas2013
First, the peas I planted a few weeks have finally started to come up. I swear they have grown three inches since Saturday. (You’ll also notice that we are using Hefty bags instead of Earthbox approved mulch covers. As much as I love my Earthboxes, I am not paying $15 a mulch cover for every planting when a garbage bag and duct tape serves the same purpose. We used this method last year as well.)

seeds2013

seedpotatoes2013

seedlings2013
These are summer seedlings, and will likely live inside another month before they get Earthboxed.

basilseedling

athrunsmint2013

sageseedling2013

Our herbs so far are basil, mint (for Athrun), and sage. Has anyone ever had luck with oregano? It has never grown enough for me to do much with. What are your favorite herbs to grow?

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A Little Garden

I was feeling optimistic on Sunday about the springy weather we’ve been having all winter. I began thinking that surely, in six weeks, it should be warm enough to get this year’s little balcony garden planted. Part of me was thinking about how last year I waited until the final frost date to put out my seedlings and the peas were roasted before they even had a chance and the tomatoes had only just started to blossom when the month full of 100+ degree days set in and we didn’t get any tomatoes until September. Part of me was thinking about how much I miss fresh produce. The CSA should start up again in April(!), and we should be once again rolling in spinach and spring greens, but there is nothing quite like going outside in the morning and picking a cucumber for your breakfast.

With all that in mind, Athrun and I went to the local hardware store to pick up a seed starting kit and some seeds. I bought vine cucumbers and two types of indeterminate tomatoes, which despite the heat, we had great luck with last year. We bought more peas (Athrun’s favorite to plant and harvest), in hopes that they make it past seedling stage. Since we had such great luck with cucumbers last year, I thought we should give squash a go. I am also going to try some greens (probably spinach because I really do eat it everyday) that I will direct seed when I put everything else out. I have a potato shriveling up in the window I am determined to find a way to grow on my balcony. (I am thinking something like this might work.)

Then I have the seeds I bought for Athrun: pumpkins, watermelons, and sunflowers.

Now, I am not adverse to growing any of these things. If I had a yard, my list of vegetables and herbs would be much larger. However, all the growing space I currently have is a 12×4 south-facing balcony, three earth boxes and various other planters. We have some established basil, oregano and mint, plus the usual suspects like ancient spider plants that need to be re-potted and a couple flowers. I think I have a strategy for attempting to grow all this food. I am not sure if I have physical space for the additional planters I am going to need, but I don’t think that is going to stop me. If worse comes to worse I’ll move the indoor plant shelf outdoors.

The garden is going to be one great big experiment this year, but it’s going to be fun. And, if I can get my kid interested in growing things himself by growing some of the stuff he likes, all the better.

As of this morning, I have some cucumber germination and will not be deterred by the fact that it might snow later. (They have promised it many times, but by now I am thinking snow is not for us this year.) To pass the time, I am going to attempt to seam up my Vignette cardigan. I am in love with the chocolate brown super soft yarn, but it’s rather dark and difficult to see when the sun doesn’t come up.