Saturday, August 4, 2018

Bread and Butter Pickles

I've got no shortage of cucumbers. Too many actually. So I decided to pickle a few of them. These are 250ml jars. Kind of small actually. I managed to get three sliced cucumbers into these three jars. The recipe came from my mother but it's not unlike other recipes found on the internet, like this one. I cut it down by roughly a quarter, using only 1 cup of vinegar and 1 cup of sugar. They turned out fine and the jar lids sealed nicely without requiring a hot water bath. Doesn't really matter though. We'll have these little jars eaten by the end of the week.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Basil and Cucumbers

It was time to harvest some basil. Flower buds were just starting to pop out. The bugs hadn't got around to it yet and it was looking quite nice. These images don't do it justice. So I told my wife to go ahead and take what she needed. She turns it into pesto and freezes it in ice cube trays. If I let her at it too soon, the plants won't have enough leaves for a decent harvest so they get stripped a little to bare, with no leaves for continued survival. On the other hand. if I hold off on the harvest too long, there is always a chance something bad happens to the basil: bugs, drought... something ruins it and my wife ends up with substandard leaves. 

In another week or two the basil will be back to full form with new growth and lots of leaves for another harvest.

I also clipped the first cucumber. I thought this variety (Eureka) would be a little more slender. Not too bad though. Not too many seeds. I think the cross-section below was the seediest part of the cucumber. The skin on these is suppose to be edible but it's a little tough. Overall it was crisp and flavourful. There are quite a few more on the vines, slowing growing to maturity. I might be time for a mid-season fertilizer top-up though.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

First radicchio

I planted two heads of radicchio. One has been growing red and round and the other green and skinny. The time to maturity on the seed pack is 75 days and this one has been growing about that long. They were getting crowded so I decided to pick the weakest of the two and see what it looked like inside. To my surprise, it was red and getting dense. Not what I was expecting from how it looked on the outside. I mean, it's certainly not a market purchased example of radicchio, but it was more than I was expecting.

And the taste? Bitter as hell. I expected bitterness but not raging bitterness. I soaked and sauteed it but no real change. I've read that grilling it is the way to go, or roasting it and adding a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Maybe I'll try that with the next head but I'm skeptical. I think this is one of those "you either love it or hate it" kind of vegetables.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Vacation watering

I was setting up my Claber Oasis to water my dill and coriander during an extended long weekend. I got the hoses all setup and filled the thing with water. But before I could locate a 9v battery to try it out I noticed water dripping from the bottom of it. There is a long tube that you insert over the valve inside the chamber and I must have pushed down on it too hard, cracking the plastic beneath it. Maybe I can seal it up again, but likely just a matter of time before it leaks again.

I was never that happy with the Claber. A little over-priced for what it does. But the ceramic watering spikes I've been using for years now never let me down. I just wish they put out more water. In the hot sun, outside, they barely keep up with the water requirements of even the smallest of plants. With some shade from the sun, my celeriac and radicchio were able to survive with six of these spikes in the soil. Looking inside the bucket they were sucking water from, it only looks like the used a couple of litres.

And with all the hot weather, my dill has started to flower. It's suppose to be a smaller dill plant, I think. But it needs to get bigger than this. The coriander isn't doing that well either but in it's defence, I haven't been paying much attention to it. The container could use more light. Less heat would be nice too.

Everything else was fine without me watering it every day. Most of the containers are self watering so the tomatoes, cucumbers and tomatillos had no problems. And the radicchio seemed to thrive behind the temporary sun shade I put up. It still gets some direct sun but only for a couple of hours. Maybe I'll leave it there for a while longer.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Unbearable heat

A long weekend here with temperatures sitting in the mid 30's. A high of 36C today (96F) with high humidity making it feel more like 45C (113F). For Toronto, it's hot. And it's not balcony garden friendly either. It's also windy today which means late this afternoon the wind will be thrashing all my plants around causing lots of damage to delicate wilting leaves.

I keep everything well watered during hot weather but there is a danger of over-watering too. The containers are generally shaded, being on the balcony floor and out of the sun for most of the day. It's the plants themselves that get over-heated. So the roots will be cooler and have lots of moisture available, but the plant will not be able to suck moisture fast enough to stay cool and crisp. That's what causes the wilting. But seeing the plants wilt tricks nervous gardeners like me into watering them because it looks like they're thirsty. So I end up over-watering my plants which damages the roots and leads to all sorts of problems, including the plants looking like they need more water which just leads to even more over-watering.

Things are growing ok. Everything is pretty much on auto-pilot right now. Nothing big enough to need new support structures and I don't need to carry gallons of water out to the balcony every day. No major pests that I can see. One of the two radicchio plants is growing nicely but it's being crowded by the other one that isn't turning red or forming a tight head. I might need to pull the under-performer a little early to make space for the better one.

My tomatillo plants are putting out lots of flowers but no fruit yet. Too hot maybe, or too cold. Or something. Doesn't matter. Lots of time left for these plants. The box of dill and coriander I planted is coming along. It doesn't get much sun though. I need a new plant stand for this one. And my cucumbers are thriving. Lots of male flowers but I see some females getting ready to open. This heat might be too much for them though. I also agreed to let some of the basil leaves be picked. The plants will get much much bigger but we might as well enjoy some of it now before the spidermites get to it.