Saturday, October 15, 2016

Last of the Raspberries

I did a bit of cleanup on the balcony today. Tomato and melon vines went without water for over a week and they were drying out nicely. So I chopped them down and stuff them into a bag, ready for the composter. But there is still life on the balcony. My peppers are ripe enough to pick. The kale still has a few leaves on it. And I've got more raspberries which was kind of a surprise. I didn't think this cluster of flowers would produce anything this year.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Picked the Radish

This is the lone radish I planted this year. It's a China Rose and it doesn't look that bad. The top inch of the root was exposed above the soil surface and it shows. I pulled this 60 days after seeding. The kale planted next to it was happy to see it go as the radish top was dominating the container.

My dwarf kale is doing fine. Every morning a few leaves are removed to contribute to a green smoothie. There are three plants here and at the current rate of consumption, they should be depleted by the end of the week. I seeded more a couple of weeks ago but it's getting colder outside and I think it might be too late for those plants to mature in time.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Jimmy Nardello Peppers

I picked the last of the Jimmy Nardello peppers. I only had one plant and it was looking pretty bad. Earlier this summer I picked about a dozen peppers from this plant so it did alright. The aphids thrived on this plant but it tolerated the invasion.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sugar Cube Muskmelon

I picked my sugar cube muskmelon today. I really wasn't sure if it was ripe enough. The skin wasn't yellow but was starting to turn pale. And the stem was still firmly attached. But I figured since it had been out there well over a month and the plants were starting to look like they were ready to shutdown for the year, it was time to try and pick it. I pulled at the stem and it popped right out of the melon. It really didn't take much effort. Maybe it was ready after all.

It weighed a little over 2 lbs. Inside it looked like a good melon. It smelled like a good melon. And it tasted like a good melon. Not overly sweet but just right with a nice cantaloupe flavour. I was quite pleased with it and I will definitely be growing more next year. There is another one on the vine outside now but I don't think it will reach maturity. It probably needs another three weeks and I don't think the plants will survive that long. Temperatures are starting to fall and the sunsets are drifting towards the south. Winter is coming.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Not Over Yet

I still have peppers on my pepper plants. They've survived through the aphids and look under nourished, but they're still going. My tomatoes are almost done. I think I'll have the plants down before the end of the month. And my melon plants gave me a surprise this morning. I found four new melons growing out there. This late in the season they have no chance of growing to maturity but it was nice to see.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Need More Kale

The three dwarf blue curled scotch kale plants I started last month are doing well. But I wish I had planted more. I think there is still time and I have some free space in the same container. Next to the kale is a single radish growing: a china rose radish.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Bad Beans, Good Melon

I gave up on the beans a while ago. Stopped watering them and stopped adding nutrients some time ago. The spider mites didn't help either. Without beans on the plants I didn't feel the need to keep them going. Although now that the foliage has died back a bit, I can see a few beans: a couple that are picking size and a dozen or so that aren't.

So what was keeping these Scarlet Runner beans from producing? I had lots of flowers all season long. Good fertilizer application. Other than spider mites which didn't show up until the end of the season, the plants suffered from nothing. I even had quite a few bee and bee-like insects constantly visiting the flowers, not that I think that mattered to these plants. It was a hot summer but so what: every summer is hot. I've had no problems with pole beans in the same container in the same spot using the same methods in previous years.

Why did these plants wait until the end of the season to start setting fruit? Was it just timing? Are these Scarlet Runner beans a late season plant that has to sense shortening days before it sets fruit? Or was the right amount of water too much? Maybe I had to let the plants suffer for a while to make them want to set fruit. I don't have the answers yet but I know one thing for sure: I'm not growing them again next year.

My muskmelon plants are growing well. Or at least they are trying to. There are two plants and one is supporting this nice size melon. And it's starting to look like a proper muskmelon. I just need the plant to stay healthy long enough for this melon to ripen. Problem with that is I'm not quite sure how to tell when it's ready.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Pulling Leeks and Onions

The tops of the onions were starting to brown. They all bent over some time ago. And the leeks looked to be about as big as they were going to get. Some of the leaves were starting to yellow a bit. So I decided it was time to pull them to see what I had.

The leeks grown in a bucket on the floor of the balcony didn't get very thick but the lack of sunlight meant they grew taller. The one leek I grew in a container in the sun was much thicker and better looking but wasn't very tall. Next time I'm going to grow them in a sunny spot with proper support and some kind of sleeve around them or something to block the sun so they get longer and whiter. I guess I could also pile up soil around them, or maybe plant them in deep holes that I can fill in once they start to grow.

The onions turned out ok with the largest being tennis ball size. I kind of wish they had been bigger. Not enough sunlight perhaps. Maybe the soil could have been better. They look nice but I have no idea how they taste.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Nearing the end

August is just about over and the plants growing on the balcony are giving their last push for the season. The onions can be pulled any time. Only one is putting out flowers and it's a small one. The rest are looking plump. I don't think they'll get any bigger.

The lone muskmelon on my vine is large enough to need a bit of extra support. I made a hammock for it from a small onion sack. This melon is not and will not get very big so the support likely isn't necessary. But the vine it's attached to looked a little weak so I figured better safe than sorry. The melon is just starting to develop netting on its skin, just as a muskmelon should I guess. I don't really know because it's my first time growing one of these.

And of course I'm still getting lots of tomatoes. One more handful from the tiny tim plants (I keep calling them tiny tom) and they should be done. And perhaps another big bowl of black cherry tomatoes. I had such low expectations for the tiny toms but we discovered that they work really well in a garden salad so maybe I'll grow them again next year. They take up very little space.

Spider mites and aphids have made a comeback, although usually I see them much earlier in the year. So far it's just the beans and strawberries hosting the spider mites. And only a small number of aphids on the peppers which I haven't been paying much attention to. I guess that explains why I'm seeing more yellow jackets (wasps) buzzing around. They like to lick the sweet aphid excrement off the leaves.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

First Muskmelon

Before I left last week I  hand pollinated six or seven female flowers that had appeared on my muskmelon vines. All appeared to take and started getting larger and pointing downward. That was a good start. When I got back from holidays, only one appeared to be growing. It's somewhere between the size of a golf ball and tennis ball.

My muskmelons are a hybrid known as Sugar Cube. These are small sweet melons with shorter vines which are great for container growing. But my main reason for picking this one was it's tolerance to certain diseases. I've had problems with melons in the past so I figured I'd go with something mildew and wilt tolerant for a change. So far so good.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Back from Holidays

Leaving the garden for an extended period of time is always stressful. This time it was for six nights which is a bit too long to go without water. The larger self watering containers are ok. I just fill them full and they can manage. But some of the other containers need help. I setup my Claber Oasis to manage a few container, some ceramic watering spikes for the onions and I used my water timer with a gravity drip system for the remaining containers. And it looks like everything worked out ok. I got back just in time. The only plants that didn't do too well were the celery. I think the Claber ran out of water a day early.

Before I left I picked the Hungarian wax peppers that I thought were ready to eat. My plan was to pickle them. I even bought a canning pot to do it in. I had just enough peppers to fill a pair of 250ml jars. Sadly, the canning pot is not designed for a flat surface cooktop so I couldn't get it done before we left. I need to find a better pot to use with my stove. Maybe if I treat the two plants I have nicely they'll provide me with another harvest like this at the end of September.

More than enough tomatoes ripening on the vines when I got back. The tiny toms were starting to split. Only a few black cherries were splitting on the vine. I made sure to leave the tops on those tomatoes when I picked them to help keep them from erupting after they were picked.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Ready to Eat

Tiny Tom and Black Cherry tomatoes picked this morning. The tiny toms make nice salad tomatoes. There are lots more to come but the black cherry tomato vines that grew over the top of the trellis are loaded with tomatoes and the vines are sagging under the weight. I might lose them if it gets stormy out there.

My celery is looking better but I didn't give it enough sunlight and it hasn't been growing as fast as it probably should. Certainly could be thicker. The outer branches are a bit bitter but I kind of expected that. The Hungarian wax peppers are ready to pick. I only planted two plants. In the same container is a single Jimmy Nardello pepper plant and it has a half dozen peppers that are a good size.

Friday, August 5, 2016

No Beans

Despite the growth, I'm not getting any beans on my scarlet runner bean plants. I've been getting lots of flowers but they don't set fruit. There are several possibilities but none seem likely as I've grown beans in this container on this spot in the past and never had problems.

After lots of googling and filtering out information that appears wrong or misleading, I've narrowed down the possibilities and lack of pollinator insects is the most likely cause. I believe the flowers on these plants, although capable of self pollination, need a pollinator insect to help activate that mechanism. Not all beans are like this, but scarlet runners appear to fall into this category. I wonder if I can somehow do this myself?

If these plants aren't producing beans, I might need to do away with them soon. It's a hassle to have to water them all the time and they are starting to crowd out my melons that grow next to them.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Onions and Leek

I seeded some Kale today in the space I had left in the onion container. The Spanish onions I planted in that container are doing well. A couple have stopped growing and don't look like they'll get any bigger. But the others are doing well and expanding their bulbs. We've had a few days of really strong wind so I positioned some sticks in the container to prop up the tops of some of the onions. A couple of leaves bending over is ok, but I don't want the tops to fold over entirely. Not yet anyway.

In that container I also planted a single leek. Most of the leeks I transplanted I'm growing in a bucket. But for some reason I decided to try growing just one plant in the onion container. It gets more sun than the others. I believe it was one of the weaker leek transplants I planted and after a month of thinking it wasn't growing it now appears to be doing quite well.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

First Official Harvest

I'll call this the first official harvest of the season because it's the first of the tomatoes. I've been averaging a strawberry a day for the past month now and they are still flowering. The tiny tom tomatoes are starting to ripen too but everyone around here is more interested in the black cherry tomatoes.

The scarlet runner beans are now full enough to block out the sun from the window behind the trellis. I'm constantly trimming the tops of new vines that overhang the top. It's starting to get crowded out their now. And in my attempt to tame the cantaloupes I managed to snap off the end of one of my plants. Fortunately it was already sending out secondary vines so it should be ok. The plants have some male flowers out now but the vines still have a long way to go.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Modified Water Faucet Timer

I bought this water faucet timer a while ago thinking I could use it as part of a system for watering my plants while I was away. But it requires a minimum water pressure to work properly. Using it inline with a gravity feed system won't work. It's been sitting around here not doing anything for a while now so I figured I should open it up and see what makes it work. Turns out to be pretty simple inside. And by enlarging a tiny hole in a rubber diaphragm, I was able to get it to work the way I originally hoped it would.

When active, the flow rate is something like 2 gallons an hour. That's good enough for me. And it will likely be more with more water in the 5 gallon bucket I use as a reservoir. It leaks just a little bit when shut off but that's ok. So now I can string out some waterline and tee off to a few drippers or something and actual put this thing to use watering my plants when I'm not around.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Scarlet Runner Beans

Lots of flowers on the bean plants now and the trellis is covered. But the plants are taking a beating in the high heat and wind. The leaves sustain lots of damage from constantly rubbing up against one another. I think part of the problem is my decision to use heavy cord for support. It sways around too much in the wind. Perhaps using poles that are fixed to the frame would prevents the plants from moving around as much.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Bushy Tiny Tom Tomatos

There are two tiny tom tomato plants in this container and they've been thriving. I grew these last year but they didn't get this bushy. Lots of little tomatoes. But I remember they didn't taste all that great. I had low expectations for these plants but they seem to be doing well.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Peppers and Strawberries

I planted Hungarian wax peppers and fresca strawberries in similar sized containers. I had planned to build stands to put these up higher along the balcony half wall so they could get more sunlight. But so far I haven't got around to doing that. For now they sit on stools just higher enough to get them a couple extra hours of sunlight. I didn't think it would be enough but they seem to be producing. But I still want to get them up higher.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Still climbing

The beans have crawled half way up their trellis. And the tomatoes are stretching out along theirs. By next week the beans will have reached the top of their trellis and the leaves will start to fill out. But it will be a while before I see flowers and beans. The black cherry tomato plants have set some fruit with lots more flowers to go.

The next couple of days are suppose to be really hot (for Toronto): low 30's. Things are going to get very wilted on the balcony late this afternoon. Hopefully it won't be too windy. 

Saturday, July 2, 2016


I started these leeks inside in the spring and transplanted them out at the end of May. One month later and I don't see all that much growth. Maybe they need more light. Some were leaning too much so I created small collars with wire and duct tape to help hold them up in these early going days.  The duct tape is there to protect the leaves from getting damaged by the wire collar.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Fall Gold Raspberry

I've always wanted to grow raspberries. In May I bought this Fall Gold raspberry plant. It's a bit of an experiment as I haven't had much success overwintering plants on the balcony, and this is a project that will need a few seasons to really get going.

The berries are suppose to be an orange-ish yellow. I wasn't drawn to this plant for any particular reason other than it looked like the healthiest raspberry plant at the garden center that day. It seems to be thriving in its new home, although it could use a little more sunlight.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Spanish Onions

These are the Spanish onions I planned, started from seed in the kitchen window a few months ago. They are starting to form bulbs but they still have a long way to go. These have a 110 day maturity time. I put them up in the sunniest spot on the balcony and I made sure I started the seed early enough so they could take advantage of the summer heat to hopefully form decent sized bulbs. My fear is that after 110 days, all I will end up with are old wilted green tops.

I left space on the other end of this container for some kale. I want to start it sometime in late July or August so it matures as the weather starts cooling. If the timing works out right, maybe I can plant more kale after I pull these onions, and let it grow well into the fall through a frost or two.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Time to Eat

The first ripe strawberry of the season. To keep the bunch of them off the soil I put a little blanket of plastic under them. More are on the way. In the background you can see some of the onions I seeded that are starting to come up. But I suspect the strawberry plants will crowd them out before they reach maturity.

Friday, June 24, 2016

New Watering Spikes

I purchased these last year as part of my never-ending pursuit for a reliable way to water my plants while I'm not around.

The idea is simple. Cut the bottom off a plastic bottle and jam the uncapped end of the bottle over the top of the spike. Insert the spike into the soil and fill the bottle with water. These spikes have a flow control setting so in theory you can control the rate at which water flows through the spike and into the soil.

I've used similar less fancy products in the past. They're good for getting water down into the soil near the roots which avoids soil compaction. But they're not so good as a set-and-forget tool for watering. As with the cheaper and less advanced versions, the output holes on these get clogged. The opening at the top has a filter to prevent the spike from getting clogged but of course, the filter gets clogged over time and needs to be cleaned occasionally.

The seal with the plastic bottle was excellent. No leakage. It's just a press-on fit.

When I first set these up, I set the flow knobs to maximum and they would drain a 2 litre bottle in a few hours. Set on minimum it took about a day for one to empty down to half and the other to empty to a quarter. Then they stopped working. I could play with their placement in the soil and they'd starting working again but after a month, even set to maximum flow, they stopped working completely. I guess they got clogged up. I'm not really sure because at that point I stopped using them.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Scarlet Runner Beans

This is my first time growing scarlet runner beans. I seeded the container a couple of weeks ago and all but one seed came up. The other day I added some cord to the trellis to give them something to climb. I'm looking forward to the wall of green with red flowers that this will turn into.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Garden Update

Almost everything I wanted to grow on the balcony this year is planted and growing well. The strawberries are off to a good start and the celery that I thought wasn't going to do much is taking off.

I've also got Spanish Onions, leeks, Hungarian hot wax peppers, tiny tom tomatoes, scarlet runner beans and cantaloupes growing. The beans I seeded barely two weeks ago and they are already nearing that stage where they are ready to climb.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Strawberries from seed

This strawberry plant has a long way to go before being planted outside. I've grown strawberries from seed once before but it was quite a while ago. My expectations for the few seedlings I have started this year are really low and my hope is that at least one plant grows to maturity. I think I'll also purchase some plants later this spring and see how those grow on the balcony. That is something I haven't tried before.

This years I also want to grow some onions from seed. I have some Spanish onions started and I plan to grow some scallions as well. And some kale, leeks and scarlet runner beans. For the past couple of years I've tried and failed to grow melons. This year I want to try a musk melon hybrid that is tolerant to a number of diseases. Maybe that will better my odds. And I'll grow tomatoes but I'm not sure which.