Saturday, October 3, 2015

Last Tomato Harvest

I've been neglecting the tomato plants all week and now they look terrible. The black cherry tomato plant is starting to get mouldy. So I picked the last of the tomatoes and if the weather looks good tomorrow morning I'll start chopping down plants. Still a few green tomatoes out there. Maybe I'll save them. I guess I could keep that one plant around a little while longer. But at this point I'm pretty much done on the balcony for this season.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Good-bye Beans

I thought I would take advantage of some free time and nice weather to go out and take down the pole bean plants. I harvested all the beans and the plants looked like they had had enough. The leaves were turning yellow and brown, there were no more flowers, the trellis was starting to fall apart... it was time to go. And I was getting tired of watering them. So with a pair of scissors I was able to take them down fairly quickly. My building provides a large green bin (green dumpster actually) for compost-able waste and it gets collected by the city. The balcony looks naked without the beans and their trellis. But on the plus side, I was able to a get one last sizeable bean harvest.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Spider Mites

This is as good a picture as I could take of a spider mite. The little white balls on the leaf are spider mite eggs.  My beans have quite a few leaves showing spider mite damage. The leaves start to turn yellow along the veins of the leaf and on the back of the leaf you can see a fine webbing. Look close enough and there they are. They look like little grounds of black pepper and are easy to see when the start moving around. Despite the mites, the beans are still doing well.

Another tomato harvest. Not crazy about the Tiny Tom or Floragold. They are nothing compared to the black cherry tomatoes. But the little plants still have lots of fruit to ripen, as do the black cherry plants.

Monday, September 7, 2015

End of the summer heat

Lots of heat and humidity here at the end of the long weekend and I think the air conditioning has stopped working. Just beans and tomatoes on the balcony now. The melon and basil plants are gone. The tomatoes are still reaching for the ceiling, still flowering and growing like wild. I try to keep them pruned now so they don't get too top heavy and topple over.

I broke down and bought more fertilizer: inorganic water soluble. Still fruit to harvest and plants are crying out for mercy. Older growth on the tomatoes is getting yellow and curled. Leaves on the bean plants are going yellow again telling me their container needs an injection of nutrients.

I've still got lots of clusters of cherry tomatoes. The determinate plants are starting to ripen tomatoes as well. The plants in that container have a number of aphids on them but the plants don't seem to care. 

The largest tomato to come off my one brandywine tomato plant this year was 18 ounces. Thats 1/2 kg. It's the one at the back of this image. Not bad for a plant grown in a storage tote on an 18th floor balcony without full sun. Size isn't everything though and I'm guessing the taste will be so-so. I find it's always the first couple of tomatoes off the vine that taste the best. Still lots of tomatoes to ripen, and the beans are growing again. Summer isn't over yet.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Big Bean

I normally pick the beans before they reach full maturity. I like them tender. So I must have missed this one the last time I picked the beans. The bean plants are putting out lots of flowers now so maybe I'll have another good harvest before the end of the summer.

Monday, August 31, 2015

The wall of green

It's impossible for me to take a picture that shows just how much is growing on the balcony now. In this image, all you can really see are the two big tomato plants. The beans growing behind them are  just as thick and behind that is the melon trellis. There is very little room to walk around these plants. From down on the street, it looks like a forest on my balcony. I've also got some smaller tomato plants growing along the balcony wall. And then there's the long container of basil on the floor of the balcony.

Lots of tomatoes still to ripen and I've been picking beans. But the plants are looking tired. Especially the big tomatoes. Leaves are curled and starting to turn yellow and purple. I need them to hang on for just a few more weeks... I get small harvests like this every few days now.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Ugly Tomato

Heirloom tomatoes are notorious for growing into cracked and misshapen blobs. This brandywine is a good example of that. It had some serious cracking around the stem and decided to grow one side into a pair of lobes. On the bottom is a "hole" where the tomato seems to fold into itself. They don't all turn out like this. This is the most extreme I've seen this year. Apparently it tasted great. I left it on the counter this morning and it was devoured before noon.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Tomato Progress

It's been a good year for tomatoes for me. The black cherry tomatoes are starting to ripen fast and so are the brandywine tomatoes. There are over a dozen brandywines and some are quite large. A couple were ripe enough to pick. I only planted one plant of each type so nice to be able to grow edibles. I've had years were plants produce next to nothing.

The small determine tomatoes I planted a while back are doing well also. The floragold basket tomatoes are spreading out. I tried planting some dill in the free space in the middle of the container but the tomatoes are spreading out and starting to shade that area. I've still got the watering spikes "plugged in". These are new spike that have an adjustable drip. Kept the plants happy while I was away last week.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

After the drought

I was away from the balcony for a week and when I got back I wasn't feeling too well. So the balcony went through some neglect, including a long hot week with very little water. I had some watering devices setup but they were barely adequate. But even so, the only real harm done was some dried out leaves on the beans.

I planted some Charentais melon seeds a while back but had low expectations for the one plant I let live. I started it late and in the past I've been plagued with melon troubles. After being away for a week I was surprised to come home and see the vines covered with male and female flowers. I hand-pollinated a few and I'll keep watching for new female flowers. Unfortunately mildew is becoming a problem. I'll have to do something about that.

Monday, August 10, 2015

The first black cherry tomatoes

Actually, the first was picked a few days before these. The clusters are slowly starting to ripen. And there are lots of them. These are each a good inch and a quarter in diameter. Perhaps not as dark as they appear in this image. A little more reddish green than this. Nice juicy flavour.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Basil and Tomatoes

I uprooted all the remaining lettuce and fino verde basil in my container on the edge of the balcony. In the free space I planted more bulls blood beats and some dill. I was at a grocery store yesterday and they had lots of fresh dill in the produce section. It smelled wonderful and made me want to grow some.

The Genovese basil is growing well, as it always does. It's growing tall and leaning towards the sun, trying to reach out around the shade cast by the nearby tomatoes and beans. But that's ok. No flowers and no aphids. Best time to start picking leaves.

My brandywine and black cherry tomato plants are starting to load up on fruit, with a few black cherry tomatoes starting to ripen. But I've run out of water soluble fertilizer. The plants are getting big and the lower leaves are starting to curl and turn yellow. They're sucking back lots of water every day. I'm going to have to splurge on some ferts.

We had a pretty big storm blow through yesterday. Lots of rain and wind. Nothing on the balcony was broken or blown over. But the pole beans are taking a real beating out there. Lots of leaves with damage. And like the tomatoes, the plants are nutrient starved. Lots of the older leaves on the lower parts of the vines have yellowed and died. But I am starting to see flowers so if I can get some nutrients into the soil, maybe the plants will live long enough to provide a small harvest.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Time for change in this container

This box has been doing really well on the balcony. Current contents are floragold basket and tiny tim tomatoes, freckles romaine (not very freckly), red oak leaf lettuce, some pathetic aphid infested fino verde basil and a single merigold my son brought home at the end of the school year.

The lettuce has served us well and now I think it's time for it to go. It keeps giving but you can tell it wants to go to seed. It's getting stalky. We just use it for sandwiches now. I go out and pick a handful of leaves every morning. But with the tomatoes getting bigger, things are getting crowded and I'd like to plant something else in the square foot of space this lettuce occupies.

I planted tomatoes on each side of the container and they are finally starting to set fruit. Only problem is I don't remember which is which. I'm pretty sure the plants on the right are floragold basket (yellow cherry) and the plants on the left must be tiny tim (red cherry). Both are small determinate plants and appear to be happy in the cramped bit of space I've given them. They'd likely be even happier if I uprooted the lettuce and basil.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Beans at the top

The beans are looking better now. Maybe it was the fertilizer I added to the water. The leaves are thicker and darker and don't seem to be as affected by the hot sun as they were a week ago. I'm pouring a good gallon and a half of water into the container (self watering) every day. Still no flowers yet = no beans. But still lots of time.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Unexpected beets

When I planted lettuce in the spring I also planted what I thought were bulls blood beets. I like to use the baby beet greens in salads. But they didn't grow with red leaves like bulls blood should. Eventually I thinned them down to a couple of plants and just let them grow. One got to a decent size and dominated the container, until yesterday. They definitely were not bulls blood, or so I thought. When cut open I saw the concentric white rings and I figured I must have mixed up the bulls blood with the chioggia. But after a quick internet search, I now know that bulls blood also have concentric white rings too. Not sure why the tops were not red. They got enough sunlight. Must have been some mineral missing from the potting soil. Roasted them in the oven and they tasted great. Wish I had grown more.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The aphids are back

I was moving stuff around on the balcony and I put the basil up one a small bench to get it more sunlight. Once up there I had a better look at it from a different angle and there they were. Aphids. Just one plant. So I pinched off the top and tossed it. I didn't find any more on plants in that same container but in another container I found more on some fino verde basil. I don't think there is anything else in that container they like or can harm so maybe that 's where they'll stay. But I've been through this so many times in the past and I know how it ends: a complete aphid infestation. They can have the fino verde, but I won't be happy if they take over the Genovese.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Basil on the balcony

I finally got around to potting out the Genovese basil. It was starting to get a little tall and lanky in the starter tray in the kitchen. A couple more weeks and I should be able to start picking leaves.  I also planted out some small determine tomato plants and some fino verde basil. The fino verde bothers me a bit because I inspected a leave that had spots that reminded me of spider mite damage. I'll have to keep an eye on it. I have more planted outside already so not a great lose if I have to toss it.

My pole beans have reached the top of the trellis and now I just have to wait for them to fill out. It will make a nice wall of green. But the leaves seem kind of weak and some are not as green as they should be. We've had a few days of really hot weather and the leaves seem to wilt more than I think they should. They always have plenty of water so maybe I'm watering them too much. Or they aren't getting enough nutrients. Most likely both are a problem so I'll back off on the water and use some inorganic ferts and see what happens.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Beans are climbing

The lettuce I planted in the spring is still providing. I keep threatening to pull it all up and make one last salad but it never happens. Lately we've been plucking a few leaves at a time for sandwiches, and tonight it was burgers. The lone beet at the back of the container provides a bit of cooling shade. Also starting to grow in there is some some fino verde basil and tiny tim and floragold tomato plants.

Using a couple of long bamboo poles I had on the balcony, I constructed something for the beans to climb. Each bean has its own cord to climb. I guess it's about 6 feet from the soil level to the top of the trellis. A bit higher would have been nice but I only had so much cord and didn't feel like buying more. Once the beans start twisting around their pole (or cord in my case) they shoot up fast and I figure a couple of these will reach the top by the end of next week. Some of the plants are a little late to the game and will take a little longer. But even with all the fast growth, it's going to be a while before I'm picking beans.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Summer at last

My pole beans are coming up fast now. I need to get some kind of structure above them so they have something to crawl onto. I can't be bothered to build anything so bamboo poles and plastic cable ties will have to do. I like to get them to grow up about 7 feet. Beyond that I find it gets harder to manage. And there isn't as much sunlight up high, close to the overhang over my balcony.

The wheat I planted must be stressed out because it's going to seed already. We've been getting a lot of rain so I haven't bothered to water it. And with all the mold on the leaves I figure it's nearly done anyways. It was a nice way to add a touch of green to the balcony, but now it's starting to turn into a touch of brown.

My tomatoes are growing well and the lettuce I keep mowing down is coming up again. It's the gift that keeps on giving. I still have lots of basil growing in the kitchen window I'll need to transplant to a larger container on the balcony soon. And I planted several small "micro" variety tomato plants that I've never grown before.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Wheat Mold

I grew some wheat grass a long time ago and had lots of wheat berries left over. They last forever in the fridge so when spring came around, I planted a handful in this bucket to see how well they would grow and add a bit of green to the balcony.

When growing wheat grass for juicing, you only want it to grow about 6 inches tall before harvesting. But in this case, I'm going to let it grow until it dies off or something kills it. I'm not expecting to be harvesting wheat, I just want to see how tall it can grow. And it seems to be doing ok but I'm noticing spots of mold on the leaves and stems. A good rain every now and then should wash it away temporarily but not much rain hits my balcony and I can't hose it down. If the mold takes over completely I'm going to have to end this experiment prematurely.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Poor Tomatoes

I transplanted these a few weeks ago and they don't appear to be growing very fast: brandywine on the left, black cherry on the right. I expected them to be twice this height by now. The weather has been unusually cool here for the past couple of weeks so I'm going to blame the lack of warm weather. Otherwise they seem to be doing fine. Some of the lower leaves are damaged from rubbing up against the lids of the tote but that's ok.

I want to plant some pole beans and melons. Might be getting a little late to be starting melons from seed up here but at least I don't have to worry about frost. I've got to start some basil inside as well. I always start basil too early so this time I'm going to start it late.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

An early harvest

Before going away for a couple of weeks, my wife decided it was time to harvest all of the salad greens growing in this container. She's not particularly fond of arugula and I guess she wasn't crazy about the mizuna either which was probably a good thing because we had more than enough baby lettuce leaves for six people.

After a couple of weeks the lettuce in this container is growing again. I wasn't around to water it but I guess we got a bit of rain while we were away and the weather wasn't overly hot. The mizuna seemed to survive our absence as well and the arugula was starting to flower.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Easing into Spring

Just a few tomato plants this year. These are Black Cherry and Red Brandywine: my usual favourites. They started out together in a little tray of potting soil and I transplanted them to this tray not long after the first set of true leaves appeared. No problems so far. This picture was taken a few days ago and they are getting close to a size where I'm ready to transplant them again to larger containers before I set them out on the balcony to harden off.

A couple of weeks ago, or maybe three - I can't remember, I seeded a container outside with some greens: mizuna, arugula, red oak leaf lettuce, freckles romaine lettuce and black seeded simpson lettuce. Also some bulls blood beet seed. It was quite warm outside in the middle of April when I planted these but near the end of the month it got quite cold outside. One morning I checked this container and the top half inch of potting soil was frozen. At the time the plants had just started to break through the soil surface. I figured I would have to re-seed but apparently not. Everything is growing well now.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Germination testing of some old seed

Having a limited space to grow outside is a challenge but my space is limited inside as well. I don't have indoor space to start 100 seedlings when I only need 2. So it helps when I know the seeds I'm planting have a high germination rate. And having good seed lets me eliminate non-viable seed as a problem source when things don't grow. I never remember to write purchase dates on my seed packets. I've got a hoard of half used seed packets from previous seasons and I'd like to not have to purchase a lot of new seed packets if I can help it. So I set up a little test to find out if any of these old seeds are any good.

Pretty simple. I used this seed starting tray to hold little bundles of damp paper towel and in each I wrapped a bunch of seed from a few questionable packets. Put the lid on the tray and tucked it away somewhere and waited. No need to add water or anything. Just wait. I checked on the tray after a few days and it was obvious which seeds were still good and which were a waste of time. Then I forgot about the tray for a week and discovered some thriving sprouts. These were the biggest: beets, radish and arugula. No need to buy more of these seeds for this season.

In a proper test, I would have counted the number of seeds in each pack and the number that germinated. Divide germinated count by total to get the germination rate. Instead, I just eyed them up and if it looked like more than 60% or 70%, that was good enough for me. Of the 24 seed packs I tests, most tested adequately and a few were clearly duds. But there is still hope for some of the seed with poor germination rates. Now that I know which seed packets have a lower germination rate, I can put out lots to germinate and only transplant the few that sprout into proper seed trays to grow.  For example, I had some tomato seeds that didn't germinate too well: something like 3 in 10. Knowing this, I won't be seeding them directly into individual seed tray cells. Even if I plant 3 seeds per cell I know I'll end up with lots of empty cells. Instead, I'll plant all of those seeds into a single tray and once they sprout, gently transplant them into the cells of the seed starting tray. Or maybe I'll do what I did for the germination test: wrap a bunch of the seeds (maybe the rest of the packet) in some wet paper towel and pick out the healthiest sprouts to transplant in the seed starting tray. I've done it both ways with similar results. The paper towel way is easier to set up but you have to keep an eye on them and get the sprouting seeds transplanted before they get too big.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Last Season

I let things slide into the end of the last growing season. And I didn't bother with any blog updates. But I did take some pictures.

Mildew took over the Charentais melon plants. Poor things. I would routinely spray them down with a soapy neem oil solution but the mildew always came back (of course). Spraying the leaves is just a temporary thing. It washes the spores from the leaves and makes them look better but this stuff spreads too fast. If the plants got rained on from time to time it might not be all that bad. But I'm sure there were other problems. The saddest part was not getting any melons. Only one grew to tennis ball size before the end.

The one Brandywine tomato plant I grew did ok and gave us quite a few decent tasting tomatoes. Not the biggest but consistent as far as shape and taste goes. The Olpaka tomato plants did well even considering blossom end rot was a problem as it always seems to be with these tomatoes. The best producers were the peppers. Lots of Hot Wax peppers, as always. And lots of Jimmy Nardellos. I got a few harvests like this one pictured here. The Nardellos were perfect for frying. It made them even sweeter.