Wednesday, October 17, 2018

A Few Beets

These have been festering in the planter with the celeriac for a while now. There were more but the ones closer to the celeriac were very small. Too much shade next to their towering neighbours. These ones got more sunlight. More and bigger would have been nice but I had low expectations. These were planted in some extra space created by harvesting a couple of heads of radicchio a few month ago.

I think these will just go in the oven as they are. Easier to peel that way. They will make a little snack for someone. I think I'd like to grow enough next year to make some beet pickles. With the right amount of sunlight I know I can grow bigger beets. Enough for a couple of small jars of pickles I think. I can also save myself some time and just buy a big bag for a few dollars and turn those into pickles. Not as fun that way.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Not over yet

I didn't think I'd get any tomatoes this year, but the brandywine plant I started late did eventually put out some fruit for me. This is the largest and it has lots of visual character. I cut the first tomato from this plant a couple of weeks ago and it was very meaty. Juicy, with few seeds. Just what I like from a brandywine. There is one more large tomato out there I'm going to let ripen for another day or two. Then I'll be ready to take the plant down.

I've also got beets and celeriac to pull. The weather is getting cooler now. Doesn't feel quite like autumn yet, but it's coming.

Monday, August 20, 2018

No Tomatillos.

Getting late in the summer and I'm getting tired of cucumbers. I picked a dozen the other day and turned them into pickles. At least that way they will be eaten. The cucumber plants are getting a little tired looking and they'be been discovered by the spider mites so they're probably done for the season.

I planted a pair of tomatillo plants each in a 5 gallon bucket in the spring. They grew fast and put out lots of flowers. Lots. But I've had a terrible time getting them to set fruit. I've tried hand-polination, taking one flower from one plant and transferring pollen to the flower on the other plant, but it's not producing results. There are only a few tomatillos on each plant and I don't think they'll ripen before the plants finally pack it in. The leaves are yellowing and there are spider mites everywhere. Sometimes I forget to water them. But I do like the smell of the plants and they make the balcony look green and leafy.

The celeriac is still growing though. I think it's time to maturity is something like 110 days. I was reading that the roots don't really fill out until the weather starts to cool off so I might have to wait a while. I don't think I'm at 110 days yet.

In the empty space next to the celeriac I planted some beets. They struggle but a couple might make it and that's all I really need to be happy with them. I had to put up a little fence to keep the celeriac from drooping over on the beets. Does the job nicely.

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.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Progressing quickly

This little radicchio plant is growing up the way I want it to. Inner leaves are curling and slightly red. I would like to see this one turn into a tight ball of red leaves like the radicchio I see in the grocery stores, but I just can't see it happening. Red leafed plants never grow that red for me. Lack of sun maybe, or something missing in the soil. Time will tell.

Never any trouble from my tomatoes but the one has a long way to grow. This brandywine is growing in the north corner of my balcony so it's still getting lots of shade throughout the day. Plants need to get tall in this spot to really see the sunlight. Cherry tomato plants in this part of the balcony grow well but I seem to remember not getting a lot of tomatoes from that last brandywine plant that grew here, although there might have been other reasons for that.

The tomatillos are doing well. No spidermites yet but I know they're coming. I have two plants like this in buckets and both have flowers open on them. Too early and cold to set fruit though. My night time temps for the past few nights have been around 10C and daytime under 20C.

And the cucumbers I transplanted last week are doing alright in their new homes. I tried two vines in each container last year but only one in each survived past the first month. I figured I would just go with what worked last year, although these are different cucumbers. With luck, these will be as tolerant to mildew as the Talladegas I grew last year. I find that anytime I try to grow a melon or cucumber that isn't marketed as mildew-resistant, I fail miserably. I've read that these Eureka cucumbers are the most disease resistant cucumbers you can grow so I don't expect any problems.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Off to a good start

I finally got my basil planted. I like to start it late, well past the risk of frost or a cool windy rainy night. Still lots of time for the plants in this container to get tall and bushy. I also got my cucumbers planted. That's another one I like to hold off on until the weather warms up.

I've grown celery in the past so for something different I'm growing celeriac this year. Those are the two scrawny plants in the left side of the container below. They don't look like much but they're actually growing fast. The two plants on the right are radicchio which is something I've never been able to grow right. This variety should form a small red head.

I also started a large container of dill and coriander. I'm not too sure how that will go. Hard to keep the spidermites and aphids off those. And of course, I have my tomato and tomatillos planted. I don't have much space to plant more but I have free containers and lots of potting soil so I'll likely have something else planted by the end of next week. Hard to resist that urge to plant in the spring once the weather gets nice.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Ready to plant

These little guys have been indoors for far too long. Three tomatoes, three tomatillos and three cucumbers. The tomatoes and tomatillos are ready to plant. Weather is certainly warm enough. The cucumbers can wait another week or two. I don't like to rush them.

Brandywine tomatoes I've grown so many times so I'm pretty confident I can plant just one and have tomatoes this season. I might not get many and I might have to wait time but I've gown them enough to be confident I'll eventually get a couple of big juicy tomatoes this year.

I haven't grown tomatillos for a long time. When I did, I had more than I knew what to do with them. Now I know what to do with them so it's time to grow more. I'm thinking I should plant some hot peppers as well, to make a nice green salsa. I can't remember the name of this particular hybrid. I'll plant at least two. They are a determinate so they shouldn't get crazy big like the tomato plants. I don't think these have perfect flowers so pollination might be a problem.

The cucumbers are a hybrid known as Eureka. A smaller cucumber that can be used for pickling or whatever. Apparently tolerant to lots of diseases. The plants are monoecious so I should get male and female flowers on each plant. I'll plant two containers this year, and likely two in each container like I did last year.