Thursday, September 12, 2019

Last Harvest

We were told to clear off our balcony for some building repair work. I think the last time we did this was 10 years ago. Just some minor repairs to bricks and concrete and I honestly don't think there's much to do on our balcony but some other areas around the building do need lots of work. Anyhow, I saw it as motivation to get rid of some junk that's been accumulating out there. Unfortunately it also meant I had to pick the rest of my peppers and tomatoes a little early.

I got quite a pile of green tomatoes and hot peppers and they're all slowing ripening in a large box I keep in the dining room. Last week I picked the last of the cucumbers and took down all the vines. They were pretty much done for the season. I thought I'd have to pickle all the cucumbers but we've been eating a lot of salads lately and it looks like we'll be able to use them all. The tomatoes will get eaten as well. But I'm not sure what I'm going to do with all those hot peppers. I grew way too many of those this year.

This was the first year I focused all of my balcony resources on just a few things that I know I can grow well; tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. That combined with an incredibly favourable growing season led to a fairly impressive harvest. I don't know what I'm going to do next year. I think I need a break but I'll probably feel differently next spring.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Lots of Tomatoes

My tomato plants collapsed some time ago. I didn't provide enough support so now they just lean forward and the vines grow up, then down and eventually up again. Some branches snapped but they continue to grow. There are lots of tomatoes but so far I've only been able to pick one. And then there was this rotten one that had to go. I'm not too fussed about them this year. If the plants want to sprawl and grow where ever, that's fine. Setting fruit wasn't a problem this year. Maybe it was the location or the fact I didn't crowd too many other plants around them.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Hot Peppers

I picked this little harvest of Hungarian hot wax peppers today.  Just a small batch today with lots more to come. The only thing I can think of to do with these is pickle them. I sliced them into rings and got the lot of them to fit in a single 500ml jar. We're going to be really sick of pickles once autumn comes around.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Balcony Bee

I almost never see bees like this up on my balcony. And never as consistently as this one. I refer to it as "the bee" but it could be a different bee each day or something. I never see more than one. For the past month I've seen a bee visit my plants each day. Perhaps it's the reason I have so many cucumbers this year. It's a timid little bee. When I get to close it just buzzes off.

In July I was seeing lots of small bee-like insects. Harmless little things that hover around the flowers. More than I've ever seen or noticed during previous seasons. Usually I just end up with hornets or yellow jackets or whatever they are, going after aphid "honeydew". But no aphids this year so far. Not even spider mites.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

From balcony to mason jar

I pulled this little harvest from my balcony yesterday and pickled it. The lone bush bean plant gave me a good handful of beans and there we lots of cucumbers that needed to be picked. There's no way we can eat this many raw cucumbers before they would go bad in the fridge. And I can't leave them on the vine for too long. They get too big and hollow and weird tasting. So pickling is the best way to get the most out of them because I know that not a single pickle will go to waste.

The beans were more of a do-it-because-I-can sort of thing. It's not really practical to go through the effort (45 minutes to an hour) to prepare a single 125ml jar of mustard bean pickles. It's sweet, sour, spicy, tangy and sticky. My mom's recipe. If I had grown a full container of bush bean plants, lets say 5 plants, I would have ended up with 5 jars and then maybe 2 or 3 more during a second harvest. The one plant I do have will probably get uprooted soon. It's shading my Hungarian hot wax pepper that I plan to pickle later in the season.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Good growing season so far

I planted a number of Hungarian Hot Wax pepper plants this year. I have six on a table near the edge of the balcony and another five in my elevated cedar box. Maybe I should have only planted four in that container. Those also share space with a rogue wax bean plant. I seeded that container with beans in the spring but none sprouted.  The seed was kind of old so I didn't expect much. After I planted all the peppers one of the seeds decided to pop up. So I let it go. It has a handful of beans on it now that need to be picked. All of the peppers need more time to ripen.

The cedar box also has a contraption I created to water the plants. A bucket below the container has water in it and a small pump. Once a day the pump fills the jug mounted just above the right side of the container. Water leaves the bottom of the jug through a pair of 1/4" waterlines that feed several drippers that slow drip water onto the soil. The pump is controller by a little electronic controller box I made that sits under the container, along with a 12v battery to power the pump.

The cucumbers are forming a nice dense wall on the balcony. Three containers (totes) with a pair of plants in each. Probably could have kept it down to one in each container.  Lots of cucumbers to harvest now. But the vines have nowhere else to grow. I'll have to find some more sticks and things to extend my trellis.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

First Cucumbers

The first cucumbers of the summer. My family wants me to turn these into bread and butter pickles and I should be able to produce a couple of jars from these.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Hungry bugs

They look like aphids but they don't move like aphids. They don't eat like aphids. And they didn't last as long as aphids. I see these little red mite like things running around on my plants and containers every year. Not many though. And they never last long. And by this time of year they are usually gone. They never seem to cause any harm. But this is the first time I've seen them congregate like this. They really like the pepper flowers but that's about it. I don't see them lingering anywhere else for very long.

I put my cucumbers out early enough to get a few female flowers to set fruit. I've got a few cucumbers like this now. The plants are thriving in the heat as are the tomatoes and peppers. No spider mites, mildew or aphids yet.

Friday, June 7, 2019

A Slow Start

I started melons and cucumbers. I didn't know if the melons would take because the seeds were kind of old but they did. But something wasn't right. Leaves were browning and the plants stunted. So I didn't plant them and instead planted some tomatoes I started as part of a backup plan. The cucumbers I started turned out ok though and I have some growing on the balcony now. As well as some hot peppers. So that's it for this season: cucumbers, tomatoes and hot peppers. Keeping it simple this year.

Friday, May 17, 2019

I'm loving this grow light

After a couple of weeks I can really see the difference between plants grown in the window and plants grown under my grow light. No surprise, really, but I wasn't convinced that a handful of blue and red LEDs in a cheap grow light fixture where going to be good enough. Guess I was wrong. There are three seedlings in each pot. The one from the window is on the left. It's a bit more stretched out because it doesn't get overhead light. This was the best pot from the window. Some of the other plants there aren't as healthy looking. But all of the pots under my grow light look similar: stocky and well formed.

I have a tray of pepper seedlings under the light as well. The seeds were a bit old and I didn't think they would all germinate. But they have and now it looks like I'll have more than enough. The beans I started outside last week aren't doing anything. But the weather has been a bit cool lately. Should start warming up again after the long weekend. I won't put any cucumbers or melons out until the end of the month.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Under the Lights

I picked up this LED grow light last year. I didn't really have any place to put it or real need for it at the time. It emits a fairly narrow blue and red spectrum of light which the plants enjoy but it's not that great to look at. I started some cucumber and melon seeds last month and normally I just place them in the window but not this time. I placed half under the LED light on a metal shelf in my kitchen. And they appear to be growing well. Much more compact than the plants growing in the window.

The problem with the light fixture is that despite its size, the lighting strip only runs down the middle of it. Even with two rows of pots beneath the strip I still see the plants leaning towards the light in the middle of the fixture to maximize their exposure. I could probably lower the pots a bit at this point. I don't think they need to be that close to the source. But I'll probably move them all to the window soon to make room for a tray of pepper plants. They probably need the light more than these guys.