My fingers are a bit raw from scrubbing to get the soil out from under my nails. I had forgotten how dirty gardening is. Or how good it feels to spend a few hours outside digging in the dirt. Time for an update on my balcony garden!
The tomato seedlings are coming along well and are in the hardening off stage already.
We (meaning person, animal and plant) have been soaking up every last bit of sunshine and warmth and the apple tree is gratefully pushing out blossoms. I take this as a very good sign that there will be more than one apple (last year’s harvest) this time.
The peas are poking their cute first leaves through the soil. Yes, I just called peas cute. Such a proud plant mama. I made them a trellis from some leftover pieces since I couldn’t find a suitable mesh but I’ll still need to hunt down some sticks in the woods to add to it.
A few early flowers are really brightening the space up while all the other plants and flowers are just getting started.
In addition to starting the tomatoes and peppers inside in my light box the more cold hardy crops have been doing well in a little foil greenhouse outside.
The salad boxes are overflowing and in dire need to be thinned out and the kale is ready to move into its own window box as well.
Hard to describe how satisfying it is to watch all these seedlings growing strong and big. A very primal feeling of content. We may be creatures of polished office work and smartphones by day but doing things by hand – be it growing food, or knitting, sewing, woodworking, building, you name it – is a need that runs deep.
Spring is here and as always, I am so excited to get out and grow things! We’ve had unnaturally warm and sunny weather in the past few weeks and the balcony is already coming alive – sorry US readers, I’m just telling it how it is. We had the never ending winter last year!
My seed order has arrived and I’ve started most of them. This year I will be growing tomatoes (a personal variety from a friend of a friend’s garden in Spain), peppers, lots of salads, sugar snap peas, spinach and kale. That’s the plan anyway. The hardy herbs, mints and strawberries are waking up from their winter sleep too.
New on the list this year are flowers, I will be trying violets, nasturtiums and snapdragons to brighten up our little space. The calendula seeds I mixed in here and there last year have survived the winter and this little guy was the first splash of color to surprise us a week ago.
To start seeds I have three ‘classes’ of plants: Some are started indoors and kept inside until the end of May. These are the delicate tomatoes and peppers as well as some flowers. I have set up my DIY light box again, which has served me very well in past years.
There’s also a little poly greenhouse on the balcony (just a shelf with foil cover) which acts as a cold frame where I grow the salads, kale and some flowers. Others such as the peas and spinach can be started our in the open directly.
There’ll be updates on this little balcony garden frequently throughout the growing season.
What are you growing this year?
this spring and sunshine. So, so much!
Maybe it was the long winter and cold this year, but I’m still soaking up every ray of sunshine I can get and watching my balcony and the world around me come to life feels invigorating.
Hello, italian mint!
The ponies are happy too, finally it’s time for freedom and green grass again after spending winter in their stalls.
Love these little flowers! My mom gave me a few from her garden last year but they never bloomed. I kept them all the same and this year they’re blooming in lovely colours from pale rosey to bright orange to lush dark red!
And finally, I’m feeling creative again after a late winter lurch and look forward to getting back to my sewing machine soon. The dress above is from Zara, it was so gorgeous I had to have it even though it’s polyester. Oh, all the Downton Abbey inspired prettiness of Zara’s spring collection! I love how TV inspires fashion. I spent all weekend trying to wrap my head around how it is made so I can make my own copy in a cotton silk or even (imagine!) some luxurious washed silk.
So, my mood has increased exponentially in the last few days because it is actually, finally, spring around here! Warm wind, sunshine and the earthy smell of nature waking up.
All the better because I had a day off today and spent a wonderfully relaxing morning on the balcony, soaking up sunshine and the “Call the midwife” series by Jennifer Worth (SO good). I literally feel like a new person, and this even though I spent all day Sunday scratching old wallpaper off the walls of a friend’s new house and should logically feel tired and sore today.
The balcony is coming to life with a few flowers I picked up at the nursery and the sight of them cheers me up no end. Some tomato and pepper seedlings are thriving indoors in my trusty light box. I can’t wait for nature to really take off this year!
Ok, here’s something I meant to blog about last year but never got around to: Ever since coming across vermicomposting on a stay in Canada four years ago I had been meaning to try it. So well over a year ago, despite all funny looks of our friends and relatives (vermicomposting is virtually unknown here) we set up a worm bin and bought a few small red worms at a nearby fishing shop, crossing our fingers they’d be the right type of worm.
I started off well, feeding them reguarly with heaps of kitchen scraps and wet newspaper. And then…I kind of forgot about them. I guess there is no excuse for neglecting animals in your care, even if they are only worms but there you go. The bin was in a hard to reach area and out of sight and the worms didn’t exactly complain about being hungry. The box never started to smell and it just sat there, through summer and fall and winter until I mustered up the courage to open it this weekend and take a peek.
Well, you can all breathe a sigh of relief if you were feeling sorry for the worms because I am happy to report they are alive and well and in the course of a year have reduced a full box of kitchen scraps to this:
Wonderful, rich compost which my tomatoes and peppers will love (and they’re still working on the egg shells apparently)! Awesome job, wormies, and I promise to feed you again and not forget you for another year!
My 8/52 photo, a sweet but totally crazy dog at our barn.
As you can see, still very much winter over here, snowy and grey. Frozen pipes at the barn.
I am so ready for spring, and sunshine, and color, and flowers. I’ve made my balcony garden plans and I’m itching to start my seeds and to give the balcony a good scrub and clean up.
Just a few more weeks now.
Until then, I’m making baby succulents (well, the plants are doing all the work really, I just give all the baby succulent shoots their own pots and water occasionally).
I was given some tulips at the farmer’s market last weekend as a thank you for giving one of the vendors an awesome pumpkin ginger soup recipe (do you want it? it’s super yummy and the vendor said it worked wonders for his date).
So good to have some color in the apartment! And speaking of color, I got some lovely summer fabrics in the mail and I’ve been dreaming up ways to use them for weeks. No actual sewing going on, I’m taking a little break after the red skirt and waiting for sun and motivation to show their faces around here.
There’s hope I’ll be getting some knitting finished though! And, saving the best for last, a sneak peek at some vintage patterns I scored on Etsy lately. I won’t be showing them in full because they’ll be presents for friends if/when I make them 🙂
Some random photos from the last few weeks.
I never did get around to blogging our balcony garden this year but it’s there (past its prime already) and we had zucchini, and turnips and herbs and tomatoes and lots of flowers.
The peppers! I had high plans for these. I got ‘pimientos de padron’ peppers because I had liked them in Spain and started lots of plants from seed. Alas, they all turned out to be the hot type instead of the mild ones I was hoping for. I ended up giving them all away. If anyone in Spain has access to the mild pimientos de padron (the ones you fry in a little oil and sprinkle with sea salt), I’d be more than thrilled if you could send me some seeds! Do email me at tidytipsy.at.yahoo.de!
A little Oleander cutting my mom gave me is thriving and produced its first flower. Love it.
And finally, some down time with the cats amid some crazy busy weeks 🙂
Except the boyfriend and I don’t do carnival and chose to hunker down at home for the long weekend instead. Fine with the cats too.
The boyfriend got a new stereo system this week and I’ve been playing my old records on it (I did insist he get one where the record player can be plugged in. Apparently most new stereos don’t have that plug anymore! Seriously, people don’t know what they’re missing). My taste in music seems to be pretty far off the beaten track though…I tried to find a youtube video to share my current favorite, “Winds of the Old Days” by Joan Baez, but there isn’t one.
You can listen to a preview on Amazon though (Song 9).
Apart from that, a little sewing, a photoshoot and a new shelf in our southfacing window (yes, I do know the window needs cleaning desperately).
The seed starting box came out this weekend and got cleaned and set up. The first seeds for the garden are in their little starting pots and waiting to sprout.
By the way, I updated my Blog Roll after planning to do so for about a year so have a look to the right 🙂
It’s a gray and quiet sunday morning with rain hammering against the windows (again), perfect for recapping a quite eventful saturday.
My friend Dana and I had made plans to go thrifting and met up at her mom’s place about an hour’s drive away from us. At least it would have been an hour’s drive if I hadn’t gotten stuck in a traffic jam on a blocked autobahn. But I made it there at last and settled down for a cup of tea in her mom’s cozy kitchen.
I love her apartment, it’s simple and so comfy with all the handmade and thrifted items in it.
We usually get to the thrift store with fuller cars than when we leave, because we always donate stuff. I’m a big fan of decluttering and getting rid of useless or unused stuff (I’m actually planning a post on that) and since our family and friends know that we make these thrifting trips regularly they often ask us to take some of their stuff to donate as well.
I’m always planning to take pictures of our full trunks or of the thrift store itself, but once I get there I forget. I’m just too eager to get started treasure hunting! We were quite successful again this saturday and when the endless rain lets off I hope to get some pictures of the stuff we bought.
Dana’s mum has a sweet (and newly pregnant!) icelandic horse, which she keeps at a nearby farm so we stopped by there and met some very cuddly goats.
That farm also has my dream veggie garden. They even planted a few of my tomato seedlings (not pictured) under rain cover and I was amazed to see how huge they had grown. They were as tall as me and laden with fruit. Especially the green zebra and yellow ones looked just so healthy and different that I realized that these really weren’t types that would thrive in a container.
We then drove on to another barn and watched Dana’s mum have a riding lesson, which was quite different to the lessons we’re used to, since icelandic horses are ridden so differently.
We met sweet horses and dogs and then went on to yet another barn in the neighbourhood where a speed rodeo was being held. Some of the people and horses from our barn back home were participating and we went to see them ride and cheer them on.
Just about as perfect a day as it gets for me. Filled with simple pleasures like having a cup of tea in a cozy kitchen, spending the day with wonderful, warmhearted and uncomplicated people, being around a variety of friendly animals to cuddle and play with and just taking the time to enjoy the rare bits of warm sunshine.
After a week in a dynamic and exciting but also challenging and at times hectic work environment a day like this is what grounds me and what makes me realize again and again what it is that makes me happy (it’s easy to forget sometimes isn’t it, getting caught up in day-to-day routines.)
Time for another balcony garden update! We are in the midst of a tomato rush.
We picked all these for sunday night dinner and made a nice easy tomato sauce to go with spaghetti. We even had some left for the freezer.
We sowed and planted four types of heirloom tomatoes: the small red ones, tigerella, green zebra and a yellow type. As you can see, the tiny sweet red ones and the tigerellas have been most productive so for next year I’ll probably be replacing the other two with new types to try. The yellow ones especially haven’t done great and are very soft.
The leaves of the tomato plants are starting to yellow and shrivel and after letting the last of the fruit ripen the plants will be ripped out.
The zucchini plant is on its last leg as is the cucumber. We had three big cucumbers from it though and still need to eat these two biggies.
Apart from these there are still plants just getting started as we head into fall early this year (my, it gets dark early here with all this rainy and cloudy weather). The peppers are growing nicely, some plants only just flowering, some already laden with small peppers.
The herbs are still doing nicely and we have a first baby melon!
I tried brussels sprouts from seed because I like them so much. I read they are hard to grow but so far mine are doing great and I only regret not having two or three pots of these instead of just one.
There is also new lettuce to be had in a few weeks. Two trays of mâche and arugula were eaten by slugs but the others are doing great.
So I’m excited to see the fall plants grow in the next few weeks.
I finally managed to get a nearly full balcony shot:
As you can see the zucchini has become enormous but despite fertilizing it once a week the leaves are going yellow. We are still regularly harvesting huge zucchinis though.
The cucumbers and tomatoes (behind the zucchini) are also doing great. We’ve only had one cucumber so far (which was bitter unfortunately) but there is another one or two growing now.
The other side of the balcony isn’t looking quite as lush, because we only just resowed some salad greens in boxes.
The sicilian peppermint is looking (and smelling) great though and the tomatoes have really taken off. I truly didn’t think they would carry so much, we’ll have a much bigger harvest than I expected.
We ate the first ones just today, yum!
Homemade garlic rosemary bread with farmer’s market wild garlic cheese and homegrown tomatoes and basil…it doesn’t get any better than this!
I’m writing this feeling a little bittersweet about it. We only just found out today that we will need to move out of this apartment as soon as possible. We’ve been here for about five years and love this place. Still, it has gotten way too small for the two of us plus the kitties plus a lot of stuff and hobbies and we would have started looking for a new home in winter anyway. But as it happens, a legal battle our landlady has been fighting with the city about some fire safety measures has, after years and years, finally come to a conclusion which is that they need to take this whole place completely apart, walls and all.
So we’re looking out for something new and green and countryish and hopefully lots larger and with maybe a bit of garden to go with it (or at the least a large balcony). I’m not really looking forward to packing up us and all our stuff and all those plants and planning and painting and moving and scaring our cats but move we must and I guess we’ll be happy about it once we’ve found something nice and gotten settled.