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?
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!
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 🙂
The peppers are coming in and the salad is thriving in all this rain.
We picked each and every tomato that was ready and are still amazed at our bountiful harvest.
I have to say our gardening went great but we failed with cooking (again). We left all those tomatoes to ripen until we had so many of them that we couldn’t eat them all. So we made tomato cream soup with basil and parmesan chips, which turned out to be one easy way to a delicious meal! We even had a generous portion left to freeze.
The lone first pepper went into a small side salad with feta cheese. Easy and yummy.
I think working on our cooking skills will be a winter project.
On to something else completely: Our apartment hunting is really stressing us out. We saw a lovely apartment on thursday and sent in our details to the agent. They had us as their first choice but pressured us to make the decision right away, hand them over a lot of money cash pretty much right away and move in next week – no negotiation. We had some hectic talks with our landlady who was very understanding and we initially said yes, though feeling completely overwhelmed. But after sitting down and hectically weighing the pros and cons and looking at the map we found out that the nicely sized balcony was not in fact facing southwest (as indicated in the offer) but northwest! Add that the rest of the apartment was facing north and my priority of having sunlit rooms and a balcony to grow food went out the window. So we called everyone again and cancelled and just went to bed, pretty much drained emotionally and physically.
Boy will I be glad to have this search be over. Finding a nice, affordable place that meets our criteria is proving to be quite the challenge.
*Click here for part 1*
Ok, so far I’ve only shown bits and pieces of my plants, but by now the balcony is looking quite nice so I think it’s time for an overall look.
Here it is, this is the view from the door looking out onto our balcony:
The flower boxes hold strawberries which are just now starting to bloom. In the far end corner by the chair you can see the raspberry plant and the pots underneath the flower boxes hold beans and peas or are waiting for their tomatoes and peppers (they also hold basil and parsley and calendula and bunching onions which had to go in already).
This is the view standing in the corner by the raspberry, looking toward the door and the two greenhouses:
The little wooden box and the small ladder were both thrift store finds. I had actually been looking for something like it for a while and was thrilled to find these! They hold the herbs, which will need to go back into the greenhouse should the nights get colder again. But for now I think they just look so pretty here:
Ok, so much for a general overview, back to the seedlings I’ve been fussing over for the last couple of weeks.
The tomatoes and peppers and cucumbers went out into the greenhouse permanently a week ago and yesterday I transplanted them to larger newspaper pots (look how small the first pots are looking in comparison, it was high time!). I will also need to start fertilizing now.
I hope they continue to do well, at this stage I would honestly be crushed should they die on me. The seedlings get the sunny top shelf in the greenhouses:
The top shelf in the other greenhouse is taken up by all my experiments with starting seeds directly in the greenhouse or sprouting inside and then transferring them outside (I went a little wild experimenting after I got the greenhouses). I was so scared that my first attempt would fail and now pretty much everything has sprouted and is growing and I will have so many plants to give away to friends!
And to really make you tired of seeing baby plant pics, here’s the week by week on the indoor seedlings:
Also, last but not least, the lettuce is also thriving, so much that I really need to thin it (and I can even eat the thinnings as baby lettuce, so nothing goes to waste!):
Ok, this was a marathon post, next ones will be shorter again, promise 😉
Or balcony, in our case.
It’s amazing how much you can grow on a little balcony. We’ve had strawberries, raspberries, cucumbers, zucchinis, 2 kinds of peppers, tomatoes and lots of herbs and flowers on ours this year. So much fun.
And so yummy.
I am dreaming big for next years produce.