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Balcony Garden Update

May 26, 2012

No longer quite so crazy-busy at work, but still working long hours. Well, at least today was the last time I had to work on Saturday this year. Maybe next week, I’ll come home at a reasonable hours again? Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Working so much, it’s taken a week until I could sit down to crop and upload the pictures I took last Sunday, after a day of gardening. Since the last garden update, I’ve moved a lot of stuff around and planted the last couple of pots – except for the (new) cucumber, zucchini and melons, which are still being pampered at the kitchen window, all the vegetables are planted now (well, there always are some gaps forming where something is harvested or pulled out, so I’ll have to sow/plant something else there.)

Looking up from the street – the peas are becoming visible (‘Blauwschokker’, along the left wall, and ‘Golden Sweet’, on the right side are both tall varieties).

If you compare this with the first picture in the last update, you can see that a few planter boxes have changed places – I always (well, “always”… I’ve only lived here for one and a half years!) first plant two of the 1 m long boxes with violas and cold tolerant vegetables (this year, Asian greens) and put them on the windowsills. The other two 1 m long boxes are planted later, and put in a sheltered place on the balcony. One gets hung on the railing later, but the other is a little bigger, so my brackets won’t fit. In May or thereabouts, the planter boxes change place – the ones that are on the windowsills now are planted with lettuce, chard, sweet potatoes, nasturtiums and “lucky clover” (Oxalis tetraphylla, which of course isn’t a clover).

The Asian greens in the “old” window boxes (now hanging at the right side of the balcony railing) are mostly harvested. Some of them are resprouting, but mostly they’re just bolting again right away, so I’ll probably rip them out and plant something else. I just haven’t decided what.

Of the two “new” window boxes, one had three violas in it in addition to the four lettuce and two chard plants that I planted early on (March/April – the sweet potatoes, nasturtiums and Oxalis were added recently). Both were planted at the same time, fed the same (not much… I’m lazy and working too much) and I’ve harvested about the same from them (690 g of lettuce so far, and there’ll be more as soon as I finish this post – it’s pasta salad night again). OK, the box with the violas was also the one that was hanging on the railing, so more exposed to the weather, while the one without violas stood in a sheltered spot at the back of the balcony, which might account for some of the difference – but I think the violas are to “blame” for at least a part  of it.

Last weekend I finally cut them back, because they’re not happy with the hot weather at all – growing about a mile tall, flopping over, getting mildew… probably I should simply rip them out, but I can’t quite bring myself to do it yet.

Anyway – pictures! Kitchen window with violas:

Kitchen window without violas:

And the bedroom window box, which never had violas:

As I said, the more sheltered spot might have been one factor, but I think the main difference was that the plants in the bedroom window box had much more space to grow and didn’t have to compete with the violas for water, nutrients and light.

I always tell my customers not to crowd too many plants into their planter boxes – the rule is (for flowers at least), 1 plant per 20 cm, so 5 in a 1 m box. And what do I do myself? That’s six in the second box – and nine in the first. And let’s not talk about my herb boxes! Typical case of “do as I say, not as I do”!

I know I should put in fewer violas next year – but I strongly doubt I will be able to. They’re just so pretty, I want to have them all!

Now we’ve looked out the windows, let’s look out the balcony door (we can’t look out the living room window, because it doesn’t open, and anyway, there’s a double row of houseplants in the way… and another row on the outside sill).

The west side, with peas and kohlrabi, and tomatoes and such along the railing:

The south side – tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, insane amounts of herbs, leaf and root vegetables:

Another look at the south side – this year, I’m stacking stuff:

The tomatoes do easily get tall enough to “outgrow” the shadow of the railing. Eggplants and peppers don’t, though, and the places they had last year are already taken by other vegetables this year. So I simply placed their planters on top of the clay tomato pots – I have to thank Andrea Heistinger for the inspiration. Last summer, I attended a workshop on urban gardening, and only when I got there did I realize why the instructor’s name had seemed vaguely familiar – Andrea is the author of “Handbuch Samengärtnerei” (Handbook Seed-Saving), one of my favourite gardening books. One of the pictures she showed us was of staggered plastic boxes with trailing stuff like pumpkins and cucumbers planted in the lower levels and upright vegetables like tomatoes and chard in the upper levels. Nice, I thought, but not really practicable on my tiny balcony – but then I realized, I could just use what I already had! And underneath is a great spot to store the watering can and the flower bulbs that are done blooming. Well, I could put the bulbs in the cellar, but I’ve been too lazy to carry them downstairs. (By the way, Andrea published a book on balcony gardening this spring, so if you can read German, it’s definitely worth reading!)

As usually, a wonderful chaos of delicious (or simply pretty) plants along the railing – which you can also see here:

I’m not entirely sure how I’ll harvest the railing veggies when tomatoes, peppers and eggplants have reached their full size, but oh well. I’ll manage, somehow. Some herbs, like the lemon thyme, should even be cut to dry already.

The south-east corner:

To the right, a pot for morning glories (which I was too lazy to start indoors this year – or rather, I had no space to do it until very recently, when it was already warm enough to sow outside – we’ll see if they grow as crazily as last year) and some holiday cacti on summer holiday, then peas and kohlrabi. The rest is easier to see in the next picture:

To the right, again, the pea/kohlrabi pot, beans along the wall – I’d just built their bamboo-and-twine trellis before I took the picture – shopping bags turned into hanging planters (this year’s bags are much more awesome than the plastic bags last year!) the pot tower (one day I’ll manage to translate the post about building that tower – I keep promising the readers of my German blog the same thing about the shopping bags… but one day I’ll really get to it!), bog sage and pineapple sage.

The living room window along the north side, full of amaryllises, passion flowers, a yucca and some annual flowers… OK, not really. I’m planning to try to overwinter most of them.

Looking back westwards – yet more houseplants and my not-yet-blooming lantana tree:

Nothing much has changed in the week since I took the pictures – I don’t have time to do anything during the week but work, cook, eat and laze around in front of the computer – but at least I could do the last two things on the balcony almost every day. That way, I don’t have to look at all the cleaning work I should do inside, I don’t lure bugs inside by having the windows open and the light on, and I get to enjoy the “garden”, not just work in it. That’s a part I forget about all too often. And I’ve discovered that a balcony garden has a definite advantage over a “real” garden – I can sit in the garden even when it’s raining, hah! Also, something smells divine here (and for once, it’s not the neighbours’ barbecue), but that something will get its own post later.  Whenever I can convince my camera to take a decent picture.

OK, one thing has changed this week. I made a trip to Ikea after work on Thursday – I don’t know why Ikea gets to stay open so much longer than all other stores (Austria is pretty restrictive about opening hours) but this once I found that pretty convenient. I was getting a little tired of carrying my dining table in and out – and now I have a balcony table. A very tiny one, but big enough for my dinner or my laptop and a drink. So from now on, I’ll be blogging from here:

And speaking of dinner, that’s what I’ll go make now – pasta salad again, yum! I’m in love with my rather spontaneous “hm, let’s see what’s in the fridge” recipe.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. May 26, 2012 21:47

    That’s a mighty impressive garden, Ivy!

  2. March 31, 2013 15:32

    yes, wow, it looks great! a real little slice of paradise, congrats! 🙂

  3. April 18, 2013 09:29

    Wow, your garden is very very impressive. I plant edibles as well in my balcony garden and would love to add more leafy vege to the collection. Love your garden very much.

    • April 18, 2013 17:35

      Thanks, Shas!

      Looseleaf lettuce and chard are really great balcony crops, and I’m always trying new stuff, too.

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