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Balcony Garden Mystery July 8, 2012

I came home after a busy weekend ( babysitting, 6th birthday partying) and found my green house – normally flush against the side brick wall (seen in the back ground)  pulled out and displaced quite some difference.

Interesting – considering I live on the 9th floor.  And the apartment had been locked.

I pondered this for a while as I cleaned up the seedlings and repaired the damage and repositioned the greenhouse.  I also added some other plants and plantings to weight it down.

And it dawned on me.  It is winter in Australia.  There are flocks of cockatoos around and about lurking looking for a fresh green feed.  I initially planted a big pot of chives and shallots and left it in the open on the table on the balcony and the birds ate each and every shoot down to the soil and beyond until the huge pot was barren.

Cockatoos are strong.  Feels right.  Also was heartening to see they couldn’t get IN even though they displaced things.

I have made it harder for them now.


FAQ’s June 15, 2012

  • Stagger your planting.   Do not plant all your tomatoes today.  You aren’t going to need hundreds in a few weeks – are you?  So assess what you might need and the family might use, and plant some this week and a week later a similar amount – and so on.  Thinking about what vegetables you eat and cook with weekly might be a good starting point!!
  • Fresh vegetables from your garden can contain up to 45% more nutrients than the “fresh” stuff fromy our supermarket.
  • If you have a yard and can plant a kitchen garden – asparagus, tomatoes, fennel, parsley and rocket are easy to grow as are sage, silverbeet, spinach, potato, pumpkin, basil, rosemary, dill, corn, zucchini, cucumber and radish.
  • Companion plant: this is planting certain things next to each other, and it is usually a natural pest control: basil is a companion for tomatoes and beans; rosemary also near beans and swiss chard; chives near carrots.  Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Companion Planting Chart might help.
  • Use organic pesticide.  I have brewed my own, often.  A simple one is to steep 2 or 3 cloves of garlic in hot water for several hours, strain and spray on leaves.    The safest commercial deterent I have found is Yates Nature’s Way Dipel.  With this it is an organic bacteria.  You can spray, pick, wash and eat vegetables immediately.

If you don’t have a garden and just a balcony, like me, plant in pots in a sunny spot.

  • containers should be at least40cm deep
  • broccoli, celery, leeks beetroot and strawberries are pottable although I would give pumpkins a miss!
  • 23cm soil for herbs and leafy vegetables
  • 30cm for most vegetables
  • at least 40cm for potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers
  • Potatoes grow well in a bag with drainage holes ona  balcony as long as they get sun.
  • Mint and parsley are good indoor plants as they will grow in the shade.

Companion Planting Guide

Companion Planting Guide

[open this frame in new window for printing]

Plant Companions Function Foes
Apple Nasturtium Climbs
tree and repels codling moth.
Asparagus Tomatoes,
Parsley, Basil
Balm Tomatoes Improves
growth and flavour – attracts bees
Tomatoes helps
repel flies and mosquitoes
Beans Potatoes
Carrots, Cucumber, cauliflower, summer savoury, most other vegetables
and herbs.
Garlic Gladiolus
Beetroot Onions,
Lettuce, Cabbage, Silver beet, Kohlrabi
leaves encourage compost fermentation.
squash and strawberries
tomato worm, improves growth and flavour and in the strawberry patch will
increase the yield.
(Cabbage, Cauliflower, Broccoli
plants, sage, dill, camomile,beets, peppermint, rosemary, Beans, Celery,
Onions, Potatoes, dwarf zinnias.
attracts a wasp to control cabbage moth. Zinnias attract lady bugs to
protect plants.
Peas, Beans
breakdown heavy soils.
Carrots Lettuce,
Peas, Leeks, Chives, Onions, Cucumbers, Beans, tomatoes, wormwood, sage,
in flower and being stored with apples
fleas, ants and rodents.
Cauliflower Celery
& Celeriac
Leeks, Tomatoes, Dwarf Beans, Brassica’s
& Celeriac
Leeks, Tomatoes, Dwarf Beans
and onions
flies and mosquitoes and gives strength to any plant growing nearby.
Carrots grown
beneath apple trees will help to prevent apple scab; beneath roses will
keep away aphids and blackspot. Deters aphids on lettuce and peas. Spray
will deter downy and powdery mildew on gooseberries and cucumbers.
Citrus Bracken
Fern grape vines
stink beetles
Comfrey Avocados
and most fruit trees
edging, compost activator, medicinal, foliage spray, nutrient miner, essential
to all gardens.
Cucumbers Beans,
corn, peas, radish, sunflowers
aromatic herbs
Dill Brassica’s Dill
attracts predator wasp for cabbage moth.
general insecticide, the leaves encourage compost fermentation, the flowers
and berries make lovely wine!
Fennel. (not
F. vulgare or F.officionale) repels flies, fleas and ants
plants dislike it
most vegetables.
secretions kill nematodes in the soil. Will repel white fly amongst tomatoes.
garlic, chives, tansy, southernwood and horseradish
Garlic. Roses,
keep aphids away from roses and raspberries, repels cabbage butterfly
and beans
Geranium Strong
aroma – deters insects and encourages bees
Grapes Hyssop,
tansy and sage
cabbage white moth keeping Brassica’s free from infestation.
Leek Onion,
celery, carrot
Lettuce tall
flowers, carrots, radish, onion family
offer light shade for lettuce
Marigolds Tomatoes,
most vegetables
couch, nematodes and eel worm
Melon Radish
white cabbage moth, deters ants and fleas (especially spearmint), will
deter clothes moths.
cabbages, zucchini cucurbits, fruit trees
a mustard oil, which many insects find attractive and will seek out, particularly
the cabbage white moth. The flowers repel aphids and the cucumber beetle.
The climbing variety grown up apple trees will repel codling moth.
Nettle Beneficial
anywhere, increases aroma and pungency of other herbs
and garlic
summer savoury, tomatoes, lettuce, strawberries, camomile
Parsley Tomato,
asparagus, roses
rose beetle, improves tomato and asparagus.
Peas Carrots,
turnips, corn, beans, radishes, cucumbers, most vegetables and herbs
garlic gladiolas, potatoes
Potato Beans,
cabbage, marigold, horseradish (plant at corners of patch) eggplant, sweet
attracts beneficial wasps and acts as a living ground cover
squash, cucumber, sunflower, tomato, raspberry
Pumpkin Corn Potato
repel bugs if grown around the vegetable garden.
Radish Peas,
nasturtium, lettuce, cucumbers, spinach
attracts leaf minor away from spinach
Raspberry Most
tomatoes, potato
beans, carrots, sage
cabbage moth, bean beetles and carrot fly
Roses Garlic,
chives, parsley, mignonette lettuce.
(Rutus, not Peganum)
cats and dogs off garden beds if planted round the borders.
cabbage and carrots
cabbage moth and carrot fly
Spinach Strawberries
Squash Nasturtium
Strawberries Bush
bean, spinach, borage, lettuce
Sunflower Cucumbers Potato
Peas, Beans, cucumbers, pumpkin, squash
acts as a trellis for beans and beans attract predators of corn pests.
trees, roses and raspberries
moths, flies and ants. Plant beneath peach trees to repel harmful flying
insects. Tansy leaves assist compost fermentation.
Thyme Here
and there in the garden
cabbages, improves growth and flavour of vegetables, general insect repellent.
Tomatoes Asparagus,
Parsley, Chives, onion, Broccoli, Sweet Basil, marigold, carrots, parsley.
potato, fennel, cabbage
Turnip Peas,
nasturtium, lettuce, cucumbers
(Artemesia, not Ambrosia)
it can inhibit the growth of plants near it, wormwood does repel moths,
flies and fleas and keeps animals off the garden.
Yarrow Near
aromatic herbs and vegetables
along borders and paths. Enhances essential oil production and flavour

Balcony Garden – Thoughts June 14, 2012

The balcony on my apartment is generous.  With this in mind I am considering what I might plan, and how I might organise this to best advantage with a move towards cutting my “fresh” vegetable purchase costs while cutting my carbon footprint, and ensuring the ingredients I use daily are the absolute freshest.

It is one thing to think about this and consider this and add it to a list as a goal.  BUT to make it happen takes action.

This weekend I have wandered the shopping center and checked out the gardening supplies section to ascertain what is readily, easily and cheaply available.  I have made copious notes and snapped some quick pictures ( including products, pots, trees, seeds, plant stock, soil, mulching).

My next step is to measure the balcony, observe and note where the sun comes from and when.

I then will decide on on how I will place the pots and baskets – and what will go in each  – and hey presto; begin!!!

So far, I have decided on using 6 large pots as a garden base.  Why big pots?  They don’t dry out so quickly.  And hydration is important to plant – for the plants aline and for the quality of the fruits and vegetables they produce. They also heat up more slowly than small pots.

Pot 1: One fruit salad plant: CITRUS. Around the base of the tree I will plant silver beet.

Citrus Fruit (between 2 and 8 grafts available per tree) – can combine oranges, mandarins, lemons, limes, tangelos, grapefruit and pomelos.  There can be up to two different varieties of oranges and mandarins only. These ripen at different times, one in winter, the other in summer.  The more fruits on a tree, the longer the picking season, even all year round.  Only the most popular fruits are chosen for the Citrus Fruit Salad Tree.  These are a dwarfing variety of tree and can withstand cold temperatures down to minus 8 degrees centigrade.  Being a dwarfing type, the height is kept to a minimum to allow for easy, safe harvesting of the fruit.  Grown in containers-approximately 1.3 metres(4ft) high x 1 metre(3ft) wide.   The size these trees get to is important to better plot and place all pots and baskets appropriately.  These I will be ordering directly from the suppliers.  I will choose tahitian lime, lemon and mandarin.  3 to 4 lemons all year around plus mandarin in autumn and limes in summer.

POT 2: One grapevine : give me one month of fruit; I will also use tiny leaves in salad, and large ones I will stuff.  Around the base of the vine I will plant thornless blackberries and allow them to trail down the sides of the pot

POT 3: Dwarf apple.  Plant strawberries around the base and allow to trail all over and down the sides of the pot.

POT 4: An all-in-one dwarf almond; plant parley ( curly, continential and coriander) around the base.

POT 5: Giant native Atherton raspberry; plant Cape gooseberries and allow them to trail.

POT 6: Dwarf nectarines;  plant bok choy around the base.

This will form the base of my gardening endeavours.


Gardening with Angus

Vertical Gardens I like this system and it is affordable and suits standard drip watering pipe ( easily available and not clumsy and inelegant).  I am seriously considering this for the side wall ( largely for pick , grow greens and herbs.


28 May – Monday Morning, How does my garden grow?? May 27, 2012

I couldn’t help myself, so over the weekend I collected a few pots and things and transplanted the mignonette Lettuce and the chillis and also set a further batch of seeds to sprouting; chives, strawberries, tomatoes, basil are now in their little mini greenhouses on the sunny kitchen window ledge and I wait to see their progress and growth.   Now I have overcome the hurdle of my first sprouting and have a more realistic expectation on timeframe,  I have realised the benefit of waiting.

There is nothing more organic or satisfying than sprouting and then growing one’s own vegetables.

I suppose I am  now reaching the point where I shall require putting up my mini greenhouse, so this will be next weekend’s way forward.


24 May – The seeds are a sprouting

It has been exhilerating and exciting to watch the seeds push up through the damp soil  There was a moment of breath – holding with the chillis and coriander as they seemed to not be doing anything!!!  Then the very next morning little shoots popped up.

This inspires me to do more.  The mignonette lettuce are almost ready to move to larger containers.  As are the chillis so I feel a transplanting coming on in the near future.


Pumpkin Patch May 8, 2012

Filed under: Community,How To,How To,Vegetables — maggsworld @ 8:33 pm

Pumpkins are a FRUIT and not a vegetable – did you know that?  Pumpkins are one of the most fun types of fruits to grow. They are not that hard to care for, but they do require lots of space. Their roots can extend as long as twenty feet, which definitely cannot fit any container.

Unlike other fruit and vegetables, pumpkins don’t grow well squashed close to or sharing space with other plants.  For example, growing them with potatoes will mean they don’t get enough food to grow properly and the pumpkins will not fruit well.  So if you do not want to make a mistake in growing pumpkins, then give them lots of their own space.

How does one go about growing pumpkin?

One needs seeds – right?  And I know from scraping out pumpkin and adding pulp and seeds to a compost heap, that it seems magical that overnight pumpkin plants begin to grow and spread like crazy.  Do you think that perhaps the bean stalk was NOT a bean stalk but a pumpkin vine trailing upwards?  Nowadays, with so many people not having backyard gardens, many are growing a pumpkin vine but supporting it on a sturdy trellis and training the vines ( which seems to grow overnight) around the trellis and training it upwards.

Height: 1.5 to 3 feet

Spread: 5 to 15 feet

Most varieties grow on vines that spread 8 feet or more. Even smaller bush types spread 5 feet or more.

A Project Plan for Growing Pumpkin:

  • Step 1: Pick a Garden Spot
    • Pumpkin vines needs lots of full sun – up to 10 hours a day, so plan your Pumpkin Patch for a space that gets direct sunlight.
    • Pumpkins prefer full sun, but it is one of the few vegetables that will thrive under partial shade.
    • Requires plenty of well-drained, highly fertile, loose soil.  This should be high in organic matter with pH between 5.8 and 6.8.  You can obtain ph strips from your chemist a little more cost effectively than gardening centers.  I have also found them in pet shops ( used for fish and water) but horrendously expensive.
    • Plentiful and consistent moisture is needed from the time plants emerge until fruits begin to fill out.
    • They need lots of space and ideally should be contained within their own isolated garden bed or they could take over the whole garden.
  • Step 2: Prepare the Seeds for Planting
    • Propagate from seed.
    • To prep the pumpkin seeds for planting, you need to file the edges of the seed with a nail file.  You should file all edges of the seed lightly except the pointed end. Filing the edges makes it easier for moisture to get inside and for the leaves to emerge from the shell without damage. The shell is very thick and the leaves will sometimes have difficulty splitting open the shell.
    • To also help with germination, put the seeds in a jar filled with warm water for an hour or two to help the seeds sprout faster. After soaking the seed, drain off the water and pour the seeds into a plastic bag and then seal the bag.
    • Plant seeds inside in 2- to 3-inch pots 3 to 4 weeks before transplanting outside.  Sow 3 or 4 seeds per pot and thin to one or two plants by snipping off the weaker plants to avoid damaging the roots of those that remain.
    • Germination temperature: 60 F to 105 F – Will not germinate in cold soil. Wait to plant until soil reaches at least 65 F — preferably 70 F or more. Germinates best at 95 F.  In Australia, in autumn, germinate the seeds in little paper mache cups made from used wet newspaper inside, where the temperature can be controlled.  Days to emergence: 5 to 10 – Should germinate in less than a week with soil temperature of 70 F and adequate moisture.
    • Days to emergence: 5 to 10 – Should germinate in less than a week with soil temperature of 70 F and adequate moisture.
    • When planning your garden will in advance, the best time to sow directly into garden patch with seeds under a mound of dirt, is in late summer.
    • Seed can be saved 6 years.
  • Step 3: Plant the Seeds
    • Seeds much be placed one inch below your seed starting mix.
    • Harden off seedlings by cutting back on water and reducing temperature inside before transplanting outside.
    • There must at least half a foot of space separating each seed to ensure there is room for pumpkin vines to grow.
    • Once leaves start sprouting out, then it is time to plant them in your patch.  Remember to give them space to grow.
  • Step 4: Water the Plants
    • Pumpkins – unlike most plants – do not like getting too wet.
    • An excellent irrigation system in your patch would be enough for watering pumpkins.
    • Pumpkins require a lot of water — about 1″ per week. You will need to keep the soil evenly moist, but you want to keep water off of the leaves so be sure not to use an overhead sprinkler for irrigation. Use a garden hose equipped with a misting nozzle to lightly water the mounds.
    • If you have to do this manually, make sure that you only perform drip watering and that you do not accidentally drown your pumpkins’ vines and leaves with water.
    • Apply water to your plants early in the morning so excess moisture will not be left on leaves. Excess moisture can promote disease and pest problems.
  • Step 5: Care of plants
    • Black plastic mulch can speed growth, and help keep weeds and insects away.
    • Remember to remove mulch to allow insects to buzz around and pollinate the blossom.
    • Squash and pumpkin depend on bees to pollinate the blossoms.
    • Female flowers must be fertilized for you to get a pumpkin. Male flowers show up first and the female flowers arrive a week later. You can identify the female flowers by the swollen base just below the petals. It will look like a tiny pumpkin.
    • If you don’t see active bees in your garden, you can assist pollination by spreading the pollen by hand.
    • You can self-pollinate by transferring pollen from male to female flowers by hand with an artist’s brush.
    • Wearing gloves, you brush the male flower first to gather pollen and then brush the center of the female flower with the collected male pollen. Be sure to handle the delicate blossoms gently.
    • Each flower is open for only a half a day, usually in the mornings. Then they fold shut and do not open again to next morning.
  • Picking and hints and tips
    • Pumpkins like to eat a lot (hence their size), but it is best not to feed them too much as this will only encourage them to grow lots of leaves but not so much fruit.
    • Add a little diluted fertilizer to the soil when your plant bears its first fruit.
    • If there are too many leaves, this means your soil is brimming with organic content and fertilizer – pinch off a few leaves from your plants. This will help redirect your plant’s efforts to bearing fruits.
    • Pumpkins will be ready for harvest 95 to 120 days after sowing.
    • Pick pumpkins when they are deeply colored, deep orange or golden white and stems and vines have dried and turned brown. The rind should be hard, not easily penetrated by a finger nail.
    • Use a pruning shears to cut the vine; leave 2 to 4 inches of stem attached to the pumpkin so that it does not readily dry out.


Pumpkin Nook

Growing Pumpkin

Caring for Pumpkin


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