Project Self Sustainability

A fine site

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.

Project grow My Own

I aim to:

  • become self sustaining for fresh vegetables from now on
  • utilise “recyclables” (things I would otherwise turf out) instead of purchasing more.  I have instituted a “one in, one out” policy on my life, and within our lives.  As a starting point and a yardstick to where I choose to go from hereonin.  This means all those cracked cups and teapots and cruddy pans, don’t get turfed; they are repurposed instead to growing our fresh fruit and vegetables, moving forward.
  • plan carefully; this included allocating space, calendarising a planting schedule ( so crops ripen sequentially thereby eliminating the need to deal with hundreds of one vege or fruit.)
  • companion plant
  • use the best compost possible
  • use a natural fertiliser
  • do a little towards this goal every single day
  • document every step of the way

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

Bunching Onions, aka Scallions aka Spring Onions

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What have I learned?  Everything has a time when it will happen and we don’t always know when that is.  There is patience and faith involved in growing something.

Bunching onions are fast and easy to grow from seed. 

Bunching onions are fast and easy to grow from seed.



Unlike bulb or nest onions, bunching onions, also known as green onions or scallions, divide into upright clumps rather than forming underground bulbs. Begin planting these easy-to-grow plants in the spring. You can clip a few leaves as needed, but wait until the fall to fully harvest bunching onions. The plants often go dormant in hot summer weather, but they will produce new tops again once the weather cools off. Sow bunching onion seeds directly in the garden plot or start them indoors early. They may also be grown in containers.


  1. Find a location with full sun and well-drained soil. My container sits smack in the middle of a table on a sunny balcony.
  2. Prepare the soil by tilling or loosening the soil and mix in compost or other organic matter. The soil should have a near neutral pH between 6 and 7. I test the PH with strips I pick up at a very small cost from my chemist.  I also use the best quality compost I can buy – I am growing food for nourishment here!
  3. Spread seeds in a thin, single layer over the soil and cover with 1 inch of loose soil. Add a layer of organic mulch to help keep the soil cool and moist.
  4. Begin clipping leaves as needed when the plants reach a minimum of 6 inches tall. Full harvest is best once the plants reach at least 12 inches in height.


  • Harvest bunching onions by digging them up and pulling them apart. Save some to plant in a new location, and they will form new bunches again in the spring. In harsh winter climates, plant the saved onions in a container and keep indoors in a cool location until early spring.
  • You can start seeds indoors in small peat pots or containers eight weeks before the average last frost of the season. In the spring, transplant them in the garden or in large patio containers or window boxes.
  • Growing bunching onions in an indoor window box will ensure fresh onions all year long.
  • Onions are prone to soil disease, thrips and onion maggots. Plant bunching onions in a different location after each harvest to prevent problems and to protect the plants.

Planning my Balcony Garden

My choices in food and produce have become increasingly organic and then progressively locally grown – utilising the Farmers’ Market at the local shopping square each Thursday am for my produce as much as possible.  By the way, at Hornsby Markets, Darcy is the one guaranteed organic and the best!!!!

The benefits are conscience; ( carbon footprint, sustainability etc) and also limiting hormones and chemicals being ingested unbeknownst to me.  This is centred around what is best for the body I have as well as what is the best possible choices thinking and looking ahead beyond my own lifespan.

It has always been a goal of mine to set up a balcony garden for fruit and vegetables as the ultimate in minimising my carbon footprint as well as becoming increasingly self sustainable.  This weekend I have set aside and used some of my time to begin planning and costing this out.


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.


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