Saturday, April 2, 2011

The third year dawns

So, a new year, at least in gardening terms, has dawned. Andrew and I ventured out onto the balcony today to clear the winter debris and get some veg, and fruit(!) planted.

We are now the proud owners of:

  • an apple tree. In a pot, so maybe not a tree but it's an apple shrub. Looks very happy installed in the corner of the balcony.
  • 4 long pots of salad and lettuce
  • seed trays with: peppers, chilli, tomatoes, chard and courgette
  • a tub of carrots
  • two clematis
  • two ivy
  • more box tree plants that you can shake a sculpted shrub at
The potatoes are on their way from the seed supplier, and I'm poised to plant some more things in the coming weeks.

This is now my third year doing serious veg growing. Year 1 focused on tomatoes, hence the title of this blog. Then the second year ventured out into all sorts of veg. And now this year we're including fruit, and also thinking of trying more delicate plants like roses.

For some reason I'm really set on planting some onions and cauliflower! Next weekend is currently completely free so I think a visit to the garden centre is in order.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

I love when it a plan comes together

As Phil remarked, 'it's all come together'. We cleared the decks, did loads of planting, and the annotated photo on this posts shows the full range of what we now have on the balcony. Can't quite believe it's all come together in a couple of months.

It was great to get the potatoes planted out today in their bags, the peppers into their pots, and now 4 chard plants in pots. The courgettes are flourishing although they have very weak stems, so I was a bit concerned to read on another blog that people get 40, yes, 40 courgettes per plant!

Also added a couple more lobelia to the window pots. Should be great when it's all trailing down over the top of the tomatoes. The lettuces are doing fine, but I think we're going to need a bit more salad and lettuces, so going to buy another two long pots to grow those in. And plant a couple more courgette seeds in case we have a stem snapping disaster.

Another addition to the blog - check out the planting calendar where I'll be adding all the things we've planted and when. Will be good to check back and see how long everything took to germinate / fruit.

Monday, May 3, 2010

To be in England

Oh, to be in England
Now that April's there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England - now!!

And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark, where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops - at the bent spray's edge -
That's the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children's dower
- Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!

By Robert Browning (1812-1889) , from "Home-thoughts, from Abroad".

Monday, April 26, 2010

Photo update - part II

Couldn't resist including some photos of the acer and the seedling peppers, chard, tomatoes, tarragon and basil. Trying to give them some extra light and warmth during the day, when the weather's good. Note the super straggly chard seedlings. Going to give them about another week and then consider re-sowing.

This is the acer which survived the hard Hamburg winter. -18c at the lowest point, and this pot was entirely covered in snow. I was convinced it was dead but with spring came the first little sign of life and now this! Quite miraculous.

Photo update

The new lemon tree enjoying the sun next to the carrot seedlings on the right, and salad and lettuce on the left. The carrots aren't visible here but are now just poking about the soil. Counted 10 tonight.

Salad leaves in the long pots I used last year. As with everything else just 2 weeks since sowing. Don't buy shop salad - this is so easier and will last the whole summer!

The aggressive climbing courgette, only two weeks from the point of sowing. Looking fantastic here in the tomato pots from last year.

The left corner of the balcony with, left to right, clematis, herbs, another clematis in the corner, and then 6 courgette plants. Some of the courgettes looking a little sorry for themselves while they grew accustomed to their new environment. (Don't worry, they had some helping twine today.)

Looking at all these photos makes me think about how much space we have left. We still have the chard, peppers, tomatoes, pea wigwam and 3 sacks of potatoes to fit in. The potatoes will go in next to the acer, which I'll post a picture of in a minute. The pea wigwam probably next to the carrots, and the peppers and tomatoes will probably have to fight for space with the courgettes in the sunniest spot. Actually, lettuces aren't great fans of sun, they might get moved round the corner with the potatoes, and we'll give the tomatoes and peas prime time sun position. This weekend is going to be buying big pots for the chard, creating wigwams for peas, and actually sowing the peas providing I can get hold of some seeds. And ... going to buy some long pots to hang outside the balcony to fill with trailing flowers. Phew!

Sunday, April 25, 2010


The return to Hamburg has been a good one: the balcony has really come on and in my next post I'll be putting up a lot of Phil's photos. The good news is that everything grown from seed has sprouted (only one pepper seed though), and the seed potatoes and sacks are en route from the U.K. The only concern at the moment is the limp and leggy chard - advice much appreciated. The aggressive courgettes have been potted out to start climbing up the windbreak, and all the other balcony plants seem very happy, including the new member of the family, Phil's lemon tree. He's also ordered all of the kit for our veg blog live webcam. Not only will this be streaming live balcony video on this blog, but we're also going to try some time lapse photography to catch the summer in action. An odd blend of the back to basics grow your own food, and modern technology.

On a rather more romantic old fashioned note, as I was flying back this evening thinking about our potato crop, Seamus Heaney's wonderful poem came to my mind. I hope his publishers don't mind me sharing it here:


Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; as snug as a gun.

Under my window a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade,
Just like his old man.

My grandfather could cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner's bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, digging down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mold, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I've no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I'll dig with it.

- from Death of a Naturalist (1966)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Tearaway courgettes

When Phil got back on his two day epic, something had stirred in the land of seeds.

The courgettes, in only 10 days from seed, had literally lifted up the top of the propagator. I don't think I've seen seeds accelerate like this before. Looks like climbing courgettes are going to be taking over the balcony this summer.

On other fronts: tomatoes, herbs and chard have shown through. Nothing to show on the carrots or pepper side yet, but the carrots are predicted to take 14 days. And it has been truly horrific weather in Hamburg.

Can't wait to get back and do some tendering.