I live in a highrise apartment in downtown Edmonton and Mum thought it would be nice if I wrote about the garden I have on my balcony here. It's nothing too fancy, as this year was my first real try at growing my own food, but it turned out a lot better than I had honestly expected for just things that I could grow in pots on my balcony.
My main reason for getting into gardening was for food. I'm not so much into it as an aesthetic thing, although plants are beautiful so I do love to look at them and photograph them, but the design of the space isn't particularly attractive - just a bunch of plants shoved up into the areas of the balcony that get direct sunlight and stacked on whatever works to get them up into the sun. I made liberal use of the gross old furniture that was abandoned by the person who used to live in this apartment to hold up all of my cheap plant pots. Because of the food-over-beauty thing, I didn't plan anything that I couldn't eat. There are quite a few marigolds and some lavender to brighten up the place, but only because they're edible.
My black currant bush didn't fare much better than the cherry tree. All my other plants seem to be pest-free, probably because they're so high up and in isolated pots, but the currants got infested by aphids. Still, we got at least a couple juicy, tart currants off of it
My favourite plant ended up being the cucumber plant. It grew a lot faster than the others, and when I started seeing its little tendrils reaching out to climb, I rushed out to grab some bamboo sticks to let it climb up. It was exciting to see something I'd planted shoot up and out like that. With its huge umbrella-like leaves, sticky prickly stem, and grabby little tendrils, it felt like a creepy pet as much as a plant. Unfortunately I missed the memo that you're supposed to manually pollinate cucumbers until all the blossoms had already shriveled up, and the plant is now in obvious decline. It did manage to self-pollinate and create one surprisingly large fruit before dying on me, though, which made a lovely cucumber salad. Here it is shortly before picking:
This month the obvious star of the garden is the peppers. I kept taking pictures today trying to convey just how many chili peppers there are out there, but it's tough because they're all just kind of on top of each other and growing out in every which way, just looking like foliage.
That's the chaos of my chili pot. There are three plants in there, and they all seem to be in a panic about making as much fruit as possible. I figure some of these will end up as jelly, one or two might be eaten fresh, and the rest I'll have to dry. I thought I would be lucky if I got any peppers at all in this climate, but they seem to just love my balcony.
These are cayennes hiding at the bottom of the pot of chili plants. These were green last time I checked! I was so excited when I was taking pictures for this blog entry and found that I finally had a ripe one. I wasn't sure they would make it before the end of the season.
This is the bell pepper plant that shares a pot with the cucumber. I thought it would be sacrificed to the cucumber plant that grew way faster than it and tried to climb all over it, but it seems to have survived and done pretty well. That giant yellowing leaf there is the cucumber plant. Teeny tiny bell peppers, it should be noted, are the cutest fruit in the world.
That's one of my strawberry plants, which is being really ambitious and still blossoming. Allan and I have already eaten all the berries that these few plants have produced this year. Yum.
How obvious is it that fruiting plants are my favourite? Herbs, flowers, lettuce, whatever...nothing's as exciting as growing your own fruit. It's like magic. Those are my cherry tomatoes above. It's a determinate variety so they should all ripen at once, and hopefully that happens before it gets all cold and crappy up here. I'm obsessed with tomatoes this year and I'm giving the tomato guy at the farmer's market all my money.
OK, I guess I can give a little love to non-fruiting plants...
This is a pretty pot: marigolds and lavender. Will probably use these to scent some fruit jellies. The lavender was pretty subdued until the past couple of weeks that some new growth and pretty flowers started appearing.
Here's some marigolds with lettuce, and a few wisps of garlic chives that liked to get in front of every picture I took. The chives have made me fall in love with baked potatoes and sour cream again. I shoved lettuce in a lot of places that it didn't really have room to grow in (this "pot", for example, is a shallow drawer from an abandoned nightstand) so I didn't get much, but these sad little leaves are still good eatin.
So that's pretty much what I managed to produce and eat this year on my balcony. It was a good experiment, and next year I think I'll mostly focus on the plants that did well and go for volume, and maybe even try to make it pretty. We'll see.
Well that's about all I've got to say about my garden here. I've got my own blog at pepperolive.com where I ramble on about plants and food. Thanks for reading!