Sunday, March 25, 2012

mystery sprouts

When I planted the seeds, I didn't label what each section held. I wasn't too worried about it because the seed types were limited to tomatoes and herbs. Most of the bays have sprouted something green. The tomato seeds were the first on the scene, and they continued to grow, and grew fast! I was able to recognize the tomato sprouts because some plants still had the husks of the tomato seed stuck to it.

mystery sprouts

As for the herbs, I can't tell from looking at it although when I rub their tiny leaves, I smell a pleasant but familiar fragrance. Despite this aromatic indicator, I can't tell if it is rosemary or lavender. I planted both types plus basil, cilantro, and thyme. The herbs seem to be doing quite well and taking their time to grow and develop in the incubator.

mystery sprouts

I'm worried about the tomato sprouts. TH's sister advised us that it's difficult to grow tomatoes from seeds. She added that people usually buy the plants instead. In addition to this, I had transplanted the sprouts to larger pots and they don't seem to be doing well. As a result, I searched online for advice about growing tomatoes from seeds and found these great instructions and tips from Renee's Garden and A way to garden.

mystery sprouts

I was surprised to learn that the tomato sprouts needed to be kept warm until they are further along in their growth and development. I also didn't realize each sprouted cell should be planted in a single pot. I planted each bay in a 6" planter with the thinking that I'll eventually plant each individual plant in larger containers when they look hardy enough to grow on their own. I may have to divide them up sooner than expected. Despite learning about proper tomato gardening after the fact, I'm hopeful that at least one tomato sprout will survive from each planter.

mystery sprouts

balcony update: week 3

peach blossom

The balcony now has a dwarf peach tree, which I bought at the green market in Union Square. It was the right size for the balcony. There are pink buds that are at the brink of blossoming. Lugging it back wasn't fun but I got a good work out on my arms for the effort. I've also added a dwarf burning bush, which promises to show gorgeous red leaves in late spring.

The watering can arrived. It's beautiful! TH liked my choice, too. I've already showered the plants with water.

The strawberry plants from The Strawberry Store were delivered as expected via USPS. They were carefully packed in the box. I had also picked up a couple of strawberry plants at Home Depot last weekend. They're doing well. And the strawberry jar planters arrived the next day.


strawberry flowers

The hyacinths have all bloomed and the balcony has a lovely sweet fragrance. The crocus and iris bulbs are doing well and photosynthesizing.

pink hyacinth

white hyacinth

I've begun to transplant the sprouted seedlings to larger pots so they can grow bigger and develop their roots.

This is merely the beginning of the balcony garden. There's still lots more to do and more plants to add. Spring is going to be busy. Hopefully, with all the effort, the summer and fall will be pretty and bountiful. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Now that I will be growing strawberries, I need a vessel to grow them in. Although you can plant strawberries in almost any kind of container, ordinary planters will not do for me. Instead, the strawberry plants will be planted in strawberry jar planters. These vessels look like giants, fat vases with pockets dotted around. I love that these planters have pockets. You can "terrace" your plants to make an interesting feature in the garden. The pockets also enable use of the soil at different points of the planter.

strawberry jar & strawberries from White Flower Farm

I'm excited about planting the strawberry plants in these guys and letting its growth take its course. The foliage will sprout like crazy while the fruit will hang or dangle at different heights.

Other types of plants can also be planted in the strawberry jar planter, not just strawberries. Herbs, succulents, ferns, and other types of plants can be set into these planters. Plants look amazing staggered around a vase-like vessel.

Filoli Gardens - Stawberry Pot
photo by Jill Clardy
nature planter by Design Night

The strawberry planters come in different sizes and numbers of pockets. They are available with at least 3 pockets to as many as 12+ pockets.

Oddly, these planters are not easy to come by in gardening stores. Instead, you can find them online and even then, variety and colors are limited. And then there are those that are not strawberry jar planters but do a similar job of terracing planters with a kit-of-parts, and quite honestly they just don't look as nice.

The ones I found and like seem to be the only ones available online and through major online retailers like the strawberry jars from Craftware Pottery & Baskets. I did manage to find other sources for strawberry planters via Etsy and Design Night (see photo above). I would love to have the beautifully designed "nature planter" but I can't justify paying the asking price. The pot from Etsy is smaller and better suited for herbs, ferns, and succulents.

strawberry pot herb succulent planter by InspiredGardens

round ceramic coralbell strawberry jar by Craftware Pottery & Baskets

round ceramic strawberry jar by Craftware Pottery & Baskets 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

little terrarium of horror, part 1

Ever since I was a young girl and learned about Venus flytraps, I've wanted them. I thought it was just the coolest plant life ever! Besides the fact they ate insects, it was the idea that they seemed almost cognizant.

venus flytrap

Later in life, I learned there were other types of carnivorous plants like the pitcher plants. Unlike the Venus fly traps, their traps are not activated with touch. Instead, bugs who land or crawl onto the rim of the plant slip and fall to their liquid deaths. The bugs are lured by the sweet smell of the nectar inside the pitcher, which is what dissolves their carcasses.
And there is another carnivorous plant that possesses qualities of both the Venus fly trap and pitcher plants, and that is the sundew. The sundew "...uses its sticky tentacles to attract and catch flies and other insects. Contact triggers a curling reaction, where the plant wraps up its prey and eventually digests and absorbs the victim's nutrients."

I'm not only fascinated by carnivorous plants but I also find them to be quite beautiful, and beautifully designed. They are a fine examples of how living things adapt and evolve in order to survive. Though I'm curious what they originally evolved from.

photo by Noah Elhardt
photo by Noah Elhardt
In the past, I've missed opportunities to buy Venus flytraps because I wasn't sure how to care for them. But I've since learned carnivorous plants can be kept in terrariums. And in fact, they are ideal plants for such contained humid environments. I love the idea of a little and living green environment contained in clear glass. There is something quite wonderful about vignettes of nature in your home.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


photo by Elke Rohn
Strawberry plants are what I want to acquire next for the balcony garden. I love strawberries! I question the character of people who don't like strawberries unless they're allergic to them. The thought of starting with seeds was considered but I think I may be a bit late in the season to do it that way so I'm going to start with plants. While doing my research, I came across an excellent website about strawberries, Strawberry Plants. This is a great resource about strawberries, growing them, and where you may find/buy certain types to grow in your own garden.

I didn't realize there are a great variety of strawberries to be had. There are even white strawberries! They come in different sizes and shapes. The only thing I seem to notice is there aren't a discernible difference in taste between strawberries. Almost all say they are sweet but what kind of sweet? How are they sweet? Are they flavorful? The strawberries seem to be described if they are firm, or hardy winter growers, or if they have runners, how bountiful they are, and if they are resistant to diseases.

photo by swirus71
The other thing I noticed is that most of the websites that sell strawberry plants sell them in large quantities for a price. They seem to sell 25 plants per price, which is a bargain but then again, I don't have space to grow 25 of the same kind of strawberries. Plus, I want to grow a variety of strawberries. I eventually did find a website, The Strawberry Store, that sold individual strawberry plants as opposed to bulk purchases. There are seven varieties I want to grow. Two varieties are white. I'm just so curious about white strawberries and how they taste compared with the red ones.

But first, I will need to find containers to grow them in...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

watering can

I'm slowly acquiring my tools for gardening. I don't have all the basic and recommended tools like pruning sheers and labels. When I started my gardening project, I did get a pair of gloves and a trowel. These were important items to have for an initial endeavor, in my opinion. I held off on the watering can because the garden center did not have any that I liked. The watering can I was looking for is classic in style, and something I wanted to enjoy seeing and using. I didn't have something specific in mind but I'd know when I see it, and so began my online search. It didn't take me very long to find what I was looking for.
She's made of steel with a slimming oval shape and colored in a beautiful red, called ruby. Her arm stretches out and holds a brass rose that would shower the flowers, herbs, and plants with love. Ruby wasn't the only color I was eyeing. The watering can is offered in other colors and sizes like this traditional 8.8 liter watering can in a deep sultry purple called aubergine.

I'm excited to get this package and delivering water to the greenery with a plentiful but gentle flow.

book review: the balcony gardner

While I was looking around in one of the shops I like to frequent, I came upon a book that was apropos of my new green thumb activities; The Balcony Gardener by Isabelle Palmer. The price was also reasonable.

It's a hardcover book with lots of pretty and inspirational photos of container gardens and gardening within limited outdoor space. The contents and instructions are basic, and an introduction to balcony gardening. Ms. Palmer shares anecdotal advice and experience about gardening as well as decorating tips to make your limited outdoor space comfortable and inviting. She also makes helpful suggestions of plants for your gardening consideration depending on your interest and convenience.

The tone of the book is casual and nurturing; ideal for the curious and/or uninitiated gardener. Even intimidated readers will find a spark of encouragement after reading The Balcony Gardener. Ms Palmer wants her readers to have fun with creating a little bit of green space on the balcony or even window.

Ms. Palmer offers many creative ideas for gardening with containers. I especially love the ones where she suggests an herb box based on herbs used when cooking chicken and fish, or popular ethnic cuisines like Mediterranean and curry. She even throws in a few tasty recipes that inspires growing your own.

I enjoyed reading through The Balcony Gardener. The photos in the book are inspirational, and not overly done. The subject in each page isn't elaborate. Instead, the set up in each photo could easily inspire a similar recreation or come up with something that reflects the reader's personality. The images of flowers and plants are printed on paper that may have been recycled instead of seductive glossy paper. This gives the photos are more earthy and vintage feel. The pages also has a nice tactile feel when I turn the pages.

It was such a great coincidence coming upon this book as I was about to exit the shop. The title, The Balcony Gardener, was so appropriate with what I was about to embark that same day. This would make a great gift for those who are interested in gardening but may feel the effort to take up such an endeavor daunting.

Since reading this book, I've been inspired to possibly plant some shading plants like bamboo. And I definitely want to grow strawberries, which Ms. Palmer says is well suited for growing in containers on the balcony.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

spring garden.

I know it's not officially spring yet but with the mild winter we've been having and the unseasonably warm temperatures we've been experiencing has thrown plant life out of synch. It's been reported that cherry blossoms are early this year. The green market at Union Square are selling flowers and plants that are normally not available until later in the season. The colors and sweet fragrance of blooms and sprouting herbs are intoxicating and sparks the imagination of sowing the balcony garden I've fantasized about.

This past weekend, I was busy with a starter garden for the balcony. TH has a balcony, which we haven't really taken advantaged of but I think this year, we may spend more time out there? Or at least, the garden will give us a reason to spend more time out on the balcony.

I replanted a couple of perennials in a new planter. I wasn't able to fit them all but hopefully what I was able to plant to be a nice arrangement; white hyacinths and purple crocuses. I also got some cool colored irises and a lavender plant. I also planted seeds in an incubator. With some luck, we may have some tomatoes and a bunch of herbs (basils, coriander, lavender, sage, rosemary, and thyme) to harvest in the summer.

There are still more things I'd like to grow in our balcony garden like strawberries, more flowers, and maybe bamboo. But I'm pleased that the garden has initiated.