Sunday, April 29, 2012

galore pink strawberries

I recently bought two paks of strawberry plants from Binder Farm in Union Square. These strawberry plants produce berries called Galore Pink. Unlike the other strawberry plants I bought from the Strawberry Store, the blossoms from the Galore Pink are pink! I thought this was pretty novel as thought it would be nice to grow these.

galore pink strawberry plants

Because they are grown in paks, planting them in the strawberry jar planter was easy. The root balls of each plant were small enough to fit into each pocket.

This particular breed of strawberries seems to be produced by a company called Ball Horticultural Company. They seem to produce new varieties of plants into the market. You can learn more about Ball by clicking here.

galore pink strawberry plants

They're happy in their new home and already producing some strawberries. More blossoms are also on the way. I can't wait to taste these guys!

starter packs v. starter pots

When shopping around for starter plants, I noticed they tend to be available in either packs (paks) or pots. Packs usually have 3 or 4 individual starter plants; depending on the pack and type of plant. I think packs are a good way to buy starter plants for your container garden. It allows the gardener to arrange the plants according to the container shape and size. Some people like to spread their plants around as opposed to planting a giant clump. The root ball of a plant from a pack tend to be small, 3/4" x 2". This is an ideal size for placing starter plants in containers with multiple pockets like the strawberry jar pots.

I recently planted strawberry plants (which i acquired from Binder Farm) from packs of four into one of the strawberry jar planters. The planter has 6 pockets. I planted the rest at the top as well as direct sowed in borage seeds.

potted herbs

Another benefit to buying starters by packs is that there will be greater yield of whatever your plant produces. Tomatoes are sometimes sold in packs. If tomatoes are desired, buying the starter plants is definitely the way to go. There might be a concern of having too many tomatoes but you can always make sauces, which can freeze, or give tomatoes to famiky, friends, and coworkers. Everyone loves home grown tomatoes!

Herbs are usually sold in pots. The sizes I've seen start at 3" inches. I find the smaller pot is an adequate size for buying herbs. It's small enough to manage and repot with other herbs in a larger container. And, I'm only interested in starter herbs as opposed to buying herbs that have been established. Not only that but herbs tend to be prolific growers. They will keep producing more leaves and sprout more shoots each time you cut them or pick them. A little herb plant can go a long way! Most small potted herbs are inexpensive and sometimes there are great deals the more you buy.

potted herbs

Monday, April 23, 2012

balcony update: week 7

container gardening

I'm very pleased to see green progress of the plants I'm growing on the balcony. It's seems like everything had a growth spurt within the last week. Almost all the plants doubled in size. Their leaves are full and green! It may be due to the warm and sunny weather we've been having.


I'm especially happy to see how well the astilbe, dahlias, and hollyhocks are doing from planting them as rhizomes. They are extremely easy to grow out of the bag. I'm looking forward to their gorgeous blooms when they blossom later in spring or early summer. The pictures on each packaging are very seductive!


The starter tomato plants are getting bigger and taller. They were staked last week because some were falling over. I'm especially pleased how well the tomatoes I planted from seeds are doing. Last week, I thinned out a few sprouts and repotted the rest into individual coir pots. I'll eventually plant the whole thing in a larger pot with other herbs. I also have another set of tomato sprouts to separate into individual coir pots.

The strawberry plants I got from The Strawberry Store are getting fuller and fuller each week. I clipped off some of the flowers, which I think helped establish bigger and more foliage, which in turn is helping them produce more flowers. I also planted borage seeds at the top of the strawberry planter. (I may have a separate post about seeds I've acquired.) They should germinate after a week.

strawberry flower

The best update from the balcony is the peach tree. When I bought the peach tree, Mr. Van Houten had advised me that it would produce peaches this year. And you know what? It is!! I was so surprised to fuzzy green buds from where the blossoms once bloomed. I am so excited about this tree producing peaches! Now, let's see how well they develop and if they taste good.



I also received the package of 7 gallon root pouches with handles. Root pouches are fabric pots that are biodegradable. They are also supposedly better for the plants because the fabric allows for better air circulation and the roots do not become root bound. I'm excited about this product! With the root pouches, I repotted the Tamukeyama and Koto No Ito, and then placed them each in a planter. I've planted the oxalis along the planter perimeter of the Koto No Ito. I'm going to have to get more or another low growing and shade loving plant to fill in the rest of the perimeter.



The Tamukeyama also has a similar planter condition after being re-potted. I haven't figured out what to plant in that area. It might be Scotch moss of some other low and shade loving plant. I might try to acquire some stones and place them there. I have also read that azaleas are cultural companion plants for Japanese maples. Not sure but I still have some time to figure it out.

I also planted the starter herbs and plants into a couple of root pouches. They each included a tomato plant I grew from seeds. I will get into more detail in a separate post.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

starter herbs and plants

I love going to the greenmarket at Union Square especially now that I've started a garden on the balcony. The plants are doing very well but the balcony isn't full of green as I expected. I realize it's still early in the season but seeing all these bright colorful flowers and fragrant herbs at the greenmarket makes me yearn to have a green balcony now!

There are many vendors represented at the greenmarket in Union Square. After having made several visits checking out the plants and prices, I have found vendors who offer quality plants for the price. On a recent visit, I went to Nature's Healing Farm and Binder Farm.

potted herbs

Nature's Healing Farm has great deals on their starter herbs like the $2 4" herb pots, which also offered at 3 for $5; that's a great deal! I picked out pineapple mint, mint, (2) Italian basil, and (2) Thai basil. They were the ideal size for me because these herbs will get fuller and taller. Plus, mint is a very prolific herb so a little mint plant will eventually get you lots of mint. Probably, more than you'll ever use.

They're at Union Square usually on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Their location changes but they can be found along Union Square East either near 16th Street or at the north corner across from Starbucks.

Binder Farm sells quality starter plants and herbs, in my opinion. Their prices are also good. You get a deal when you buy certain quantity like 4 or 6. For instance, I bought six (6) starter herbs, which included chives, cilantro, thyme, lemon thyme, trailing rosemary, and chervil. I also picked up hot pepper plants like cayenne and jalapeƱo, and two strawberry plants for a total of four (4) starter plant packs.The only reason I picked up another strawberry plant is because the flowers from these plants are pink!

potted herbs

The people at Binder Farm are nice especially the elderly lady. She's friendly and helpful! The young man who rings up the plants is also helpful and accommodating. When I asked if he could put my plants in a box, he obliged and cut up a large plastic bag to make it easier for me to carry.

Binder Farms is at Union Square on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Their location also varies but can be found at the north end of Union Square across from Barnes & Noble Bookstore or in that vicinity.

broken arrow nursery

We took a day trip to Broken Arrow Nursery in Connecticut. I had read about this nursery in The New York Times and have been pining to go since. We visited on a beautiful Saturday. It was sunny and warm. There was even a pleasant breeze.

It took us a little over two hours to get there and spent two hours looking around and deciding which tree to take home with us. The nursery has a great collection of trees that included Japanese maples, dogwoods, conifers, as well as flowering perennials. We did not have something specific in mind to buy. We were happy to look around, and perhaps find something unique to add to our balcony garden.

Most of the nurseries are open to the public. Where permitted, we wandered through them pointing out some amazing looking specimens - wishing we could take them home.


pine cones

ullung-do island maple

larix gmelini 'tharandt dwarf'


TH and I were both very impressed with the variety and selection of trees and plants especially available for purchase. We eventually decided on two Japanese maple trees and some perennials. TH spotted a Japanese maple with delicate, feathery chartreuse green foliage called the Koto No Ito. It has lovely slender leaves that sway in the gentle breeze. This particular tree will add a wonderful texture and color to the balcony garden.
Beni Hime and Koto No Ito

The other Japanese maple is a dwarf JM called, Beni Hime. This JM is just adorable and has got beautiful variegated colored leaves that are no bigger than a penny! The general size is perfect and will definitely help to offset the visual verticality of the other trees we currently have.

A few perennials, disporum cantoniense night heron, were added at the end after I had noticed another lady's purchase. She had a great eye for plants because I was admiring a dwarf Japanese maple with cream and pink colored leaves that she was purchasing at the time. There were more of the same tree available but they weren't as creamy as the one she had. She also had picked out perennials that she was not familiar with and thought it best to grab them as well. She looked up at the name with her iPhone ad found a picture of what the perennial would look like once it bloomed. It was an attractive flower and I thought I, too, should get some.


TH and I had a great time at Broken Arrow Nursery. The staff were nice and very helpful. The setting is pretty and tranquil. I look forward to our next visit to Broken Arrow for our arbor needs.

Friday, April 13, 2012


I just bought some really pretty perennials; oxalis. I just love their dark leaves and bright yellow flowers! They're going to be planted at the base of the Japanese maple. I got four of these pots from Binder Farm. The little elderly lady who helped me was really sweet.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

crocuses next spring

The crocuses I bought and planted have long been spent and are currently just chilling out in the planter soaking up the sun's rays. They are storing up as much energy to bloom again next spring. The bulbs are popping out of the dirt and I can see where the bulbs can be further divided for even more crocuses to plant next year.

crocus bulbs

While doing research on perennial bulbs, I read that I can remove them after at least 8 weeks (late April, early May), cut back the leaves if they haven't died back on their own, and store them in a cool dark place before planting them in the fall for blooms in the spring. I can't wait to gather them up and divide them. Looking at the planter with spent flowers is kinda depressing. And it seems like a waste when I can plant something else in the planter. I have other bulbs/bare roots that could be planted.

Having the crocuses was a great start to spring and my foray into balcony gardening. I'm looking forward to next spring when the crocuses bloom again.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

strawberry plants

strawberry flower

The strawberry plants I ordered from The Strawberry Store are doing well repotted in the strawberry jar planter. In fact, they are spouting new shoots (I don't know what is the correct terminology). And some of the strawberry plants have bloomed adorable white flowers. I think that is a good sign the plants are happy.

new shoots

strawberry flower

I've ordered some seeds to grow borage, which are supposedly good companion flowering plants. I had started growing thyme from seeds but am unsure if they are some of the successful sprouts. Worse case, I may just buy a thyme plant from the green market in Union Square. I also bought more thyme seeds so may attempt growing them from seeds.

strawberry plant

strawberry plant

I have reserved space at the top of the planter for the borage and/or thyme. I'm hoping to plant borage because I've read that they have pretty blue star-shaped flowers. It seems to be the main attraction of the borage. The flowers also attract bees but I doubt they will find our balcony.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

two trees and a bush

three trees

I am pleased with the developments of the balcony garden, which is home to a dwarf peach tree, a Japanese red lace leaf maple tree, and a burning bush. When I first brought home the peach tree, the branches were studded with pink buds.Those buds have since bloomed and they look lovely!


The leaves of the burning bush have sprouted. This bush promises to be quite a show stopper. The bush starts out green but eventually turns into a fiery red that is sure to wow eyes! I'm looking forward to the foliage of this bush!

burning bush

I am most pleased with the Tamukeyama, a Japanese lace leaf maple with deep, rich red to purple leaves. In the fall, the leaves burst into a bright scarlet. I've always admired the red leaf Japanese maple trees with it's pretty star shaped leaves; it was a must have for the balcony.


The sizes of these plants are ideal especially with the limited space of the balcony, and perfect for growing in containers. Looking forward to the foliage growing out and seeing these trees and bush at their fullest. Stay tuned!