Tuesday, May 15, 2012


More good news! Some of the tomato plants and hot pepper plants are showing signs of buds and blossoms. These are signs of great things to come like tomatoes and hot peppers at the beginning of summer! One particular tomato plant has buds at a few locations on the main stalk. I suspect they will blossom soon.

Some of the hot pepper plants have blossoms or buds. It's wonderful to see things are progressing along. It won't be long before I can harvest a few hot peppers and tomatoes to use in my next dish! 

tomato flower buds 3
tomato flower buds 2

tomato flower buds 1

hot pepper blossoms

update: peaches

Not much to really say; best to show you how the peaches are coming along. I did thin out some of the peaches but I think I may need to thin out some more. There are a few spots where there are clusters of peaches. I may need to pick a few off so when they get bigger, they're not smashed up against each other.



update: borage and strawberries

Despite the recent discovery of black cherry aphids on one of the planters that are growing strawberries, the blossoms are turning into berries! The plants I got from The Strawberry Store are producing fruit albeit small. I'm hoping they will fill out.

The galore pink strawberry plants are doing great and I am finding new blossoms every weekend, and the strawberries are getting incrementally bigger.

more strawberries!


Another bit of exciting news are the borage sprouts, which have developed a new set of leaves! I can't wait for the blue and white blossoms to appear! I also noticed some new borage sprouts, too! It's very exciting to see things coming to life with just a bit of soil, sun, and water.

white borage


blue borage

what are these black little things on my strawberry plant?

I was checking and pruning the plants this weekend. Everything looked fine and healthy. I noticed some brown leaves on the strawberry plants and began to clip them off. As I pushed aside the ribbed green foliage, I noticed little black specks on the stems. At first I thought it was bits of soil that got stuck on the fuzzy stems but at closer inspection, they were moving! I was grossed out by this discovery and checked the other pockets and noticed there were similar black specks on the fuzzy stems!


I immediately sprayed the strawberry plants down with an organic insecticide soap by Safer Brands. I sprayed directly at the infected areas as well as the tops and bottoms of the leaves. I checked the other strawberry jar planter, which didn't look like it was infested. I moved it to the other side of the balcony. I proceeded to spray the tomato plants that are placed near the strawberry plants just in case. Again, I sprayed the tops and bottoms of the plants.

Annoyed by the discovery of the tiny black infestation, I wanted to find out what I was dealing with. I eventually found someone else who had the same problem, and explained what the black bugs are - black cherry aphids! I was horrified...

We had a bad experience with aphids a while ago when we attempted to grow tomatoes on the balcony. Though I found a home remedy of mixing dish soap and water, the grossness of having to deal with the pests put us off from balcony gardening for a few years.

The organic insecticide soap seemed to have did the trick though for good measure, i'm also going to get some and release live ladybugs. Ladybugs are a safe solution to ridding gardens of pests such as aphids. The larvae and adult ladybugs eat aphids and other soft body bugs. Stay tuned to see how things are resolved...

Thursday, May 10, 2012


Comfrey blossoms

What is comfrey? It is a perennial herb that supposedly has medicinal uses. I'm interested in comfrey for use as fertilizer. The leaves break down faster than other organic material so it's great to use as a fertilizer when potting plants or use in the garden. Similarly, the leaves can also be used to create liquid fertilizer by submerging the leaves in water for a few weeks. Recipes for comfrey liquid fertilizer can be found online; just do a search.

Comfrey is not easy to come by, and it is not commonly available. You may find a few people who sell comfrey seeds or rhizomes, and comfrey plants. I acquired my comfrey plant from Silver Heights Farm Nursery at the greenmarket at Union Square. They sell all kinds of certified organic starter herbs and veggie plants for your home garden.

I have read online that comfrey plants are best planted in the ground because the roots draw lots of minerals deep in the soil that is not easily accessible. Seeing as I don't have that as an option, I am keeping my comfrey plant in a container. It's currently in a nice plastic pot but I will transplant the comfrey plant to the 7 gallon root pouch. I think the comfrey will like that better. It will be roomier for the roots to spread out and the air will keep the roots cool with air circulating through.

I'm also planning to make comfrey tea so I can use it to fertilize the tomato plants and strawberry plants. I think the plants will be very happy with that. Stay tuned...


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

update: strawberries

The galore pink strawberry plants are doing extremely well after planting them in the strawberry jar planter. They are producing flowers and developing into strawberries! I deliberately did not bother to remove the flowers from these strawberry plants because I wanted to see how greatly this lack of step will affect yield for this harvest and next year's harvest. I'm excited about the potential harvest of these particular berries.

galore pink strawberry

galore pink strawberry

I've also sowed borage seeds about two weeks ago at the tops of each strawberry planter. I sowed blue and white borage seeds. The brown planter has blue borage while the turquoise planter has white borage. It took about two weeks for the seeds to germinate and boy was I excited to see a pair of leaves sprout from the soil! I'm looking forward to seeing how they grow and produce the featured blue (and white) star-like flowers.

borage (blue)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Roses are classic perennials found in many gardens, and I couldn't resist adding them to the balcony. The ones I got are mini roses, which are perfect given the limited space. The mini roses are currently featured sale items at Whole Foods; at least in NYC. They're available in different colors like red, pink, yellow, white, and mauve.

mauve roses

The roses add a nice floral touch to the balcony, which is currently green with herbs, tomato plants, and a few trees. I've placed them around the balcony, sitting in planters with other growing plants or trees. Placing the potted roses in with potted plants helps to free up floor area clear for moving around (and eventually a bistro set for two), and it makes watering the plants a bit more efficient.

A tip for selecting an adorable little rose plant is to look for a plant with healthy leaves (no holes or dried brown foliage). It's okay to select a plant with some opened blossoms however choosing a plant where there are some buds that are about to bloom and emerging buds will be more rewarding in terms of display.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


I've been trying to find something interesting to plant at the base of the Tamukeyama tree, the Japanese lace leaf maple. I wanted something with a bit of color that would stand out against the deep purplish red foliage as well as survive the winters without losing leaves. It also needed to be low growing.

I had considered flowers like pansies. They're low growing and come in a variety of colors that would compliment the red lace leaf maple. But then the blooms would eventually fade even though pansies thrive in cool weather.

Another option, I had considered was to go with a type of creeping and trailing conifer. The needles would make the eventual naked tree attractive in the winter; kinda like being wrapped with a furred collar. I haven't found what I'm looking for. At the same time, the limited colors of the needles do not excite me.

Then I learned about sedums. They are succulents and like many succulents, they can survive winters. They also produce pretty little flowers that are either bright yellow or pink or bright red, which compliments the dark foliage of the Tamukeyama. Some sedums are low growers. They are also drought tolerant and do not require a whole lot of maintenance. I also like how sedums looked when mixed grown with a limited variety of sedums. I became excited about the potential addition of sedums in the garden.

sedum sedum sedum

The next day while walking around the greenmarket in Union Square, I noticed one of the vendors was selling sedums and of many kinds including the "angelina" and "dragon's blood". There were at least 6 different kinds of sedums. I initially picked out six but returned half because I noticed they were infected with aphids! I kept Angelina, Blue Spruce, and Stoloniferum Green. I'm hoping to add Dragon's Blood, or Red Carpet (sedum spurium), or a John Creech.