Wednesday, June 27, 2012

more tomatoes!

Spotted a bunch more tomatoes this past weekend when I surveyed the balcony garden. This time I noticed pear shaped or tear shaped tomatoes have taken form! How wonderful! These are ones that I started from seeds so it's really nice to see them doing well!
pear shaped tomatoes

a bunch of tomatoes


I also finally got around to transplanting a pair of cherry tomato plants I bought from the Union Square Greenmarket. These are called black cherry tomatoes because of their dark color that makes them look almost black. These shall be producing blossoms soon.

There are also more tomatoes on the way! One of the tomato plants has a bunch of flowers, which will eventually become tomatoes.

I still have more tomato seedlings to transplant and maybe I can get some of them potted this weekend?

we have cayenne peppers!


I was originally worried that the hot pepper plants were not going to produce fruit. As pretty as the downward facing flowers are, they would drop without setting fruit. The problem as I discovered was, they needed to be pollinated. I went in and pollinated them manually either with a Q-tip or finger. I also added a bit of fertilizer too, and I think that helped give the plants a bit of a boost!



4" chili pepper

This past weekend while doing a survey of the plants, I noticed large cayenne peppers under leaves. I was amazed how many I found! I would push aside some leaves, and another one would appear and there are more to come!

Thursday, June 21, 2012


We finally have a blossomed dahlias! It's a deep reddish purple color - beautiful! It's the first of many! There are buds that will explode open towards the end of the week if not already - the balcony will be exciting to see!


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

roses and tomatoes love coffee

While reading various tips on plant care, I came upon an interesting fertilizing tip. Certain plants love coffee; the spent coffee grounds that is. The spent coffee grounds contain low levels of acid as well as other minerals and properties that are beneficial to some plants. Apparently, roses and tomatoes are acid-loving plants and would benefit from a bit of coffee grounds. I thought this is a wonderful tip because TH drinks coffee and I thought this would be a nice way to use food waste.

TH finally brought home some spent coffee grounds home from the shop. I dried it out in the oven on a cookie sheet. I've mixed it into the growing media, and used this mix when I repotted the roses and some of the tomato plants. I even sprinkled some of the grounds at the base of the potted tomato plants.

orange rose

white rose

Since I've added the spent coffee grounds, the mini roses seem to flourish and not languish. Previously, the blooms seems to struggle to open. This was especially the case for the white and mauve mini roses. They're happier now. The tomato plants that were given spent coffee grounds seemed to respond positively with growth and blossoms. In fact, green globes are forming.

green tomato

tomato blossoms

The tip of using spent coffee grounds as fertilizer was a timely find. I think the plants that received the spent coffee grounds are happy. I'm looking forward to more blooms and fruits.

Monday, June 4, 2012

not so hot peppers

hot pepper blossoms

Another garden failure for me are the hot pepper plants I bought. They've flowered but dropped without producing fruit. I was concerned as to why this was happening so I did a bit of investigation and found that the flowers of the hit pepper plants must be pollinated. Great!

Gardening on the balcony on a high floor makes it difficult for pollinators like bees and butterflies to help the plants with pollinations. I have seen a bee on two separate occasions but I do think they were impressed with the food source to tell their friends to visit.

So, I attempted to pollinate the hot pepper flowers with my finger. I don't know if that helped but I guess only time will tell.

aphids sucking the fun out of gardening

When I decided that I'd start a garden on the balcony that I would not have to deal with pests that many gardeners have to deal with. I was wrong. I had wrote about the gross infestation of black cherry aphids on my strawberry plants, which I resolved with an organic insecticide. I had little annoying winged insects too but I thought nothing much about them. They didn't seem to be causing any damage to the plants.

Then recently, I discovered aphids (the green kind) spread through out the balcony garden. I was annoyed and upset because I was wasting time battling these annoying green pests instead of spending quality time with the plants. I sprayed the plants with the organic insecticide and for good measure, I also bought a container of ladybugs. Most of the lady bugs have either left or died the next day. There were some that were crawling around or hanging out. Hopefully, they have eaten whatever aphids that remained and laid eggs around. Upon releasing the ladybugs, I couldn't help but notice that many ladybugs were getting it on with each other.


Ladybug on hollyhock stem

Ladybug on root pouch

Ladybug on hot pepper plant

Dealing with the aphids not only annoyed me but it was taking the fun out of gardening for me. I can deal with toiling out on the balcony on a hot and sunny day but seeing aphids sucking the juices of my plants is upsetting. And trying to rid them drains my energy and enthusiasm. It bothered me that my plants were being attacked by aphids. The balcony is high up; where are these damn aphids coming from? There is a possibility that they may have come from the plants I purchased from the greenmarket.

I did a bit of investigation to understand where these damn pests come from, and found a website that explained this. Reading the report made me feel a little better because at least I now understand how the aphids get around.

Luckily, the damage seems to be minimal as I caught them before they really spread and multiplied although they may return and infest again... :(

p is for...

I was skeptical about Pinterest at first. When I decided to join, I was hooked! Pinterest may be a social media tool but i use it as a way to collect and organize interesting tidbits of information I find on the internet and in everyday life that i want to reference back to. And because it is a social media tool, you have the option to share your findings with like minded people, as well as come upon something that may be of interest to me.

Pinterest has been a great resource for my cooking and gardening endeavors. I've come upon so many great tips of how to care for the garden like using spect coffee grounds. Recently, I cooked a baked potato to soft and fluffy perfection! Even TH was impressed by this particular cooking instruction for the baked potato.

There are people who don't "get" Pinterest, and that's okay. Pinterest isn't for everybody. It's not really about conversational exchanges though there are those who comment and respond and get a dialog going. For the most part, it's about collecting and sharing interesting finds.

tiny terrors

Following up with an earlier post regarding a terrarium of carnivorous plants, which I eventually did get but not to my expectations. The shorten version is that I got a kit of parts for a terrarium but with no proper instructions of how to put it together and the plants I received were not in great conditions or sized to fit in the shapely but squat apothecary jar.

Luckily, I found someone in my area who is well experienced and knowledge about carnivorous plants. He will be opening up an online business for growing carnivorous plants called Midtown Carnivores (MC). MC was very helpful in explaining what I needed to do to rehabilitate my plants, and provided me with the proper growing media to plant them in. He also explained that carnivorous plants do not grow to their best potential in an enclosed terrarium so keeping it in an apothecary jar was no longer an option.

I'm happy to report that with MC's instructions and media, my plants are doing well, growing, and "eating".





Cobra lily (Darlingtonia californica)

Cobra lily (Darlingtonia californica)

In addition to providing me media for my plants, MC spared two plants that he established and are healthy. One is a sundew and the other is a butterwort. It helped me to have these healthy plants because it helped me to understand and observe how a healthy plant should look. I was really excited when I first noticed a desiccated bug on one of the butterwort's leaves.


Drosera capenis (red)

Sunday, June 3, 2012


I'm not sure what to make of the container I'm growing salad greens and carrots in. The sprouts for the radishes were not successful except for one sprout that remains. The salad greens don't seem to be getting bigger. In fact, I think some kind of pest has eaten some of the lettuces.

Mixed salad greens

I naively thought that growing your own salad greens, carrots, and other under earth vegetables would be rewarding but I am finding it to be contrary. Perhaps I lack patience. In any case, I am growing tired of watching "nothing" happening further in the development of the lettuces and carrots. When I pulled up the radish sprouts, there was no sign that it had developed into radishes.

Carrot top


If I don't see signs of maturing in that next two weeks, I may pull out whatever is there and put to soil to better use like potting up the other tomato plants. I may make a second attempt to grow lettuces using a seed starting tray instead of sowing directly, which is what I did. It seems like plants that I've started in seed starters worked out with greater percentage of success.

I may try to directly sow carrots and radishes again but 'll use empty juice bottles. It may limit the quantity but I think at this time, I want to see if I can be successful.

Mixed salad greens

product rave: root pouch

I first learned about grow bags while surfing one of the online gardening websites. They were selling grow bags for growing specific produce. These grow bags came in different colors. They looked like an interesting way to garden fresh produce like carrots and tomatoes. While surfing on another gardening website, I came upon Root Pouch, pots made with felt and have handles. They looked like really nice designer bags instead of bags you'd grow things in.

To quell my curiosity, I went to the Root Pouch website and discovered they are an American company based in Oregon. The root pouch are biodegradable and are available in various sizes and years it will take to break down. The product line also include vertical hanging gardens and another product called saddle pouch, which I just adore.

One of the interesting features I read about using root pouch vs. other types of planting containers is the air circulation, which benefits the plants and improved health and growth of the root ball. It never occurred to me that the roots needed air circulation when growing in containers. Their point proper air circulation through the the roots made sense.

I acquired a 10 pack of 7 gallon root pouch pots with handles and used them when re-potting two of the Japanese maple trees into plastic containers that were too large. With the remaining space, I planted perennial ground cover like oxalis and succulents. You will notice a divider between the oxalis with the tree trunk. As the ground cover settle and grow, they will hide the rest of the Root Pouch.


hen and chicks

I've also used the 7 gallon root pouch for growing herbs with tomato plants. The size of the 7 gallon is perfect for companion growing like tomatoes with basil, chives, cilantro hot peppers, oregano, parsley, marigolds, and nasturtiums. Since the tomato plants tend grow very tall, they were planted in the center while the herbs went around.

Herb garden

Herb garden

And I recently got some 5 gallon and 3 gallon Root Pouches for uses with tomato plants and mini roses. I wish the 3 gallon were available with handles - that way I can handle the mini roses with pricking myself accidentally.

The only issue I have with the root pouch is that they are available in sizes that are taller than they are wide. While there are uses for this format, it becomes useless and wasteful for those who would like to grow plants that do not require such depths. Though this issue is easily solved by folding down to the desired height, I think it would be best if lower sizes would be considered for future product developments.

I can't say that I've noticed a considerable benefit to the plants' growth and development since using the Root Pouch especially when it's my first time gardening at this capacity but I do like their pots as an alternative to plastic planters and impact it has on the environment. The pots are made of recycled material and it breaks down over time as opposed to creating more waste.

One of the reasons why I started to garden was because I wanted be a bit more sustainable in consumption and waste. With this is in mind, it just made sense for me to use Root Pouch. It's made with recycled materials, it breaks down over time especially when used with plants placed into the ground, and I can store and reuse these pots easily without taking up too much space. For more information about Root Pouch, I highly recommend that you visit their website.