Sunday, May 8, 2016

Spring update on our balcony vegetable garden

Posted by Amanda Villaruel |
We started early this year and it's been two months since the first seeds were sown. How are the vegetables and herbs doing today? :-)
Our vegetable garden in Oslo
Our vegetable garden in Oslo


Before I give you the tour, here's a reminder of what vegetables we're growing this year:

Container 1: Broad beans and carrots

Container 2: Carrots, shallots and garlic

Container 3: Kale, hyssop and nasturtium

Container 4: Kale, garlic and hyssop

Container 5: Leaf lettuce, spinach, wasabi arugula, wild arugula and garlic.

Container 6: Kale and garlic

Container 7: Sugar peas and carrots

Other vegetables, herbs and plants: radishes, scarlet runner beans, strawberries, ordinary arugula, Swiss chard, parsley, dill, basil, cilantro, sage, chives, tagetes, marigold and flowers.

Broad beans

The broad beans were sown indoors in early March. They grew fast. Actually, too fast for us to handle. We were forced to move them outdoors in early April as soon as the air temperature showed above 5 degrees, and covered them with garden fabric and also plastic when the night temperature dropped near freezing point.
Our broad bean plants have developed another stem
Our broad bean plants have developed another stem

A couple of weeks ago we noticed that all the six broad bean plants developed a second stem, if you can call it that. I kind of freaked out because I've never seen that on broad beans before. We asked the gardener in one of the local community gardens, and she said that the broad bean probably 'grew tired' of growing on a thin stem and developed another ;-)
The second stem on one of the broad bean plants
The second stem on one of the broad bean plants

In the photo above you can see the second stem which is a lot firmer, fattier and hairier. That is how the broad bean SHOULD look like. The top blue arrow shows the original stem. The carrots that were sown with the broad beans seem to thrive :-)

Carrots, shallots and garlic

Carrots and shallots in the container
Carrots and shallots in the container

Transplanting the carrots in early April was a big task. I think I've lost count of how many carrots we have on the balcony :-) We added sand to the soil to make it more porous and airy, and they've grown steady after that.

But the last couple of days I've noticed that some of the them have yellowish leaves, while the neighbors are bright green. This happened the day after I fertilized them. I'm not sure the exact reason for the discoloring, but I'm going to find out. I also managed to spill fluid fertilizer on a few leaves, which of course burnt them :-(

Shallot seeds were also sown indoors in March, but they didn't survive the transplantation. I added new seeds in early April, and I must say that they're growing slowly. I'm not sure if they're going to mature before October. This is probably the reason why other urban growers use shallot sets.

When I noticed white flies lurking around the carrots, I added garlic cloves in the container. This was just two days ago, so the garlic hasn't had any effect yet. We'll see how it goes :-)

Leaf lettuce, arugula, spinach and garlic

Leaf lettuce, spinach and garlic grown in container
Leaf lettuce, spinach and garlic grown in container

The leaf lettuce, wild arugula, wasabi arugula and spinach was sown in early March indoors. The first round became leggy because of high temperature and poor light in the apartment. After that we purchased plant light and the second round of leafy greens turned out more 'normal'.

Read: How to avoid tall, leggy seedlings.

Despite the legginess, the spinach and wild arugula have thrived. But as you can see I'll probably need to thin out the spinach so they can grow bigger without having to compete. The leaf lettuce grows slowly but steady.
Spinach and wild arugula thrive in a container
Spinach and wild arugula thrive in a container

I've heard and read that ordinary arugula is supposed to be easy to grow, but that is not our experience. The arugula last year was a complete failure, and this year the wasabi arugula and the ordinary arugula (not shown in the picture) are growing very slowly. It's been almost two months now, and they've hardly developed any noticeable size on the true leaves.

Yesterday I added two garlic cloves in the container because I noticed the frequent invasion of unknown bugs, that look like flies with red/orange spots on them. I don't know if this insect is beneficial or not, but I've placed the garlic with the leaf vegetables to be sure.

Strawberries

Six strawberry plants growing slowly
Six strawberry plants growing slowly

The strawberries were sown indoors in late February and are growing - so - slooooowly. When the temperature reached over 15 degrees this week, they grew faster. Will we get berries this year? Not so sure.

We had seven strawberry plants, but the last one seems to be dying. My optimistic boyfriend wants us to keep it, but I'm pretty sure that we need to give it a mercy death very soon :-(

Radishes

Radish seedlings
Radish seedlings

If there's one vegetable that is quite easy to grow, it must be radishes. We've tried 'Easter Egg' and now 'French Breakfast'. These babies were sown 2,5 weeks ago directly outdoors and now most of them are ready to develop their first set of true leaves. I'm pretty vigilant with the watering, especially with the radishes that don't like to get thirsty.
French Breakfast radishes growing in a large pot
French Breakfast radishes growing in a large pot

Sugar peas

Sugar peas grown in container
Sugar peas grown in container

Sugar peas wasn't originally in our plan, but after the failure of growing chufa nuts, we decided to use the container for sugar peas instead. And carrots :-)

The sugar peas were sown in mid-April. The germination took some time, but once they popped out of the surface, they've grown quite fast. When the last chufa nut plants died three weeks ago, I filled the vacant spot with two new sugar peas and carrots. The carrot seedlings passed the soil surface just two days ago.

Kale

Kale plant with almost five leaves
Kale plant with almost five leaves

The kale is doing pretty good, except that the leaves get droopy whenever the cold wind hits the balcony, so I made mini greenhouses for them as well.

Yesterday the leaves also got droopy when the air temperature hit 26 degrees. The kale was originally standing in the most sheltered location on the balcony, but after it got warmer, we placed them in the sun. My theory is that the temperature itself is not causing the droopiness, but maybe the fluctuation in temperature, from cold to hot. They just have to get used to the new location :-)

We started out with five kale seeds in early March. Only one didn't make the transplantation, and another perished afterwards when a bottle (used as mini greenhouse) fell on top of it and broke the leaves. Lesson no. x - secure the bottle :-)

Kale is something we eat almost every day, so I decided to sow a fourth seed. This one is still in seedling stage and has its own container.

I don't want any pests (read: cabbage butterfly larvae) eating my kale after what I witnessed in the allotment garden last year. That's why I've sown nasturtium, hyssop and garlic with the kale. I don't know if this will actually work, but at the end of the growing season, you'll either be reading how fat we grew on kale or how we screwed up ;-)

Flowers and Swiss chard

Flowers sown in early April
Flowers sown in early April

Honestly, I'm more vegetable girl than flower girl. My boyfriend takes better care of the flowers than I do ;-)

Anyway, in early April we sowed flower seeds in two containers, including lavender, nemesia, yellow tagetes and violet that are all bee-friendly. It's been three weeks now and very little greenery is found in one of the containers. The lavender hasn't germinated at all! I researched the problem and guess what? It's actually difficult to grow lavender from seeds, and probably the reason to why many hobby gardeners buy lavender plants!

My boyfriend was skeptic, but I gave up the lavender and sowed Swiss chard instead. This was just two days ago, so no chard seedlings have popped out yet :-)
Flowers and soon Swiss chard in hanging balcony container
Flowers and soon Swiss chard in hanging balcony container

Herbs

Parsley in balcony pot
Parsley in balcony pot

Most of the herbs we've sown from seeds have turned out alright, including the basil, cilantro, sage, thyme and chives. About two weeks ago we started eating off the basil and cilantro. Since they're growing fast, we can pluck almost every day! Yes, we don't need to buy any herbs anymore :-)

The parsley is a slow grower, and some of the seedlings didn't survive the transplantation. Hopefully in a month or two, we'll be able to pluck parsley leaves. Ever since I became a vegetarian, I've grown dependent on parsley. Did you know that parsley contains twice as much iron as spinach?



Continue to read:
Vegetable gardening glossary for urban growers A-Z.

Urban farming project in Oslo - Part 1. A Newbie's Journey.


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