Back in April, I described my gardening plans for this year. Time for an update! It’s been seven weeks since then, so I ought really to be well advanced with my plants. Unfortunately, we have not had access to our terrace all that time because of work that needed doing on it, so I’m rather behind with the schedule. Still, there is progress to show, and here it is.
I bought the seeds, here they are, most of them. I was interested to see that some of the seeds on offer were ‘certified organic’, like the beetroot here on the left. I’d never heard of organic seeds before, but if that means they don’t use pesticide or fertilisers to raise the stock, that gets my vote.
I also got some big pots. I have had the white one you see here for some time, and I recall it was expensive when I got it. It seems pots still are expensive, which is why I’m not getting more until I am convinced I can produce something in them. The brown pots are huge, they hold 120 litres of compost each, that’s over four cubic feet. I would have preferred white pots that would absorb less heat, but despite the number of garden centres in our area it’s not easy to find something suitable. Large pots will hold a lot of water, so plants will survive better in the summer heat. Our balcony takes the full force of the summer sun, so that’s an important consideration!
Our local organic store, Satoriz, now sells organic compost, which is a great idea. It’s good stuff, but it can’t be used on its own because it needs something mixed with it to help it drain well. On its own, it tends to pack solid when its wet, forming a solid layer like a dried-up river bed. That’s not good because the soil doesn’t breath or absorb water properly when it’s like that, it needs to be open and porous. Still, it’s good to know that ‘organic’ is really entering every part of the home-food-growers’ domain, and I will definitely be using this compost as a regular part of my gardening.
When you fill a pot as big as these with new soil, it’s a good idea to make sure the soil is thoroughly wet before you plant anything. The compost sold by garden centres is normally very dry so it weighs less, people are more likely to buy it if they can carry it. When it’s that dry it can take a lot of water to soak it thoroughly, these big pots actually took 30 litres of water before anything drained out the bottom, that’s one quarter of their volume in soil! I watered them 3 or 4 times over a day or so before I was happy enough to plant in them.
The lettuce is growing strongly, as are the chard and beetroot. I’ve already thinned them out, but I may still have to thin the lettuce some more, they’re growing very vigorously. The spring onions have sprung, as you can see at the top of the post. You can see a sunflower growing well in the white pot above, but I can’t take the credit for that one, it’s a seed that found its way into the pot somehow and sprouted without asking permission. The sunflowers I planted are a dwarf variety, they shouldn’t grow to more than about 18 inches/45 cm high, and you can’t see them over the edge of the pot yet.
I also have some peas coming through. I had not intended to plant peas, but we bought some for eating and there were a few that were sprouting, so we thought we’d give them a try. They’re doing very well, in fact they’re currently the biggest plants I have out there.
The french marigolds are doing well, and I did plant nasturtiums, which have also come up. The thyme, sage, rosemary, and basil have sprouted too, but they have been a bit disappointing with their germination, slow to come through and slow to get on with the job. The mint hasn’t come up at all, but that’s my only no-show this year, so I can’t really complain.Since the herbs were supposed to be our organic pest-deterrent, that leaves the other plants a bit vulnerable at the moment. The sunflower that that seeded itself is harbouring aphids, which are being looked after by ants. That’s not good, so I need to do something about them, and would welcome any suggestions for dealing with them. I’m pretty certain the ants aren’t nesting in the pot, there are only a few of them, so I don’t have a nest to eradicate, just a few visitors.
Fortunately, other characters, such as this enormous slug, have not found their way into my little garden. That’s one advantage of an exposed, hot terrace, it forms a natural barrier to some pests. I don’t think my lettuce would last long if this guy found them!
So I’m not competing with the local farmers yet, but even since I took these photos a couple of days ago the plants have grown quite a bit. It won’t be long before I’m getting a few lettuce leaves at least. I know other people out there who are blogging about their organic gardens, The Natural Patriot has already started harvesting goodies from his. The Earth Home Dwellers are having a go too, but I don’t know how they’re getting on. C’mon guys, tell us, I’m curious!
If anyone else is growing their own organic vegetables out there I’d love to know how you’re doing?