Tuesday, January 06, 2009

At least if the academic career doesn't work out, I'll still be able to eat

One thing that I'm proud of from 2008 is that for the first! time! ever! we succeeded in growing big leafy things on our balcony. This is the fourth year we have tried, and usually by now, the second month of summer, sad little stunted seedlings would have succumbed to caterpillars and neglect, and would be shriveling weedily in their pots, waiting for us to dump them in the bin.

THIS summer, the view out to our balcony now looks like this:

Let's have a little tour, okay?

On the left we have the herb table.

This is mostly a success (especially because I threw out the shriveled, wormy lettuces before taking the photo). The coriander (called something different by Americans, which word escapes me right now) is the only disappointment. It went to seed within a couple of weeks, despite frequent pickings. And now it is covered in aphids and caterpillars and about to win a free trip to visit the lettuces. The chives, on the other hand, are clearly bent on world domination, and the basil grows faster than we can eat it.

Next to the herbs grow the beans.

They too appear to have ambitions of taking over the world, starting next Tuesday. We had to keep lashing on more and more poles to the balcony for them to climb, and now they have truly run out of space and are climbing each other. I think our upstairs neighbours will shortly be very surprised.

Next come the stunt tomatoes.

I call them my stunt tomatoes because they are both stunted, and yet performing feats of tomato production that defy the odds. Compare these to...

...the zombie tomato in the corner:

I do not understand this plant. It is a survivor from last year that kept producing tomatoes all through winter while we were waiting for it to hurry up and die already so we could reuse the pot. We didn't water it for a full six months, yet it did not die.

Its extra year of growth time means it has become bigger and scarier than any tomato plant I have ever seen. I can't reach the top of it even on tiptoes. Again I am forced to wonder what it will do now it has run out of balcony. It also has an unusual growth pattern of spurting up 30 or 40 cm overnight, accompanied by a corresponding die-off of leaves around the bottom. You can see that the leaves are now dead up to around the halfway mark, although the dry brown sticks down are still indomitably sprouting tomatoes.

So all in all I am ridiculously happy with our balcony garden this year. Not only is it pretty and shady (and allergy-inducing), but it is feeding us. We pick the tomatoes and beans every second day, and the container below shows an average haul:

This might be laughable to anyone with a garden or a large family, but it is more than enough for the two of us, and more than my balcony has ever produced in the past.

And now if you'll excuse me, I need to go and quarantine my coriander.


Cath@VWXYNot? said...

Cilantro, is the word you're looking for.

Impressive tomatoes. I grew some for the first time last summer and we got, oh, maybe 15 total! The zombie plant is scary though.

EcoGeoFemme said...

Wow! That has me completely inspired to have a container garden when it gets warm.

Bardiac said...

Wow, so cool!

Have you seen the Little Shop of Horrors? I think your scary tomato plant might be headed there :)

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

Regular tomato plants like to be pinched off... so they put more energy toward fruit...

We call a spice coriander, but it isn't usually grown in gardens -- I supect Cath is right, it is probably what we cal cilantro -- we use it in salsa and other stuff. Don't feel bad about it not going well, it seems to only have one season in it --

Breena Ronan said...

Nice garden! Cilantro and coriander are the same plant, just one is used for seeds. Cilantro always goes to seed very quickly. Very regular watering and cool weather help slow it down.

StyleyGeek said...

That's right: cilantro. I think you guys use different names for seed vs leaves, but we call both coriander. (Well, coriander is the leaves, but the seeds are called coriander seeds.)

Grace Dalley said...

Congratulations on the garden!

You should keep the pot you had the coriander/cilantro in, although it might be dead, it will rise again (ha ha!). Our coriander is seeding at the moment and given a few months it'll be back.

StyleyGeek said...

I would have, Grace, but it was seriously infested with aphids and caterpillars. I decided it was better off somewhere else. Like the bin.

shrinkykitten said...

Clearly you need this:

liz said...

That is a very impressive balcony garden!

ScienceGirl said...

Very impressive! I think I might have to try growing something now too!