I just spent the morning cleaning up my balcony garden in anticipation of the season of winding down that is upon us. Just as fulfilling as planting seeds in the spring and early summer, it is equally therapeutic and deeply satisfying to clear out the yellowing leaves and dying plants, harvest the last of the vegetables, give the pots a good washdown and the balcony floor a good sweeping. Of course, there are plenty of plants still going strong and I will leave them be until just before the first snowfall. However, just like I got a head start with seed sowing this year I wanted to also get ahead of harvesting and clearing out all the old plants.
This year, my garden has yielded many surprises, some good and some not so much, but all proved to be a learning experience. I've planted more flowers and crops from seed than form store-bought cuttings this year. They are as follows:
- Scarlet runner beans- My runner beans were doing well and were the first to grow tall and produce flowers. By late July, early August, however, I noticed that the flower production was significantly reduced, the beans were a no-show and some of the leaves had started developing strange pale yellow and white dusty spots and marks. Soon the leaves were shriveling up and dying completely and the entire plant was looking straggly. Even though it was always one of my hardiest plants, I finally had to admit defeat and the possibility of a fungal disease that just kept spreading. I finally took it down and threw it out leaving one side of my balcony completely bare. But better bare than covered with sickly vines.
- Carnival sweet peppers- My pepper plant has been steadily growing and producing small to medium sized sweet bell peppers. Not big enough to make a stuffed pepper dish with but at least they made a nice addition to my salads.
- Basil- My basil has been doing well until they got afflicted with Fusarium wilt, the same diseases that got my basil plant last year. However, this year, it started pretty late. As soon as I noticed the first signs of the dreaded wilting of the leaves, I decided to uproot the plant and just stick it in a container of water. Fusarium wilt is a disease that starts from the soil and travels up through the roots and stems until the leaves start wilting. There is no cure for the disease and the entire plant has to be thrown out (soil, pot and all) to stop the spread to other plants. However, I decided that since most of the plant was still in tact, I would just get rid of the soil, wash the roots well, snip off the afflicted stems and just let the plant continue growing in water. For the most part, this strategy worked. However, since I haven't harvested the leaves in over a month some of them started flowering and going to seed.
- Cucumber plant - I only got a few huge cucumbers this season, but that is probably due to the size of the pot. In fact, in order to give my most prolific plants space I had to eventually get rid of the ones that weren't producing as many.
- Tomato plant- No surprises here. My tomato plant produced small, cherry tomatoes as well as more medium sized ones. But again, I think this was dependent on the size of the pot.
- Morning glory- This one took a while to get going. My scarlet runner beans were producing flowers already while the morning glory was still developing and growing vines. However, now there is so much foliage that it's overshadowing the flowers that have started blooming.
- California poppy- When I sowed the seeds for this plant I did not expect flowers to bloom till July or August even. Many of the resources suggested that this plant take a long time to flower. When it did, I got a plethora of glorious yellow, orange and the odd white and even pale lavender flower.
- Kale- My kale has been growing steadily since March. But today was the first day I actually plucked the leaves, simply because I have no experience in using kale in food. It's not a vegetable I usually eat. Today I decided to make kale chips with the leaves that I plucked. I washed and dried the leaves thoroughly, removed them from the thick central stem, drizzled them with some olive oil, sprinkled some salt and a dash of paprika and stuck them in the oven for about 15 minutes. Delicious!!!
- Zinnias - My zinnias have been giving me flowers since the beginning of June and still going strong.
- Cosmos flower- Though grown from seed these flowers did not see the light of day. In fact, around July the stems were wilting and browning so much from what I suspect was a variation of fusarium wilt that I had to throw the entire plant out.
- Sweet peas - After trying unsuccessfully to grow this cold-loving plant last year, I gave this sweet scented flower another go this year. I sowed the seeds indoors early from mid-March. But I dropped the pot a couple of times and when I didn't see any significant growth, I bought another packet of seeds of a fast-growing variety that promised to flower within 2 months from seed to final stage. True enough, once I sowed them in mid-April to early-May, the shoots started growing longer and longer and once I snipped them off in July I started seeing flowers within days. However, the heat waves that we got in July and August halted flower production for a while. As soon as cooler weather came around towards the end of August, flowers once again have made an appearance.
- Parsley - I honestly didn't think I would be able to grow parsley from seeds because they have a notoriously long germination period. But after almost 2 weeks of checking daily for new sprouts they started growing steadily as of April. By June, I was regularly harvesting the leaves which ensured new growth.
- Carrots- After tending to my carrot plant so carefully and ensuring that I grow it in deep enough container, I still got abnormally small carrots (probably because I didn't thin them out enough).
As for my store-bought plants, they were mostly flowers: impatiens (which started shriveling and drying up with the onslaught of heat waves); begonias (though a tropical flower they have also started dying off); snapdragons and geraniums which are still flowering. However, next time I will not plant them in the same container. simply because geraniums can tolerate low water (in fact, they started to flower once their water intake is reduced), while snap dragons start drooping if I don't water them every few days, especially in the heat of the summer, which makes sense since they are a cool weather plant.
All in all, it was a successful growing season due to the fact that I started early and didn't muck about with the plants too much once they got going. And though we had a couple of heat waves, we also had plenty of mild weather and seasonal temperatures with plenty of sunshine and an adequate amount of rainfall.