My First Balcony Cucumber

I’m growing cucs on the balcony in a container and I can assure you that my first cucumber of the year was absolutely delish. My plant looks like it has another dozen or so on the go, so I’m pretty stoked.

  

 

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Gardening on a Smaller Scale

White rock balcony

White rock balcony

There is no way that you can compare gardening in a full size zone 3 yard and gardening on a balcony in zone 8. In Edmonton I had a 60 x 120 foot lot and I took advantage of most of the property for my hobby. By the time I sold my house I had seven composters, several raised beds for vegetables and I’d converted half the front lawn to garden. Much to my (late) mother’s chagrin I even grew corn in my front yard.
I had gogi berries, raspberries and haskap (honey berries). I ate Carmine Jewel cherries from my tree in the backyard while waiting for dozens of tomato plants to produce their yearly bounty of juicy plum tomatoes for canning. I’ve grown tomatillos for salsa verde, I’ve had a spaghetti squash plant produce so many squash that I had to take them to the food bank, and I’ve eaten carefully stored carrots and potatoes well in to January.

Those days are over but not forgotten.

A balcony can support all sorts of plants, including fruit and veggies. Breeding has produced a bounty of fauna that is satisfied with life in a container, although container living means much more attention to their care.

Container plants need a good quality soil that retains moisture. They need regular watering and fertilizing – everything they need will have to be provided at regular intervals. Two hot days in a row with a moderate wind and balcony plants can be baked in situ.

My balcony is east-facing so it gets a strong morning sun which abates at around 11 am and by 4 pm it becomes a cool place to sit and enjoy the sound of birds and a gentle breeze. So far all of my herbs and flowers are doing spectacularly and I’ve potted two tomatoes, a Hungarian pepper and a cucumber. I’ve got two different climbers – a black-eyed susan vine and a specially bred clematis which is going like crazy (I’ll blog about that another day).

So although I can’t garden on the same scale as I have in the past, I can still enjoy my hobby. And hopefully I can enjoy some fresh tomatoes in a couple of months.

A Simple Way to Harvest and Preserve Garlic

I like to make my life easier, so I’m always looking for the simplest ways to preserve and consume my garden produce.

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Today I dug up half of my garlic. Garlic is ready when the bottom four leaves of the stalk have turned brown. For Zone 3, this is usually mid to late August.

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After separating the cloves I carefully washed and patted them dry with a towel.

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I then tossed the cloves into my tiny food processor and added enough vegetable oil to cover them.

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I used the pulse button to control the chopping until I had the consistency I wanted, just slightly larger than a mince.

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I put the resulting mixture in a jar, topped it up with a bit more veggie oil and that’s it. The mixture lasts for several weeks in the fridge and after I’ve used up all the garlic I have fabulous oil to use as well.

Note: Storing garlic in oil at room temperature can result in proliferation of botulism, and botulism poisoning is a potentially fatal condition. Always store the oil at less than 3 degrees C and use it only if cooking thoroughly. 

Square Foot Seed Tape: My Lightbulb Moment

Have you ever had an idea that was so awesome that you’ve thought, “OMG I’m a genius, why has nobody ever thought of this before”?

Well, this week I had one of these inspired brain explosions and I came up with Square Foot Garden Tape…or Sheets.
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Anybody who plants their garden using the square foot technique has discovered that typical carrot and radish tapes don’t work. What we need is a sheet of thin paper with the seeds imbedded in the appropriate pattern.
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Unfortunately a little research led me to discover that I wasn’t the first person to have this LED light bulb moment. Turns out it’s been done before.
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No worries, I went ahead and did my version of square foot seed tape using Sweet Nantes carrot seeds and tissue paper cut to size. I decided to plant 25 seeds per sq ft, which is more than the 16 recommended by Mel Bartholomew in his best selling book “All New Square Foot Gardening”. After laying out the pattern on a sheet of tissue paper,  I placed a dab of flour/water paste on each dot, the embedded a carrot seed in the paste.
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When it came time to plant my garden, all I had to do was lay the sheets on the soil, water them gently and cover them with a thin layer of dirt. It was so much easier on my back.

I planted some carrots the “traditional” way as well so that I could determine if there was any difference in germination time. I’ll let you know in a future post.
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Note:
For more information on square foot gardening you should have a look at this previous post.

Cold Frame on a Budget

I have a two tiered raised bed that happens to be five feet long and four feet wide, each tier being two feet wide on its own. I usually plant tomatoes in the upper level and lettuce in the lower level.
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Last year I found someone selling an old window that fit perfectly over one of my 2×5 raised beds and I bought it for $10. Instant cold bed!

Switching things up for 2014, I planted cucumbers, onion, lettuce and spinach in the upper tier in late April and covered the whole lot with the two-pane glass window.

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It’s been cool on and off since then but we’ve also had some fairly warm days when the temperature in the improvised cold frame gets rather balmy, encouraging those seeds to germinate long before they might elsewhere in the garden. The result? Hopefully I’ll be eating my lettuce 2-3 weeks before my neighbors.