Sunday, 20 September 2009

No Winter Vegetables, but More Flowers...

So, this afternoon's trip to the local garden centre didn't 'bear fruit', so to speak. With no winter seeds in stock and October only two weeks away, I've had to turn to the Internet for a selection of winter seeds – more to follow on this at a later date.

The trip wasn't a complete waste of time however, as I returned laden with some more bedding plants to replace withering window boxes. The main focus of the London Vegetable Garden's central window box is the rather splendid 'Celosia Caracas', more commonly known as Coxcomb or Prince of Wales' Feathers:

Surrounding this fine floral specimen, I have planted some Sweet William plants (Dianthus Barbatus). Hopefully these will bloom nicely over the coming weeks and add a vibrant display of colour to the London Vegetable Garden balcony.

As for the flowers I planted a few weeks ago, the chrysanthemums are starting to swell nicely and the bedding pansies are starting to grow bigger, although show no signs of blooming just yet. The plants that my girlfriend's father sent down in August have also taken on their own lease of life, with beautiful flowers starting to blossom – if anyone can identify what type of flower / plant this is, I'd be most grateful!

September Update: What's Going On?

My recent arrival back from a late summer holiday really has marked the end of the summer and the beginning of autumn. The London Vegetable Garden balcony has been very quiet in recent weeks, since I didn't want to grow seedlings and leave these for a week, and many of the summer crops have now gone. So, as I throw myself into my first proper autumn gardening period, what do I have on the go?

The picture above is pretty much it in terms of vegetables at the moment, although I do plan to peruse the garden centre for Chinese leaves and winter vegetables this afternoon. So, for a brief rundown, we have:

Top Left: Butternut Squash plant

This has seen plenty of flowers, but no fruits as yet. The bottom half of the plant is very withered and the leaves seem to have developed leaf mildew while I was on holiday. I'm not holding out much hope for this plant, but for the moment it's hanging in there – just!

Top Right: Spring Onions

Friends on the London Gardeners' Network have told me that spring onions are a great vegetable to grow and easily doable at this time of the year. My spring onion plants seem to be doing well and coming up nicely – I've sown them thinly (one of the biggest lessons I've learnt this year), so am hoping for some great, if only a few, vegetables.

Middle Left: Lollo Rossa and Rocket

One of the easiest and quickest of plants to grow, lettuce leaves have been part and parcel of the London Vegetable Garden since April. The best results have come from leaves planted in a window box, but I've also managed to grow good crops in these shallow trays, of which these are the latest crop.

Middle Right and Bottom Left: Beetroot

I'm not sure how these will turn out, especially now that the nights are getting colder and these beetroot plants are still relatively young. The ones on the middle right of the picture have been planted from seed in this pot; the ones in the bottom left have been transplanted from smaller flowerpots. The ones on the right look stronger, but I'm not holding out much hopes for these guys at the moment!

Bottom Right: Carrots

Now, for those of you that have been with me since the beginning, you'll remember my over-zealous enthusiasm led to a condensed carrot conundrum! I planted far too many seeds and in the end, this killed the carrot crop off. This time, I have literally sown about five dwarf carrot seeds in a pot and already, they seem to be growing much faster. If I can get a couple of good carrots from this experiment, I'll be happy!

So that's it at the moment! I'm planning on looking at winter seed planting this afternoon, so may possibly follow up with another new blog post this afternoon. In the meantime, if anyone has any tips for me and my current selection, please leave a comment on this blog post, or come and join the London Vegetable Garden community over at the London Gardeners Network!

Tomatoes - The Journey Comes to an End pt. II

Undeniably one of the biggest joys on the London Vegetable Garden, the tomato plants have sadly come to the end of their lives. Although they've been waning for a while now, they've still been producing some small cherry tomatoes, but even this growth has now dried up.

So yesterday, with heavy heart, I cleared the balcony of these old plants. When planting these, I added a bottomless flowerpot for each plant on top of the grow bag. When I was pulling these plants up yesterday, it amazed me at just how much roots these tomato plants grew!

Even though these plants were withered and dying, they still gave off the lovely pungent aroma that evokes childhood memories of warm greenhouses – beautiful. Looking back, I believe I wrote in a very early London Vegetable Garden blog post that I believed tomatoes would be the hardest challenge for me and was rather sceptical as to whether I'd manage to grow any. In a lovely twist of irony however, the tomato plants have undoubtedly been the biggest success of the London Vegetable Garden, in terms of yield and quality.

For the many urban gardeners out there, the London Vegetable Garden tomatoes are proof that one doesn't need a greenhouse and an extensive garden to grow a decent amount of tomato fruits! Although a balcony won't afford me the state of self-sufficiency I crave, these high-yielding tomato plants ensured that when in crop, I didn't buy tomatoes from the supermarket for a good six weeks. Not only did this save me money and ensure I didn't have to buy modified, inferior supermarket produce, but it was also an absolute joy looking after these hardy and rewarding plants.

My mind is already on next year – I'm setting myself the challenge of beef tomatoes!

Where There's a Will, There's a Way...

One of the very (few) real benefits of gardening on an urban balcony, is that high-rise gardeners are not plagued with pests. I've had many a conversation with fellow gardening enthusiasts bemoaning the snails and slugs wreaking havoc on their plots! Well, it seems that nature always finds a way: when clearing the old tomato plants from the London Vegetable Garden yesterday, I came across not one, but two visitors to the balcony. I can only imagine that this tiny slug and his little worm friend arrived in some bedding plants!

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Back from Holiday!

If you've noticed that I've been fairly quiet of late, fear not! My penchant for urban horticulture and container vegetable gardening has not dried up; I have been away on holiday! Last week I spent a beautiful week down in Devon, so after unpacking and acclimatising back to polluted air, noise and generally rude people, I shall get cracking on a proper London Vegetable Garden blog update!

On a botanical note, the climate down in Devon truly is a world away from London, which threw up some interesting photo opportunities. Consider the following few holiday snaps as 'the London Vegetable Garden on tour'!

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Guerrilla Gardening...

Aside from the obvious environmental benefits of growing your own produce (not to mention the reduction in food waste), one simply can't ignore the aesthetic qualities of gardening. Growing plants and flowers for visual pleasure has been a time-honoured past-time throughout civilisation and one that evokes images of country houses, landscaped gardens and public parks. So how does a bleak pavement in an industrial area fit into this?

Whilst much of Hackney is rapidly being gentrified in preparation for the forthcoming 2012 Olympic games, many parts of it remain bleak, industrial and run-down. In areas such as these, gardening seems an impossibility – or does it?

This week I was pleasantly surprised to notice this large flower bed had suddenly appeared in the middle of the pavement! Guerrilla gardening is becoming much more prevalent in urban areas, due in part to a number of reasons. Fed up with local authorities dragging their heels over planning permission and bureaucratic red tape, many urban city dwellers are taking affirmative action and constructing urban garden displays overnight.

Although guerrilla gardening is not a new concept, its prevalence is certainly increasing. I was genuinely surprised to see this flower display pop up and I think you'll all agree, it makes such a difference to the bleak surroundings. A friend of mine lives in the locale and has already seen neighbours watering the flowers and talking to each other about its sudden appearance.

What a wonderful way to highlight the pleasure people can derive from gardening – and the fact that guerrilla gardening in particular, shows that community spirit is not as dead as we feared.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Autumn Colour...

Last autumn / winter, I planted some pansies in window boxes and pots which lasted through the bleak mid-winter months and added some much appreciated colour to the London Vegetable Garden balcony. Now that we've entered September, I've spent some time gearing up the botanical side of the London Vegetable Garden for the coming months.

I managed to track down some cheap bedding plants which included mixed pansies and chrysanthemums (Regal Cheryl). As you can see from the picture below, they are in their infant stages at the moment, but hopefully once they've grown, they'll add a splendid range of colour to the London Vegetable Garden balcony.

These beautiful plants have a higher spread and height than pansies, so I have made these the focal point, planting in the centre and rear of the pots, with pansies dotted around in between and at the front. Hopefully, these will grow nicely together!

The balcony also has a wooden table on which I have moved the tall plants to the back, with trailing ivy at the front. This acts as a natural green 'curtain' to cover up my gardening tools, compost etc. which are located under the table! In front of this we have a vintage plant stand with pots growing in and then the chrysanthemum / pansy pots at the front. I'm hoping that when these plants flower, the whole effect will look like a staggered wall sloping down from the back to the front.

More to follow...

Autumn Crops in Pots...

To lovingly steal a phrase from one of the many people I follow on Twitter, we are now well and truly in the 'bbrrrr' months: Septembbrrrr, Octobbrrr, Novembbrrr, Decembbrrr!

With the weather shifting perceptibly cooler and the evenings drawing in, vegetable gardening changes dynamically. Gone are the long days full of light and warmth, replaced by gloom, gloom and grey – especially if you live in London and your 'garden' is a high-rise balcony!

Although my tomato plants are doggedly hanging in there, they're definitely wilting and becoming less productive – rather like Gordon Brown really. Despite this, the focus of the London Vegetable Garden has now officially turned to winter vegetable gardening. Along with the continual trays of salad leaves growing on my balcony windowsill (which remains very warm in the sunshine), I have three main batches of 'crops in pots'.

The first of these is a pot of spring onions, which (so I've been told on the London Gardeners' Network) are relatively easy to grow:

One of the key things I've learnt from the London Vegetable Garden project has been that when planting in pots, one needs to sow the seeds thinly, so that roots have enough space. I'm hoping that these thin, grass-like shoots will end up forming into tasty spring onions!

The next vegetable pot I have on the go is beetroot:

Again, thin planting has been employed but I fully expect that I will have to transplant these once they get a little bigger.

Finally, I'm having another stab at growing carrots. I planted my first batch of carrot seeds way back in April when I started the London Vegetable Garden. My initial enthusiasm got the better of me and it transpired that I had sown far too many seeds in too small a pot for anything of note to grow.

As you can see, I really have been frugal with my planting this time round, but I hope that the seven shoots I have will carry more success than the initial attempt!

As always, progress will be chronicled here at the London Vegetable Garden blog, as well as on the London Gardeners' Network, which now has well over 100 members!

Where are all the Girls?

My temperamental butternut squash plant has suddenly taken me back to my formative teenage years. Hours of preparation in the shower, hair gel ladled on (something no longer necessary), new clothes and plenty of cheap aftershave. Why am I regaling you with stories from my past? Because my butternut squash is turning out to be like the parties I went to as a teenager – full of guys without a girl in sight!

Back then I'd sit with mates and lament the lack of girls to chat up. Today I sit and lament the lack of female flowers on my squash plant, which is turning out to be a sausage-fest of the plant world. I've had four huge flowers now; all of which have been male flowers. Will I manage to get any vegetables from it? Not unless a lady turns up to the party...


Related Posts with Thumbnails