Balcony potager in March …

So we are now officially in spring. It has been a good start so far and I can only hope that there will not be any sudden and unwelcome change in the weather because … I cannot wait to remove the covers from the greenhouse shelves and to put away for good all the loose plastic sheets that I have been using to offer protection to some of my plants from the cold weather.

The big snowfall that fell on the first week of March was thankfully a one-off event. There has not been any more snowfall (not even any little flurries) and the weather has been fluctuating between some wet days and some sunny days. For me, this is of course the best kind of weather for gardening because not only do I have some days when I can work on my balcony garden, but I am also able to take advantage of the rainfall to collect some good water for watering the plants.

Even the plants seem to be thriving in this weather … at least those that I have growing on the balcony. Every day, it has been such a pleasure to see the plants growing a little bigger, a little taller, a little greener, sprouting buds and then leaves … and flowers!

And of course, the tummy gets to enjoy a bit more too! 😀

Sharing some shots of my balcony garden as it stands right now … at the start of spring 2017 …

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My balcony potager … getting merrier with more pots joining in and also becoming greener than it was three weeks ago.

Balcony

There are already quite a few greens that I could harvest (and have already harvested) to fill our tummy … which is really nice this early in spring.

herbs

The herbs are thriving in the cool late winter and early spring weather. And much to my delight, my small pot of rosemary grown from cuttings last year started to flower in early March.

Panorama

From top left (clockwise), … the green salad has also grown  bigger, both the lovage and the day lilies have re-sprouted to sizable sizes … and the pea shoots are waiting to be harvested.

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Most of the strawberry plants have started to fill out their containers and are looking a lot greener than just a few weeks ago, …

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… and the raspberry plants have started to sprout beautiful green leaves. I love looking at the leave buds growing and unfurling each day.

On the topic of sprouts … I am pleased to share that, at last, I harvested my first batch of purple broccoli sprouts last week.

Broccoli

It had been a very long wait (as the seeds were sown in spring of last year) … but … the tender and sweet taste of the sprouts certainly made up for it. Both the hubby and I agreed that these sprouts were delicious … far superior than the ones that are sold at the farmers’ market! I am not sure whether it was due to the cold weather effect, but the flower stem is tender and sweet enough to eat raw. Unfortunately, we shall have to wait awhile before we can enjoy a second harvest.

In the meantime, I look forward to be able to taste its white cousin because …

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… according to what I have read on the internet, the white broccoli sprouts are supposed to taste even better than the purple ones. If that is true, then the hubby and I shall be in for a little treat! I loikeee … 😀

But the broccoli are not the only ones that are sprouting.

Kales

All the kale plants have started to bolt and to sprout flower buds too! This naturally means … that the days of the kale are getting numbered and the only way to try and stop or delay their demise is to cut away the sprouting blooms.

Fortunately, kale blooms are equally yummy to eat. So two days ago, after cutting off the sprouting heads to halt the plants from bolting even further, we had some kale leaves and kale sprouts to go with our fried noodle for dinner!  🙂

And while on the subject of harvest, recently, I also harvested the topinambours (jerusalem artichokes in English) from the second and a much larger pot. Unlike the first batch which has reddish skin, this second batch has a white skin. Taste wise, I personally prefer the white-skinned topinambours to that of the red-skinned ones. But I thought that I would try to grow both variety on our balcony last year.

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Given the size of the containers in which they were grown, the harvest for both were really quite pathetic. So despite being an easy plant to grow, I have decided not to grow it again this year so as to grow something else in its place.

This year, in addition to growing more garlic, I also intend to grow more chillies as organically grown chillies are difficult to get at the farmers’ market or even at the supermarkets in Lausanne.

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And this particular chilli plant which has been bidding its time inside the living room  waiting for the warm weather to return …will continue to be an important member of my chilli plant family. It gave me lots of beautiful hot yellow chillies last year … and after a brief hiatus in winter …

hot lemon

… it has started to flower again in February and finally began producing the coveted chillies a week ago. Yeayyy … 😀

Asian greens

My bok choy (bottom) and Chinese green mustard seedlings (top) are also growing nicely … and these will hopefully come as a delicious addition (if not a timely replacement) for the kale in another month or so. I would normally sow a batch in one pot (left picture) and then re-plant them into a few other pots or even empty available space in other plant pots when the seedlings are big enough to handle the move so that all will get a chance to grow big.

mix plants

In fact, I find this way of container gardening makes more efficient use of the available space that I have to grow as much food as possible on our balcony. And so for my late winter sowing of radishes, apart from growing some in its own pot I have also scattered some in other pots as well. Just like the bok choy and Chinese green mustard, radish is a good choice for such manner of gardening as they do not take up much space and can be harvested in just a little over a month … depending on the variety of the radish chosen.

So … the blue potatoes have been planted (at the hubby’s request) and several other seeds have also been sown such as tomatoes, chillies, peppers, eggplants, chards, sprouting broccoli, onions, peas, salads, sweet basils, etc …

Seedlings

Some have sprouted quickly enough, while others are taking their own sweet time to germinate so as to teach me the meaning of an important word called … ‘patience’. And some even failed to germinate completely after making me wait for weeks or died on me after having germinated in order to teach me an even more important two-word phrase called  … ‘try again’! hehehe … 😀

The work is far from over but I am definitely very pleased that my balcony potager is progressing nicely. And I am even more pleased that despite making my balcony a happening place … I also get to go out and do some serious late winter and early spring foraging! But more of that in another post lah! 🙂

Snowfall in March …

My hope for a continuous beautiful mild weather for the remaining weeks of the winter season has been totally dashed, as you will see from the photos below. Instead of bright sunshine, the first week of March saw plenty of rain and grey clouds. We even had a heavy bout of snowfall in the early hours of this morning.

I was expecting rain and maybe, sleet … certainly not heavy snowfall. As the hubby has reminded me on many an occasion, we are still in winter and the weather may yet change, with March being well known here for its patterns of unpredictable weather. So okay, he was right … and so my little bubble of happiness, thinking that I would be able to have an early start to my balcony potager given the mild winter weather in February, has been burst.

Thankfully, the temperature has not plummeted and so the snow that fell this morning were quickly swept away by the afternoon rain. So hopefully maybe, just maybe … my seedlings of Chinese mustard green and radish which I carelessly left uncovered at night will have survived their little snowy encounter!

The lovely snowy scene of early this morning. My poor garlic plants looked quite miserable under this inch-deep layer of fresh snow. And my tiny Chinese mustard green seedlings were totally hidden by the snow. Fortunately, I have spare seedlings growing in the protection of the mini greenhouse shelves!

As the landscape below us is now filled with newly built residential flats and those that are in the midst of being erected (which is nothing to rave about during heavy snowfall) … I thought it would be nicer instead to share a few shots of the view further down the hill which we are able to see from our balcony.

Enjoy … 🙂

Hopefully, this will be the last snowfall of the season. If not … well, there is not much that I can do about the weather. I shall just have to learn to be patient and make the best of it. If I cannot attend to my plants, then … I shall just continue to do some winter foraging for edibles lah! 😀 😀

Balcony potager in February …

Just as I was going to share how good a month February had been, with not a single snowfall and mostly sunny days, a rather drastic change in the weather occurred on the very last day. We had rain, howling winds as well as a hailstorm. The little iceballs came down fast and furious so that I was forced to go out to the rescue of some of my plants that were basking in the sunshine just a day earlier … haizzz.

But apart from today, February was on the whole a very mild winter month so I must still sing its praise. And as a result,  I was able to take advantage of many sun-filled February days to get a headstart on my balcony potager for this year. The balcony is still a mess … well, it is not terribly messy … but the tidying, sorting, shifting, sowing and re-potting are already underway for the coming gardening season.

And because last year I decided that I was going to try to grow some leafy greens through the winter, I am now blessed with a balcony potager that is already providing us with some fresh greens. Although it required some effort on my part to make sure that the plants were well protected from the bitter cold in the middle of winter and from the onslaught of snowfall … looking at how they are doing right now, I am glad that I did so.

Despite being so early in the year, we have been fortunate to be already able to enjoy freshly picked salad greens from the balcony. In fact, apart from the period in January when we were inundated with snowfalls and when the temperature plummeted to freezing point, thereby causing even the soil of the plants in the two mini greenhouses to harden, I was able to pick a few edibles from my balcony … and from inside our home throughout winter. It has been a good season indeed … just as it had been a very good season foraging for mushroom in autumn!

But gardening this winter has not all been about success. There have been failures too. I have lost a few plants and also nearly lost a few others, only because I wanted to experiment a little. I had wanted to see how well some of the plants would withstand the winter chill if they were placed inside the greenhouse or were left outside of the greenhouse but protected from the snow. Some showed me quickly enough how well they took to the chilly temperature while others suffered in silence until it was too late to do anything to save them. The experiment has been very informative and has thus spurred me to start on another new experiment! 🙂

So here are some pictures of the current state of my balcony potager

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The slightly messy and very wet balcony on the last morning of February. Several of the fragile plants are still under cover … or at least covered whenever the weather is not very friendly.

But when the weather behaves, they get to come out and bask in the sun!

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Some fresh salads in winter … Indian pennywort, red-veined sorrels, green lettuce and wild rockets (clockwise, starting from top left). They were all from last year growing season.

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My first sweet treat for the year … white alpine strawberry … with a few more ripening.

brassicas

Sprouting broccoli, red Russian kale, dwarf green kale and bright light chards … these are some of my small collection from the Brassica family.

Indeed, this winter I am “brassica-lly” very happy! 😀  With the sunny and relatively dry weather in February, my brassica plants have started to grow quite luscious. Whereas before, I would harvest only the leaves for our meal, I now look forward to be able to harvest my purple sprouting broccoli soon …and hopefully the white ones (top right picture) in spring.

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Another of my small produce that I have already started harvesting … garlic and carrots. I am not harvesting the garlic itself but only the leaves which I added for flavour. This year I am growing several pots of garlic, including a variety that is grown in Switzerland.

topinambour

And waiting to be harvested from the big container on the left are the topinambours (Jerusalem artichokes in English). I hope that when I do so,  I shall not find them in the same state as those in the smaller pot (right pictures). The topinambours in the smaller pot were already sprouting both roots and shoots when I dug them out last week … arghh …!

I hope that the weather will continue to behave for the remaining days of the winter season so that I can also continue to make good progress with my work on the balcony. My aim is to get my balcony potager ready to welcome spring … so that I shall then be able to make better use of beautiful spring days to engage in my other passion … foraging! hehehe … 😀