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 …

PanoramaA

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! 🙂

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Balcony potager in August … Indian pennywort …

I had been wanting to write and to share photos of my Indian pennywort for quite some time now … but I could not find the motivation to complete the entry and get it published even though I had started on it months ago.

But after I had realised how my Indian pennywort was thriving in the wet and slightly chilly summer weather here in Lausanne upon my return from Singapore two weeks ago … I felt that I simply had to make an effort to do so.

My first attempt at trying to grow Indian pennywort (or pegaga in my own mother tongue) started nearly two years ago. The desire to try and grow this herb on our balcony was sparked after I stumbled upon articles enumerating the health benefits of eating (or drinking) this salad herbs, which then brought back to memory how I used to pick the pegaga leaves that grew wild at my grandparent’s home in Malacca when I was still very young, … and of how I enjoyed eating them as ‘urap‘ (a kind of salad mixed with grated coconut).

I tried looking for the herb when I went to Singapore for homevisit two years ago but I failed to find any. Not to be deterred, I asked around if any of my gardening buddies had any of the herb or its seeds to share with me, but they did not. So I then surfed the Internet hoping to buy the seeds online. I managed to find a seller located in Spain who was selling the seeds on ebay and promptly ordered the seeds. But I had to wait for more than 2 months before I finally received my seeds as the first batch which the seller claimed to have sent failed to reach me.

So last year, I tried to grow the pennywort seeds. I had read that it is harder to grow from seeds than from runners … but as I was not able to lay my hands on the herb itself, I just had to try growing the seeds instead. Well, I tried twice … but both times the seeds failed to germinate even though I waited a long time.

Disheartened but still determined to grow some Indian pennywort … earlier this year when I went back for homevisit, I made it a point to try and search for the herb again. And this time I was luckier. I found the herbs by chance at two different markets that I visited to get my dried and frozen foodstuff to bring home … finally!! 🙂

To raise my chances of bringing them home alive … I planted the first bunch that was bought at least a few weeks earlier in a pot and kept the other that was bought a week before my departure in the fridge … while waiting for the time I could fly home with my precious finds.

SAM_4874.BThis was the first bunch (A) that was planted in a pot. I uprooted the survivors just before leaving and wrapped them in wet newspapers.

SAM_4878BAnd this was the other bunch (B) that had been kept in the fridge. Both were handcarried in a freezer bag to ensure their survival. Once home, I quickly planted them into pots.

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Four days after planting, the runner plants from the first bunch (A) were doing reasonably well.

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However, the same could not be said of those from the second bunch (B). They looked as if they were finding it a struggle to stay alive. Poor babies! 😦

Pots of pegaga

One and a half months later, the As in the black pot continued to grow well. As for the Bs in the brown pot … only a few of the runners survived and the survivors were growing very slowly.

Pennyworts

My two pots of Indian pennyworts, a.k.a pegaga … two weeks later. The ones in the brown pot had finally started to take off … albeit slowly. By June (about 3 months after I had planted the runners), I was finally able to pick a few leaves from the ones growing in the black pot. My first harvest of balcony-grown pegagas … finally! 🙂

However, when I suddenly had to leave my babies to go back to Singapore to see to an important matter at the end of June … the survival of the Indian pennyworts during my absence became a concern to me. I did not want to lose them after having gone through a lot of trouble to try and get them. But apart from hoping that the ‘water guy’ would try his best to take care of my babies … there was not much that I could do.

Happily enough … my two pots of Indian pennyworts survived my absence rather well … thanks to the wet July weather while I was away.

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The ones in the black pot were growing out of the pot and had even set roots in the container below it … which means that I now have 3 pots of Indian pennyworts growing on our balcony.

PegagaBut the unexpected surprise came from the ones growing in this brown pot. They looked so green and were simply thriving in this little corner of the balcony just outside our living room.

DSCN2211.BAnd just look at the size of the leaves …  they are quite large, are they not? I had never expected the leaves of this variety of Indian pennyworts (called pegaga kampung in my native language) to grow this big because the ones that I normally saw back in Singapore/Malaysia are much, much smaller.

But hey … I am not complaining. If this is the outcome of all the trouble that I had to go through to get this precious herb salad … then I reckon that it was more than worth the effort! 🙂

Indian pennyworts

Almost five months later .. the two pots of Indian pennyworts or pegaga (which have given birth to another pot) … spotting a reversal of fortune. Whereas the ones in the black pot on top (A) are now looking a little straggly … the ones in the brown pot below (B) are now looking so lush and healthy!

Hmmm … nature’s imitation of our human lives … do you not think so? 😉

Previous entries on balcony potager in August:

 

 

 

My potager garden is sporting a new look …

It has been a very looong silence on my part, I know.

And all the time while I had been keeping very quiet, I had not stopped taking lots of photos of my balcony potager as well as during those few excursions that I did with the hubby to check out the spring blooms.

Only … the motivation to share those photos that I have been accumulating was sadly lacking lah!

Even though the urge to write is still not quite there … I decided that I should at least try to make an effort. At the very least … for the faithful followers of my balcony garden journey, I could show how my balcony potager is looking right now … especially as it had been left under the care of the ‘water guy’ while I was away for several weeks.

Fortunately for the ‘water guy’, it had rained off and on almost on a daily basis while I was away … so that he did not have much to do … except to remember to pick those that needed picking such as salads, beans, berries, peas, etc …

And with the frequent rains while I was away, I certainly did not have to worry about any of my plants dying of thirst … but … I certainly was not expecting to be greeted with the view below …

DSCN2186A, 31 Jul 2014This was the view that had greeted me upon my arrival three days ago … and which I have left undisturbed for now.

DSCN2187AInterestingly, my balcony seems to be looking more like wild shrubs than a potager, do you not agree? Lots of greens growing in careless abundance all over the balcony.

DSCN2185AAnd you know what? I adore this new, ‘unkept’ look!! 😀 I truly enjoyed looking at them … especially at how the various plants are doing. Leaving to grow and fend for themselves … many of them have grown past their prime and a lot have gone into seeds.

At some point, I shall have to start tidying up the balcony a little and start trimming the plants. For certain, that potato plant which is growing out of the orange plastic growbag and is now obstructing the path through the balcony will have to be cut and harvested.

I look soooo forward to spending my time with my babies … as soon as the weather improves! I shall try to share more photos of my babies as I work on them, ok? 😉