Monday, May 3, 2010

No one should be this excited about a tomato

But I am!

I was squealing on the balcony trying to dial everyone I know to tell them the big news: I HAVE TOMATOES!!

Sure, they're smaller than a penny and they're green and they still have the flower on them, but they are the start of my first two tomatoes!

Never in my life have I succeeded with any plants. Heck, I'm shocked I've kept my kids together for so long! This balcony garden is a huge experiment for me in many ways and seeing the first fruits is so stinkin' exciting!!

Let me give you an update on everything growing on my apartment garden! Prepare yourself. This is like asking a lonely grandma how her grandkids are doing. You're in for a lot of photos and lengthy, boring stories. Deal.

My Roma tomato plant is still in the container. I have it on the balcony rail for maximum sun exposure and it has a few pretty, yellow blooms on it already. The Roma will end up in an upside down planter like almost everything else. I plan on transplanting it next week. I've decided to modify my planter design -- details on that to come later this week.

This is my Black from Tula tomato plant and it's first bloom starting to open. It's described as "Deep reddish-brown beefsteak tomato has a rich, sweet flavor that is delicious. Fruit is smooth in texture and weighs from 8 to 12 ozs. This outstanding variety is very productive and seems to set well even when weather turns hot. Russian heirloom" I'm really excited to see these tomatoes and plan to use them in my canned marinara. I'm surprised to see a bloom already since this plant is supposed to take 70-80 days to bare fruit. It should be a late harvest but who knows!

My Early Girl is the tomato pictured at the top of this post and it already has two little tomatoes on it! This plant has become HUGE already. I have to water it once a day or the leaves start to look a bit limp. I have a feeling I'll be watering it twice a day all summer.

This is a mess; well, not really but it has the potentional to take over my balcony! I bought a generic tomato starter kit from the Target Dollar Spot and it really worked! No idea what type of tomatoes these are but there sure are a bunch! There's no way they'll all fit on my balcony so I'll be giving them away once they're ready to be transplanted. There are probably about twenty plants in this little container! One friend has already spoken up for a few of them. I'm sure I won't have a hard time finding homes for all the rest. I'll keep a few for myself of course.

Insect Repellents
I have a small rail planter filled with three mosquito repellent plants: two varieties of lavender and a citronella geranium. Mosquitoes love me. When I walk outside, word spreads quickly that there's a walking blood bank in the area. In the past, lavender oil has worked well at keeping me bite free so I figured having a few plants on the balcony might help keep the area skeeter-free. Well. Uh. Um. So.... I have four bites on one ankle right now, all from one night of leaving the balcony door open. Now I rub some of the oil from the geranium leaves onto my skin and it seems to be working. I want to dry the lavender and, if there's enough, make an eye pillow for myself (completely unrelated to my fight with the mosquitoes of Richmond).

The Other Stuff

My green bean plant was injured (by a small almost-four-year-old little girl who shall remain nameless but seems to think she has to be all up in my KoolAid all the time) when I first put it in the upside down planter and finally gave up ghost. I have another green bean seedling that is thriving so I'll transplant it next week.

The green bean seedling is sitting next to my red bell pepper plant. I love how gorgeous the pepper plant's leaves look! See? See? Just beautiful! I'm going to transplant it into an upside down container too.

A friend posted that she had around forty extra onion plants and some seeds to give away. A mutual friend grabbed them up but passed some of the onions along to me. I'm really not too sure what to do with these babies. Onions need a good bit of space and only produce one onion per plant so that makes it a big space hog with low production. Balcony gardening requires me to get the largest harvest possible from a very small space. I've pretty much decided to plant them in some recycled milk jugs - one onion per jug - and just see what happens. If they grow, great; if not, I won't lose any sleep. This is an experiment so I'm willing to try.

This batch of sweet basil was another Target Dollar Spot starter kit. Such cute little herbs! I don't use fresh herbs as often as I should so who knows if I'll actually use this stuff but for a buck, I bought myself some smiles as I watch them grow.

Last but not least are my strawberries! We love, love, love strawberries in this house so I couldn't pass up the opportunity to grow some for myself. I made a multi-level planter using a milk jug and duct tape. One plant at the top died. It didn't have enough soil and dried out after a couple weeks. We plucked our first ripe berry on Earth Day. It was juicy and yummy! I can't wait for all these berries to ripen. I know I won't get nearly as many berries as I want for the summer from these few plants so I plan on hitting up a pick-your-own farm in the next couple of weeks. The kids, especially my daughter, love seeing the berries ripen. The excitement was like Christmas morning when we pulled off that first berry.

And really, that's my goal with all of this gardening. I want to see my children get excited about growing our own veggies. I wan to teach them how to store them for later in the year and to appreciate that we can grow our own food.

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