Harvest time at Home
Have you picked up gardening through the pandemic, or are you a long-time green thumb?
One of the DKI-CRCS family has been experimenting with growing vegetables in containers on a balcony. With just 11’ by 4’ of space to work with, minus some room for a table and two chairs, there’s still plenty of space to get a good crop growing.
Following last year’s first attempt, the plans this year shifted and the plant tally includes the following. Five cherry tomato, six basil, six kale, two seed potatoes, carrots, two sweet pepper plants, radishes and an attempt at broccoli that won’t be repeated.
These were mostly grown in fabric pots, except for the kale, which was all planted in one duffel bag, and the potatoes, which were planted in a large Ikea bag with drain holes cut into it. Two plastic pots, and two fabric bags rounded out the list of containers. The fabric pots have so far helped to prevent root binding, and being porous, allowed the root systems to “air-prune” and develop really fine, healthy roots.
Every container is in a saucer, so they can be watered heavily without dripping all over the downstairs neighbours. Apart from pulling up any mystery weeds that crop up (almost none), and fighting off some larvae that got onto the kale, it’s been a pretty low-maintenance operation.
Most of the summer, there were plenty of cherry tomatoes, some radishes, and heaps of kale. The broccoli was a disappointment and never managed to develop any heads. That will get skipped next year. The garden also drew in pollinators and provided a bit of shade for the dog to lounge around.
Now that evening temperatures are starting to drop, it’s time to start thinking about winding down the garden for the season.
All those cherry tomato plants mean there’s a lot to harvest right now. Fortunately, tomatoes can be picked red or green, and taste great in a variety of ways. Last year’s green crop was picked just before the first frost, and shortly after was turned into green salsa – perfect to set aside for thanksgiving football games.
The balcony also has a strong crop of basil still, which has been pruned and turned into pesto a few times over the summer. There’s still another batch to do. It’s easy to make and freezes well. A first crack at potatoes this year has produced a lot of greenery, but the spuds still need digging out.
Just like any other garden, clippings have gone into a brown bag destined for the compost. However, the remaining plants will stay intact as they die off. The root system will help keep the soil bound in the pots through the windier winter. On top of that, there’s various forms of life that might choose to make the garden home over winter – at least that’s true of gardens on the ground.
With these final harvests, seeds will also be saved to start new plants in late winter. Much of what was grown this year came from seeds kept from last year’s crop. It was a great experiment to grow the plants from scratch. This coming year, seeds will get planted in two-week intervals so that the mature plants don’t all mature at the same time.
Meanwhile, over the winter there will be plenty of salsa, tomato sauce and pesto to enjoy. But first, those potatoes need to be dug out.
Have you considered gardening on a balcony or patio? How did it work out for you?