Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Potato harvest of sorts, and more rain

Potato chat harvest. These were meant to be purple potatoes too but as young potatoes they've only taken on a slight purple tinge. A grand total of three red ones.

So my initial potato harvest was mostly a failure. Maybe two meals worth of small potatoes from all that effort - although I'm sure they'll taste nice as new potatoes. I harvested two of my grow bags. The third (reds) I have re-staked and cut off all the dead foliage below and we'll leave that one and see how it goes.

Things I learned: 

Most of the potatoes were in the root system below and to the side of the initial seed potato. I planted these much too close to the bottom of the container, not giving them enough space to send down roots/tubers. I thought so at the time but I had a limited amount of potting mix and hoped they'd find their way up. Despite hilling up there weren't many side shoots (there were some, mostly lower on the stalk though, and none had produced edible sized potatoes yet). I think hilling up is useful but you probably are better off only doing it once and planting your seed potatoes about midway up the bag. I also wonder just how far the potato sprouts can make it up through soil - could they make it 30cm? If you can bury them deep enough in loose enough soil, and the shoots can reach the surface, maybe you don't need to hill them.

I probably planted too many seed potatoes for the size of the bags. I think 5 or 6. 3 or 4 would have been better I think.

I need to support them better next time, and not wait until they are a metre tall and flopping over before staking them as I think I damaged the stems tying them. So I will put in the stakes and soft ties probably after the bag is topped up and let the foliage come up. The stems and especially side shoots are very delicate. I also suspect irregular watering didn't help.

They need more sun too I believe. As the spring progressed and the angle of the sun got higher they get less and less sun on the balcony, especially on the lower leaves. While this was great in keeping the bags cool and from drying out, they would have liked more sun I think.

On the plus side, despite being still small the actual number of potatoes was great and there were lots of tiny new potatoes still forming. They just needed longer in the ground. And the mix used was very nice - the potatoes that came out looked practically washed. It's also still relatively early in the season, it's only really just passed the time that frost-sensitive crops get planted out here (although I snuck them out a bit early this year), so there's plenty of time in the season for another crop. I have added some fertiliser and worm castings to this existing mix and planted the bags again with three new seed potatoes each (this time just sprouted ones from the store) in the main garden on the footpath. I'll do an experiment where on my first topping up, I'll add one more seed potato in the middle. I'm hoping for a much better harvest come summer, and if my remaining balcony potato bag ends up doing well then who knows, I might revisit balcony growing again next year (certainly it's a good place to start them late winter).

Look who's back?

Mint is coming back. Some new shoots have appeared at the bottom of the spearmint. I've taken out the mulch too, as I think it stops the runners from sending up shoots.

My coriander / vietnamese mint has kind of exploded. I only use small amounts so I'm not sure what to do with it. Certainly a Laksa or two is on the menu this fortnight! I suspect both can be put in the other rack in partial shade.

I cut the tarragon back and it's forming new shoots. It definitely prefers full sun I think.

Thymes are flowering. My lemon thyme is taking a while to put up new shoots from the "clump" (which is just one stem at the moment). It was the most prolific grower of all my herbs last year so I'm sure it will catch up.

Lots of new flowers appearing from side shoots on my peas. I'm glad I treated the mildew, although I will need to give them another sulfur lime spray at some point, just waiting for the rain to stop for a few days.

The purple beauty capsicum seeds have not germinated. And this little guy is really behind the others, but give it some time.

Beans are coming up. Pests have got to a few but they might still send out new shoots. I don't think it was rats - I seem to have sorted that problem out for the moment.

Radishes are mostly finished. Buk choy probably don't need their cages anymore. Celery are looking good, still keeping them covered until I am sure the rats are gone.

The broad beans will probably come out soon too. I'm planning on putting more asian greens here. It's a good spot for greens as it gets shaded somewhat by the oak in the middle of the day and gets no late afternoon sun.

I took the runners off my "runnerless" strawberries from the balcony and tried planting them here (they were already forming roots). They look pretty miserable but they might recover. If they don't, it's no big deal. There will be plenty more opportunities to propagate them.

On the left I am trying 3 full size cos in one pot. My head lettuce were great but the last few rotted from the inside, I didn't know they did this if you didn't harvest them in time.

Paris market carrots can probably be harvested now. I didn't record when I planted them. Leaf lettuce still producing well - when I need some I just snip the top off a whole plant or two, they regrow very fast. I found taking the leaves from the outside tedious and tended to damage adjacent leaves that would just succumb to wilt or rot.

Here you can see my pumpkin doing well. I don't see any way to train it up the trellis at this point - good thing I left some space for it in the back of the main bed here.

My biggest kohlrabi is ready for harvest. About 2 inches or so across. I'm looking forward to trying it but for the space and time it took, it would want to taste pretty amazing for me to want to grow it again.

This bed is now planted with an assortment of things, but gradually the brassicas will come out and provide more space for the cucurbits, and I can top dress the bed at this point as it's rather depleted I'd imagine.

These cucumber leaves are kind of pale. I've given them some more fertiliser. Maybe they are also for the moment a bit too shaded by the other plants. Interestingly two swiss chard started at the same time, this one shows no signs of bolting like the other one.

This lemon cucumber in the same bed looks much healthier.

My eggplant had a first flower but it looks like it's going to fall off. Plant probably not big enough yet to support fruit.

Herb towers need some rearrangement. I am learning what needs sun and what tolerates shade (or might even need it to check it's rapid growth).

Those are some huge sage leaves.

Tomatoes are doing well, although accessing the back row is not easy. Not too well thought out when I planted them there. I am pruning them to three main stems each - and have taken off the lower foliage to help prevent disease and also let the companion plants below get some more sun.

This might well be the first tomato I get to eat.

I think these cucumbers will produce first. I think they are the marketmore ones.

Okra plants seem to be growing slowly. I had to pull the last two squash seedlings - maybe something in the soil they don't like. I might have to plant them elsewhere. Not having much luck with squash, two years in a row now. Maybe it's the seeds?

Second zucchini plant is growing.

I had no idea borage were so big or I would have spaced them differently. No flowers yet but huge green leaves.

Chard bed. The way the perpetual spinach bolts is very interesting - and the leaves are still edible. So I haven't pulled them yet although I need to stop it shading out the new seedling below.

Spinach is putting on a growth spurt. They really take a while to get going.

Yeah. I don't know what's going to happen with the corn. I probably planted too early. So it's probably a good idea to start some more. Although we've had a distinct lack of good sun the last few weeks.

Tiny lemons. So from a big cluster of blossoms you only get usually one lemon - but the branch couldn't support any more than that.

Lime flowers. Not as big or showy as the lemon ones but still pretty. I hope the bees are finding them.

New shoots from the lemongrass. It probably won't really take off until summer.

Chillis, sunflower and raspberries.

Most of them have their first flower buds forming.

I have some random yellowing of the leaves, I don't think it's from nutrient deficiency. Maybe I should just remove them.

Lots of fruit though. Bees are loving the flowers. I hope I don't have to net it - not many parrots around here.

I let this rocket go to seed and we have our pods drying out now. I opened one and the seeds were green. I planted them anyway, I'm not sure if they are viable yet.

The forecast is not looking good - rain for at least the next week. Rain is usually good for the garden but not day after day - you need a bit of sunlight once in a while too!

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