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9th Aug, 2009

water drop on corn

Cornifying your Balcony

Last year, I tried growing corn on my balcony. It grew to just over two feet tall and tried valiantly to tassel. But despite its best efforts, it couldn't overcome the fact that I had no idea what I was doing.

I was determined to learn from my mistakes and try again this year. I did a lot more reading and selected a container that was about five times the size the one I used last year. So far, it looks like my hard work is paying off, and I may even have a few ears to harvest soon. What follows are the details of my attempt this year. There are a lot of images under the cuts, so if you're on dial-up, you've been forewarned.

My corn is grown from seed - it's a sweet bicolour that had a mouth-watering description on the packet. I used the same method for seed starting as I used with my cucumbers and herbs, but I won't do it that way for corn again. The root system of corn is too humongous.

Anyway, it all started with a packet of seeds...Read more...Collapse )

I planted some Dutch sets among the little corn plants, thinking I had quite a bit of time before they started competing with each other, and I could have another harvest of nummy green onions. I learned that corn grows quite rapidly...Read more...Collapse )

And then, tassels started to develop! It was embarrassingly exciting.Read more...Collapse )

My corn continued to grow taller and the stalks became quite thick. And then something happened that abolished any doubts my neighbours might have about my sanity (or lack thereof). I found the beginnings of an ear of corn! And my gleeful squee could be heard for miles...Read more...Collapse )

Of course, I also discovered a problem. I had some kind of grubs in my corn's leaves, eating them up from the inside out. They were possibly stalk borers...Read more...Collapse )

My corn continued to grow and grow and grow. The tassels fully formed, more ears were developing, and I realised that I was going to have to figure out how to effectively pollinate the ears.

In fields, corn is wind-pollinated. The tassels produce pollen and the wind carries that pollen across the vast fields until it eventually lands on the silk of a developing ear of corn. However, I wasn't growing a field of corn. I only had seven plants, and when the wind blew, it carried the pollen from my tassels about thirty feet away from where the silk was. My original plan had been to bend down the stalks and tickle the ears, but I hadn't counted on how rigid the stalks would be. Bending them to the required angle would surely break them. This was a problem.

Another problem was that the tassels were forming considerably earlier and faster than the actual corn cobs, so there was a timing issue as well. Even if the pollen could ignore the wind and just drop straight down onto the ears, there were no ears ready to be pollinated at that time.

So I started collecting pollen in a paper envelope by holding the paper underneath each mature branch of the tassel and tapping it gently so that the pollen falls into the envelope (there's a picture under the next cut). The goal was to save it until I figured out how to effectively pollinate the ears once they were ready. I didn't want to use my fingers, because the silk on the cobs is so delicate - I didn't want the oils on my fingers to cause any damage. I didn't want to simply sprinkle pollen from the envelope either, because I wanted to make sure the pollen was as evenly distributed over the silk as possible.

I just couldn't figure out a solution. And then, by chance, I ran into an expert I'd been meaning to email about my problem for a couple of days. We talked a bit about the situation, and his experience with corn was with whole fields of it, so he didn't have any specific advice about hand pollination. However, he did remind me that corn was wind-pollinated, which got me to thinking.

All I had to do was imitate the wind!Read more...Collapse )

And now, because 18 pictures isn't enough, I leave you with... a picspam of six more corn shotsCollapse )

27th Jul, 2009

my urban garden

Garden Update - July 2009

So "a few days" turned into nearly two weeks. Yikes. About time I finally provided a garden update, don't you think?

image heavy garden updateCollapse )

14th Jul, 2009

my urban garden

Potato Beetles!

Two days ago, I noticed one of the leaves on my potato plants had a few holes in it. Today I was planting some more onion sets and noticed something small and yellowish on one of the branches of my potatoes. Aha! The culprit! I have at least one Colorado potato beetle in my crop. I tried to pick him off but I was predictably clumsy and ended up merely knocking him off both the plant and my balcony.

I did a thorough inspection looking for other beetles as well as any larvae or egg clusters, but couldn't find any. So for the moment, I think I'm beetle free. But I'm only one floor off the ground, so I suspect the one I knocked off today will be back. I just hope he doesn't bring friends.

Otherwise, the garden is going quite well. I'll have more pictures to share in the next day or so.

8th Jul, 2009

water drop on corn

Growing Potatoes in Containers

Before I begin, I should say that I did a lot of reading about potatoes in containers to get an idea of what to do. There are actually a lot of sites out there that describe how to do it, so it's probably not necessary for me to write up my process. However, since I created this blog to track lessons I've learned, I'm going to anyway.

Potatoes: The fastest growing plant on my balcony (image heavy)Collapse )

I'll have more updates as my potatoes continue to mature, including the harvest. And something you can count on is that there will be pictures. Oh boy, will there be pictures ;)

7th Jul, 2009

my urban garden

Why I love my garden...

I love my garden because it's a serene oasis.

I love my garden because it smells amazing.

I love my garden because it pushes me to learn more and try different things.

But most of all, I love my garden because it reminds me how much effort goes into producing food. It saddens me when I see people taking the grocery store's bounty for granted. I wish everyone had a garden to experience the time and energy and pure love that goes into producing a single tomato.


5th Jul, 2009


Here we grow!

My balcony garden is coming along nicely. I'm out there several times a day talking to fussing with my plants and chatting with random passerby on the sidewalk below who stop and say fantastic things like "What's that thing you're growing that looks like corn?" or "Are those onions?"

It's pretty neat to see strangers get so excited about my garden (it also makes me feel a little less weird about my own garden-giddiness). About half of the people who stop to chat with me say they might try something like what I'm doing at their homes. The other half say it's a great idea, give me a big smile, and wish me luck.

Anyone want to see pictures?Collapse )

I'm quickly becoming known as "that crazy girl who's always taking pictures of her plants". So needless to say, I'll have more pictures to share as the season progresses.

3rd Jul, 2009

my urban garden

Starting from seeds

For me, starting plants from seeds has always been something to keep me occupied until it was finally warm enough to get "real plants". Before, I've used those compressed peat pellets that expand when put in water.

Good news: That expansion process is a lot of fun to watch (I don't get out much).
Bad news: My seedlings would invariably have problems - usually damping off - and I never had any actual plants at the end of the process.

This year, however, I had much more success with a different process, and I firmly believe that it's due to the fantastic advice that I received from some local Master Gardeners.

They don't call them Master Gardeners for nothing! (image heavy)Collapse )

Anyway, I ended up with only two of my baby basils dying (and I have evidence that my cat got to them), and one corn and two cucumber seedlings succumbed to strong winds once I put them outside, but overall, I'm quite pleased that my seed-starting efforts this year were more than just busy-work!

2nd Jul, 2009

my urban garden

Garden Update

Well, July's here and summer is finally underway.  The garden I put in at my brother's place is apparently doing well, though I haven't been out there to see it in a while.  My own balcony garden is, as usual, overpopulated with plants.  I got carried away.  Again. 

This year, I'm growing corn (so far, much more successfully than last year), zucchini, snap peas, radishes, green onions/scallions, herbs (bush basil, sweet basil, chives, parsley, savoury), tomatoes, and potatoes!  And I also have a mystery plant that I'm assuming came from my vermicompost.

I have today and tomorrow off work, making for an super-duper-extra-long weekend, so I'm going to try to get together some of the photos I've been taking and the gardening adventures I've been having this year and share them here.  Maybe someone can help me identify my mystery plant.  It looks like some kind of squash or melon.  My best guess is either cantaloupe or spaghetti squash.


17th May, 2009


(no subject)

So, more than a month after the so-called "first in a series of articles", I've finally come to the realisation that I've grossly overestimated my "free time" this summer.  I still plan to write about my gardening experience and experiments, but at the moment, I barely have time to plant my veggies, let alone actually write about it.  At the very least, my current hope is to write about what I've learned some time this Fall or Winter.

Apologies to anyone who may have been waiting for more about my balcony gardening adventures.  But hey, who knows.  I may have another bout of productive insomnia as I did when I started this blog and get everything written and posted anyway! ;)


16th Apr, 2009


Container Zucchini-ing

This is the first in a series of posts that I’m planning to write, outlining some of the things I learned during my balcony gardening last summer. Since there was a question over at apartmentgarden about how I managed to grow zucchini in containers, I thought this topic was a good one to start with.

I’m going to begin by saying that the way I did it is by no means the only way, or even the correct way. I did some reading last year and used what I learned. I only ran into a few minor problems that I managed to figure out as I went along.

... it all begins with a large compressed peat pot ...Collapse )

So that’s a really long summary of my experience. I don’t know if it’ll be useful to anyone else, but it’s useful to me. Despite how it ended, I ultimately decided it was worth trying again. While I had one pot of zucchini on my balcony last year, I’m planning to have two this year.


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