Archive for the ‘gardening in small spaces’ Category

Summer is in full swing in Texas.  We wake up to a balmy 80 degrees, then move up to the mid to high 90s later in the day at about 50% humidity on a good day.  I check the balcony garden almost daily.  As this is my first balcony garden, the developments continue to amaze me.

The tomato plants in the Topsy Turvy planter continue to bear fruit.  Although I did notice the tomatoes are much smaller for the mid summer harvest, but they are just as tasty.  I suspect the heat and humidity are causing the fruit to mature at a much faster rate.   The netting I placed around the plants are holding up well, and no birds have eaten any of the tomatoes.

The zucchini plants are flowering quite actively, but I have yet to see actual zucchini growing.  The flowers just dry up and fall off.   This could be because of high humidity or poor pollination due to lack of bees or butterflies.

The mint plants are growing taller but the leaves are quite small; flowers are now turning to seed.

The basil and rosemary plants are doing well.  Other herbs like parsley and green onion are still alive,

The jalapeno and bell pepper plants got flooded in the planter when the tropical storm hit a couple of weeks ago; the pot did not drain well.  I moved the pot to another location to see if they improve.  The stevia seeds that I planted did not grow at all, but I heard that these seeds don’t thrive in the heat, so I will have to try again in the fall.

I feel lucky we have not had too many bugs in the balcony garden, except for a few mosquitoes.  Too avoid getting mosquitoes in the house and attacking the family, I do not go out in the early morning hours, or too late in the day when the mosquitoes are abuzz.

With this week’s  “garden bounty” I was actually able to make bruschetta using a day old  french baguette that got hard and crunchy.  I mixed five chopped tomatoes with chopped basil and parsley leaves, a clove of garlic and olive oil.

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Being prepared and becoming self-sufficient is not only about buying emergency supplies.  Learning survival skills if a big aspect of the preparedness mindset.  Since we started our plan to prepare for emergencies, I’ve acquired some new skills:

  • Plant a garden – We have a small balcony garden.   I first planted seedlings bought from Lowe’s, then moved on to growing plants from seed.  NEXT STEP:  acquire heritage seeds and grow a larger variety of plants.
  • Use a gun – My husband has owned a gun for a while; we recently bought a gun for me then went to the shooting range so I can learn to load and fire the new gun.  NEXT STEP: obtain a concealed carry permit
  • Bake cakes and muffins from scratch – I previously used baking mixes, but now bake muffins and cakes from flour, butter, sugar etc. instead of relying on pre-made mixes.  NEXT STEP: Bake bread from scratch
  • Basic sewing – I previously took clothes to the tailor for sewing needs, now I can sew buttons, shorten or lengthen hems, repair a tear, etc.  NEXT STEP: Create an article of clothing.
  • Change a tire – Watched my husband change a tire and practiced doing it after.   NEXT STEP: Change the oil
  • Cut up a raw chicken into serving sizes – I used to be intimidated by those whole chickens and only bought pre-cut pieces.  Now I buy the whole chicken and cut it up myself.   NEXT STEP: Kill and skin a chicken.  I watched my Dad do it, but need hands on practice.
  • Read a map – I previously relied on the GPS, but have since learned to read a map. NEXT STEP: Learn how to use a compass

This is a very small list since we just started our journey.  There are a lot more survival skills we still need to acquire such as building a fire without matches, hunting, fishing, building a shelter, just to name a few.   Learning about survival has shown me how much we take for granted and rely on others to do basic living activities.  It is not easy to give up old habits, but I did find that you save a lot of money by doing things yourself.  Another benefit is I found out that it is fun!

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A couple of days ago, I posted about my tomato harvest.  Being a new gardener, I was not exactly sure what stage the tomatoes should be picked.  Some gardening sites indicated wait until completely red, others said, light red is fine, and others said green is ok to pick too.  So I purposely picked them in different stages.   I was pretty dubious about the green ones, and was really suspicious about a red one that had pin holes in the skin-what if it has worms?

Well, today I am happy to report the green ones do turn red after sitting on the counter for a day or two.  I opened it up and it tasted great.  As for the one with the pin pricks, I sliced across the tomato and found the tiny holes did not go deep.  After searching the internet for an explanation, I found that tiny beetles occasionally make these holes but they move on.  No worms-what a relief!

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I got my first tomatoes!  I have been watching these babies grow larger and redder, and now I have finally picked them.  Okay, I did pick one green one, as an experiment.  I wanted to see if the green ones can ripen on the counter.  A few gardening sites do say the green ones should mature after they are picked, but you have to leave them out, and not refrigerate.  We sliced one and ate it; I must say it was sweeter and more flavorful than the grocery tomatoes.

I know my balcony garden will not be nearly enough to feed the family, but I am finding that gardening is fun and rewarding.  And picking your first harvest… priceless!

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