When the world around us seems uncertain and confusing, there is one thing we can say for sure – plants keep growing. They carry on regardless of human society, pushing forward with their natural desire to maintain life. The Eco Balcony has come on a lot since our previous installment of Plants in the City. Here’s Jackie Bruce to tell us how it’s going.
I want to start this month by talking about courgettes. Courgette plants are very large. But, I have to say that they are one of the most satisfying of all crops to harvest. I grow them in our polytunnel at Tiphereth in a raised bed. They need a deep bed with a strong rubble bag full of good compost, which will produce a healthy crop from each plant. Water them every day. You will have lovely little courgettes or, if you prefer to leave them to get bigger, large marrows. Marrows can be included in a multitude of recipes from quiches to stews. They can even be grated and added to cakes and muffins. We are too late to plant them by seed. However, there’s still just enough time to transplant plug plants (which are small plants that have been grown in nurseries and are ready to plant outside).
On a related note, if you would like to grow your own pumpkins for Halloween, you should also get your plug plants now. They can then be grown in the same way as the courgette. They are from the same family, which are all are grown this way. It is lovely to grow all the colourful and strange shaped ornamental ones. The marrows or courgette seeds should be started under heat in a small propagator or greenhouse. You can now put them into their permanent home, whether it be a rubble bag, raised bed or old trunk, even an old scrapped W.C.! As long as they have depth of soil and nutrients they will be amazing.
The Good Thing About Bad Scottish Weather
This weather is perfect for plant growth as the mild damp weather suits most things we can grow in Scotland. Salad leaves such as lettuce, rocket, mizzuna and annual herb seeds such as parsley, coriander, and basil can be grown in succession every two to three weeks, ensuring you have a constant supply of fresh picked salad. As basil is a mediterranean herb, it must have heat to germinate. I have had great success growing Russian tarragon in my small garden. It seems to survive our winters well and is now quite a large plant.
All mints are thugs in the garden as they can take over in no time, they are also heavy feeders and absorb a lot of moisture from the soil. It’s best to grow mint in pots and try to control their growth. They can survive the harshest of conditions so don’t worry if you go on holiday and come back to a sad looking plant. Believe me, it will come back again with regular watering.
Stepping on with the Eco Balcony
The Eco balcony project is going well. Editor Alex and I have seen loads of people growing plants in small places since we announced the project in my last column. Here’s a photo of the windowsil of a nearby flat:
A Roan Pipe Planter and Overfed Nasturtiums
Roan pipe is the Scots word for guttering – the pipe which goes around the edge of your roof to catch rainwater. Alex saw this great video on YouTube where they made a vertical garden out of plastic gutter. So, we thought we’d give it a go. First the gutter needed to be cut down to size. Then we stuck the end pieces and mounted it by drilling holes into the wall. This was not an easy task, as there is a long concrete block above the lower window which was very hard to drill. The gutter is a slanted a little, so that the water runs down towards the left, and Alex drilled holes into plastic at the very left end to allow drainage.
From here, the next step was to add some plants. The nasturtiums, which had been grown from seed, went at each end and in the middle.
Between the nasturtiums, the guys planted rocket and spinach seeds. I advised them to plant these gradually over the course of several weeks, so that they get a continual supply of salad leaves. Also, as the soil to plant ratio is quite small, I advised them to add a wee bit of soluble plant food twice a week in the watering can. It looks fab.
Now, a few weeks later, this is what the planter looks like.
As you can see, the nasturtiums in the middle and on the right are looking a little ill. The one on the left looks great though. Nasturtiums like well drained soil and don’t respond well to over-watering. As Alex had only put drainage holes at the left of the roan pipe, he guessed that this might be a reason. He has now added some extra holes below the other two nasturtiums. We’ll have to wait and see if it works.
Finally, they added a smaller planter with sweet peas and a french bean.
These sweet peas are climbing from their roan pipe home up the balcony wall and looking healthy. The nasturtiums should soon be producing flower heads and attracting bees to this city haven.