08 April 2010

it's a jungle out there

It's only about 50 square feet, but it's our little jungle. And the jungle analogy is also apt because is a bit like zookeeping (which often attempts to approximate jungle conditions) -- crowding a bunch of freedom-loving species into tiny confines for my amusement. The zookeeper's species are lions, tigers and bears (oh my!), and mine are limas, tomatoes and berries. (Not really limas. I never recovered from my childhood distaste for them.)

I have crammed our balcony to the brim with every food plant I could possibly try to grow in that space, and I have resolved to stop adding, lest the larger plants completely block out the sunlight to the meeker plants. But as the plants continue to grow (wildly, thanks to Dr. Earth organic fertilizer), they will no doubt do plenty of sun-blocking without me adding anything new.

It's too early to tell what, if any, the yield will be. But here is the messy schematic of the space, and a key to all of the plants I've packed in.

The left side is the shady side of the balcony (south end, though with a barrier between our balcony and the neighbor's blocking the good sunlight on that side), and the right side is very sunny. Everything up against the wall of the condo (bottom of the image) gets less sun, because the balcony walls block some of the light. The plants on both ends are elevated on shelves, especially the tomatoes et al on the right, which are elevated to the height of the balcony walls. The two containers protruding down from the top of the image are hanging baskets.

The full rundown:

Left (shady) side:
  • Bougainvillea, purple calla, schefflera and palm plants (non-food)
  • Herb box with peppermint, flat-leaf parsley, and Italian basil
  • Rosemary/sage/French thyme combo planter (pre-assembled by nursery)

Hanging baskets:
  • Bibb lettuce
  • Nevada green leaf lettuce
On cafe table:
  • Assorted cactus and succulents (not food)
  • Cilantro
Against the building:
  • Italian basil
  • Italian oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Watercress
  • Sun gold tomatoes (last year's plants)
  • Broccoli
  • Rainbow chard
Right (sunny) side:
  • Sun gold and sun sweet tomatoes (new plants)
  • Roma tomatoes
  • Yellow cherry tomatoes
  • Red cherry tomatoes
  • Jalapeno peppers
  • Snow peas and green pole beans (haricots verts)
  • Raspberries and strawberries

How many species? Just counting food species, 23. TWENTY-THREE. Totally excessive.

If I don't watch out, it will turn into...

Or, if I stop watering everything, it will be more like...

Having done this a time or two before, I know that all the plants won't succeed -- I've already killed some pea plants because the tomato plants blocked all of their sunlight. But I'm trying, and I'll keep seeing how it goes.

Latest addition, the lettuce baskets (bibb and nevada green)

Five varieties of tomatoes, all of which have more than tripled in size in just three weeks

Broccoli, a recent addition, is already producing

New rainbow chard and watercress

The sad, remaining snow peas (two of the original six pea plants are barely hanging on), the replacement pole beans, and the tomato arrangement I'm using until the beans and peas sprout up higher and can reach the sun on their own

Jalapeno plant which hasn't done much

The strawberries and still-scraggly raspberry plant

Apparently herbs like organic fertilizer, too

The "tranquil" side of the garden, with the resurrected bougainvillea and exploding mint and parsley 

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