Friday, 2 December 2011


Well garden season 2011 has come and gone, balcony is more or less winterized, seeds have all been gathered, and watering schedules have been thrown to the wind.

I was wondering just how I was going to finish off this blog for the season. This being my very first blog ever, I wasn't sure exactly what the protocol was for ending ones blog. Yesterday evening I received news that is JUST PERFECT for my final "Shoenannigans" blog entry.

Some months back (early June) I found a local fb group called "Toronto Balconies Bloom" I asked to join the group and enjoyed my time visiting that page all summer. During one of my early page visits I noticed a contest for a online photo contest of "edible container gardening" with emphasis on reusing or cheap ideas...on a whim I entered a few photos of my shoebag green wall and promptly forgot about the whole thing.

Well a few months later (end of Oct. actually because I was in Nova Scotia on vacation when it happened) I got an email telling me my time limit for skydrive photos was almost up and could I PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE resubmit them for voting in the contest was still taking place. Well I am not the most tech savy person and I didn't quite know how to extend skydrive timeline and I was 2000 miles from home using a cheap motels I kinda just tried resubmitting photos and said "the heck with it"
Well here we are a month or so later and WOW I received an email yesterday saying I had WON 2nd place in the "Edible Container Gardening Contest"

I was thrilled, actually I was shocked...Then I wondered what exactly I had won ?? lol I mean truth be told I had no clue what the prizes were, and who. even was doing the judging. As I said "I entered the photos and promptly forgot" at any rate the were asking my permission to use my photo and a small piece of the description I had submitted so I figured I better actually check them out before giving my (I am learning the "ins-n-outs" this new fangled thing called the web.)


Congratulations Andrea!

You are second-place winner of the 2011 Edible Garden Container Photo Contest! 

Our panel of judges deem your brilliant container of lemon balm to offer tremendous inspirational value. In their words:
  • “Well, well, well: I never would have thought of strawberries in shoe bags! Andrea’s container garden caught my imagination for both the utter practicality of reusing a shoe bag and the way it transforms a brick wall into a container garden.” Steven Biggs
  • "What a great concept to instantly transform even the smallest wall on the tiniest balcony into a pretty vertical garden." Aldona Satterthwaite
In the spirit of this online show, our plan is to celebrate the conclusion of the contest by posting winning submissions online.
We ask your permission to share the winning photo and accompanying description, your name and location (city only) for promotional purposes by Toronto Balconies Bloom, Toronto Green Community, Riverdale Food Working Group and prize sponsors only. The image and text (attached for your review) will be posted on our websites and possibly reproduced in other formats (e.g. poster, pamphlet or flyer). Please confirm your consent by responding to this email. Once we receive your approval, we can proceed to display winning photos at
Reading the Quotes of the judges I decided to google their names to see what came up, also finding out my prize involved the Toronto Botanical Gardens which is the gold medal standard of gardens in my area I had a pretty good feeling. When I went back to the fb page to review who the judges were this is what I found...Stay tuned for photos and competition results to be decided by our panel of celebrity gardener judges - Toronto Botanical Garden Director Aldona Satterthwaite, garden writer and blogger Steven Biggs and educator, artist and organizer Lara Lucretia Mrosovsky! I did the google search on the names and wow I was impressed, but I won't toot my own horn anymore on that subject.
Suffice to say that I am pleased as punch to be given this recognition and this is about the most perfect ending for my seasonal blog that I could have and I love the fact that I won 2nd place because now I HAVE A GOAL TO BEAT next year.
So happy gardenin planning and remember, spring is right around the corner
Here is a photo of my certificate that will pick up this coming week :)

Also including pics of shoebags in growing stage

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Gathering my Garlic Chive Seeds

Well it's been a bit since I ventured out onto the balcony. With the warm weather we've been having lately I decided to do some seed gathering as most of the seed heads on the garlic chives have split.

Wow what a productive plant this has been...I gathered many, many seeds for next spring and there are still plenty more to split....Mmmmmm garlic chives I love

Monday, 11 July 2011

It's not pretty but it's getting red...

Well I was beginning to give up hope of seeing any strawberries from the shoebags. Plenty of flowers but only nubby little berries so far...UNTIL I looked a little harder and there she was....waaaaay up high, on the top row (I am pretty sure this was that very 1st blossom I wrote about earlier). She ain't pretty but she is a good size. I moved her up front to get more sun and hopefully I will be eating her soon.

Thursday, 7 July 2011


Well it's been a while since I sat down to update the progress of the shoebags. Things are blooming but constant watering is necessary as well as spritizing during the heat of the afternoon.

The "sugar baby" watermelon actually has a bloom... surprised the heck out of me because it really shouldn't have bloomed yet (if at all) in such a small growing spot...but who am I to argue with a blooming "sugar baby" We shall see if it actually bears fruit ???

The peas are blooming like mad, peas everywhere...and they have such pretty purple blooms.

Cherry tomatoes and red hot cherry peppers are also blooming away, and the celery is a growing concern (my concern is when will it be

One other thing I saw on my balcony today that I have never ever seen up this high before (12th and top floor) is a cricket. I couldn't believe my eyes, but there he was just sitting pretty on my 12th floor railing. well I snapped the pic and he jumped away.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Peter Piper Picked a Pepper...But not this Pepper...

Well, after suffering most of last week with seasonal allergies it was all I could do to even come out on the balcony and water...thank goodness I wimped out and got the hose set up prior to my allergies kicking in. At any rate allergies are settleing down now and "shoebags" are blooming.

I actually see a pepper blossom forming, and WAIT what's that ? is that a tomato flower ? lol yup, yup, yup here they come...can't wait to see the results

Last week one of my favorite sites sent me an idea for "shoe" themes and I decided I had to try one as my "shoebags" would feel right at home with the "boot" planters. I had always known you could plant in old boots but never would have thought to cut a pocket in the lower portion of the boot to allow extra planting. Very clever, and it worked just here's to hoping I never want to go line dancing cause these boots won't be joining the line

Thursday, 16 June 2011


Well, last evening after enjoying a coffee on the balcony, I realized I had been staring at strawberry blossoms for at least half an hour n didn't even register what I was looking  YEA !!!  my 1st blooms of the season have emerged, here's to hoping some well pollinated berries are to follow. I generally hand pollinate my strawberries to ensure a consistently ripe berry, however these blooms are on the very top row of the shoebag n I don't really feel like climbing up there with my make-up brush. However in the interest of yummy berries perhaps I will make the climb.

ok you may be asking yourself "hand polinate " why ???? since strawberries are mostly self pollinating, and just a little breeze will do the job most times. Have you ever had a strawberry (either commercial or home-grown) that was only half ripe, with all these little hard nubby thingies that get stuck in your teeth n just make the berry appear only half ripe n ready to eat ? Well I was taught that this is from improper or inconsistent pollinating, the hard nubby bits of the berry are the bits that DID NOT get sufficient pollen exchange. Well I am no expert but it made sense to me, so ever since I have been hand pollinating my strawberries and I must say it does seem to make a difference to the overall quality of the berry.

Here are some pics I snapped last evening of the new strawberry blooms, and wouldn't you just know the 1st blossoms to appear are at the very top row of the grow story of my life....just gotta climb another today I guess I will be climbing up to pollinate the new arrivals...

The procedure is simple, using a clean q-tip or a clean soft new make-up brush simply rub the pollen off the stamens onto the new forming berry in the centre of the bloom, making sure to completely coat as much of the berry nub as possible....n that's it.... every berry develops, and no hard nubby bits....

Tuesday, 14 June 2011


Ok today is not by best day (seasonal allergies have kicked in) so my morning balcony time is more like a sneeze n blow time but this morning while spritzing I noticed how crazy my mint is growing...thank goodness it is in a self contained pocket. Also the sweet basil only planted a few days ago has taken off. The celery seems to be doing really well too.

Now I want to take a minute to talk about watering :-( these plants need lots n lots of doubt about it, the windy and hot sun conditions up this high make constant watering necessary.
I looked at self watering systems and self watering pots but for my "shoebag" planters these just weren't an option. I did a bit of research on a wicking system but concluded that because my plants are located so high up in order to work properly my water source would have to be higher, and that in itself created more problems than I felt able to deal with.
I flirted with designing a solar, or wind powered pumping system to use the water from my window air cond unit (which I still do collect and use for spritzing) and it does SEEM like a good idea because I do have the wind and I do have the but I lack the engineering skills, soooo I wimped out...I bought a hose...honestly it was the smartest thing I did so far...I also got a watering wand with an adjustable head that allows me to position the nozzel directly at the plants roots and very effectivley water the entire balcony (120 pockets plus maybe 20 other pots) in less than 5 min and with very minimal yes I did wimp out, but my thinking is..if I was tired of lugging water in 2ltr pop bottles after a week, how much watering do you think I'm going to be doing in August ?
So I compromised...I don't like the fact that I am using municiple water directly from the tap withoput the benifit of allowing it to settle, but I did find a plus...I can control the water temp very easily so my plants don't ever get shocked by a cold watering. I give them a lovely warm to touch watering, and they seem to like it...

Monday, 13 June 2011


Here is my material list and costs as well as sources where I bought my materials.

  1. Shoe bags - (bought very cheaply at Dollarrama) and these are cotton, sewed seamed, shoe bags, made in china but still good quality for the purpose I intended cost was $2
  2. Wooden stakes - 24in x 2 bought at Rona in the lumber dept for .63 cents each
  3. Screws - 10 small screws per shoe bag. 5 for the top and 5 for the bottom $2.68 at Rona
  4. Metal washers - 60 for $4.39 at Rona
  5. Metal hooks for hanging off balcony panel - dollarrama 5 hooks for $1.25
  6. Doggie poop bags - 60 bags for $1.50 (used to line the shoebags)

My "shoebag" green wall

 Well this is my very first attempt at a blog, so bear with me while I learn, and I invite you to learn right along with me. I live on the top floor (12th) of a Scarborough apt. My balcony is directly west facing and has very high walls (higher than all the balconies below me) Something about being on the top floor gives me lots of ceiling height on the balcony but "oh what to do" with that ceiling height, was the question of the day ?

Upon searching the net I came upon a post by pippa5 and I thought to myself "that is about the cleverest idea I've seen in a while, and I just have to try it.

I modified her design somewhat, as I needed to mount the shoe bags directly onto masonry walls, and I also found that reinforcing the spots where the bag is attached to the wooden supports was prudent, as the combined weight of the water and potting mix could potentially pull the bag away from the wooden support. I used metal washers between the fabric and the screw, which seemed to work just fine.

I will admit I loved this idea so much I went a bit overboard and created 6 shoebag gardens with each bag holding 20 plants. These pics where taken upon first planting. I planted one entire bag with strawberries, and another with salad greens, which I placed in the lee of the balcony panel to protect them from direct sun. I also did a few rows dedicated to herbs, and I also decided to try some cherry tomatoes and celery as well. I did a few bags with just annuals, and believe it or not even am trying some sugar baby melons.

Also just as a note, the bag on the window has suction cups screwed onto the back of the bottom wood stake and that allows it to cling to the window through seriously. I was a bit worried at first but have had no issues with it slipping or moving at all and it has been up against some monster winds already.