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 http://themicrogardener.com sent me an idea for "shoe" themes http://themicrogardener.com/sensational-shoe-planters/ 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 fine...now here's to hoping I never want to go line dancing again...lol 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 at...lol  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 bag...lol story of my life....just gotta climb another hurdle...so 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 water...no 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 water..lol 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 spillage...so 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 http://www.instructables.com/id/VERTICAL-VEGETABLES-quotGrow-upquot-in-a-smal/ 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 hailstorms...lol 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.