Sunday 31 July 2011

My little garden in Japan July 2011

Sunny July was a good month for the plants, most of them grew a lot. Here is how my little garden in Japan made it through the month.


My little balcony garden has done well this summer

Summer flowers are in full bloom, the petunias, geraniums, marigolds, amaranth globe and others are doing amazing. Even the calla lily and the osteospermum give out a couple of unexpected flowers.


Summer flowers are in full bloom

The tomatoes gave a great harvest all month long, but sadly a heat wave got to them at the end of the month and almost kill them all. Now they are recovering slowly. Hopefully I will be able to get a couple more crops out of them before the season ends.

The grape has grown very well. It really has loved the sunny days. It already formed a whole circle around the poles like it was intended. Everything is going according to the plan. I am expecting a lot of great fruit bearings for next year.


The grape has grown a lot and it's getting ready for next season

The pumpkin finally started to give out some female flowers, unfortunately none of them has kept yet. I guess the plant is still not strong enough. Maybe in august we will have some, but the time is running out.


Hopefully some of the pumpkin flowers will set before the season ends

The blueberries started to become plump. I picked a couple, but they were not ready, so I will let them be another week
or so.

A lot of growth in the strawberries. I think next year will definitely be much better than this.


Summer at the balcony

So far most of the balcony garden is doing well. Summer has made most of the plants grow very well but the heat has taken a bit of its toll too, still not enough to worry. I am wishing august will be as good.

Monday 18 July 2011

Slugs in my garden

A very weird thing happened, just the other day, while I was watering the tomatoes, I discovered one of the flowerboxes has slugs. They were just a few small ones, but there they are.


Small slugs in my garden

The slugs are really tiny, and even a bit cute, I can't help to feel guilty for wanting to get rid of them. They spend most of the time strolling around the planter and not doing much.


They haven't done any damage yet

They are eating the alyssum's old dead branches, but other than that they don't seem to be doing much damage. For now I will toss away the ones I get to catch, but no heavy arms just yet. Although, I will keep an eye on them, because I would hate if they become a plague and they ruin the crops.


No idea how they got there

I really wonder how do they manage to get there, I haven't gotten any new plants for that pot or anything. Maybe one managed to climb all the way there on one of the rainy days last month, but I am not sure. I guess nature always find a way.

Friday 8 July 2011

How to Harvest dill seeds

The dill in my garden is all gone. In late spring it started to flower a lot and it lost all of its leaves, then it dried and now is just a long stalk in the balcony. To not let it go in vain I picked up all the dead flower heads and tried to harvest the seeds. I got a bunch, enough to plant a new batch and a bit more.


The dill ready to be harvested

The way I learned to harvest the seeds is very simple.

  • First, you need to wait until the flower heads get a bit dry while they are still on the plant. Just enough to see them mostly brown, but not as much that the seeds will start to fall.

  • When they are ready snip off the complete flower branch and get them inside a paper bag heads first.


Just get it inside a paper bag to let it dry

  • Let them be there a week or two until they finish drying and the seeds detach and fall into the paper bag. In case there are still some stubborn ones just give the bag a good shake.

  • Afterwards just take away the spent flower heads from the paper bag and all you have left is the seeds

And that is all, enjoy your dill seeds.


Dill seeds ready for next season

I am not sure if I should grow dill again because, to be honest, I underused it a lot. In all the months that I had it growing in my garden, I think I only used it three or four times. The space on my balcony is very limited, and a the full grown dill was very big, almost my height. So, maybe I should put something different in that pot. But then, growing again might be a good encouragement to start using it more.

I don't know, I guess I will put a couple seeds in a starting pot and let mother nature, if they grow or not.

Wednesday 6 July 2011

The butterflies transformed into chrysalis

Well, the butterflies keep on growing and eating like crazy. I had to change them to a bigger house because now they are so many of them. Also, they completely finished the pansies from my garden, all the way to the main trunk, so, now I have resorted to other sources. I usually just ride around to a park and cut a bit of pansies for them, but I have to be doing it often, because they eat a lot.


The caterpillars eating the last of the pansies

A bunch of them already turned chrysalis. It is a very nice looking cocoon. It has small golden spots that shine very bright with the sun. It is so much fun to see how they change. They do two molts before making the next transformation and then they start walking around to find a cozy space. Once there, they tie their feet with some silk and hang upside down like bats. Then in a day or two they shed their skin again and turn into chrysalis. They are so fast and secretive that I didn't had a chance to see them do it, but I have seen others before so it's ok.


This is their new house

They seem to be Indian Fritillary (Argynnis hyperbius), the caterpillars and the pupa match, but still have to wait until they hatch. I could be in for a big surprise.

The only thing that worries me now is that many of them fell down because of the wind. I guess the netting that houses them is not the best material for them to latch their silk. I hope the bump to the floor doesn't hurt them and they still develop well. I will build a support structure and hang them again so they have space once they come out.


A bunch of them turned into chrysalis

The swallowtails I used to have lasted around four weeks as caterpillars and another four weeks as chrysalis. This ones only took 3 weeks as caterpillars, so I think that their next stage will be short as well. But still, I have no idea what to expect. Let's see what happens

Monday 4 July 2011

First harvest of the summer

I just cut my first batch beans from the garden. They were the first plants to give fruit and mature this season. I only have tree stalks growing along with the pumpkins, but I must say, they have performed admirably. Since the start, they grew like crazy, and they only stopped after the plants were loaded with bean pods.


First harvest of summer, beans

I was a bit worried for them at the beginning because I wasn't sure if they will give any fruit. I got the seeds from a batch of beans I bought to cook and I didn't know if they were viable to be planted. Also, last year when I tried to grow them I ended up with a planter with three very dry stalks of beans and no crops at all, they didn’t even put out any flowers. Lucky me, this year I was able to keep them alive and they succeeded giving a lot of flowers and a lot of bean pods.

I like growing beans because they remind me of back when I was a kid when I used to grow them in Mexico city with my dad. They are very easy to take care, give a nice harvest very soon and help many plants they grow along with. Beans are just a great plant to have in a balcony garden.


There is still plenty more beans to harvest

The fresh cut harvest already passed by the frying pan and into my plate, and I must say, they tasted amazing. I really recommend to everybody to grow their own vegetables, the flavor of homegrown food is much better than most of the store bought vegetables.

I think the next crops to be ready for picking will be the tomatoes and the strawberries. I will keep posted.

Sunday 3 July 2011

Lavender season in my balcony

Here in Japan is very common to have people traveling north to Hokkaido for the summer holidays, and one of the popular things to do there is visit the lavender farms in the area. I was lucky and had a chance to visit on my first year in Japan. Growing lavender is a big deal in Hokkaido. From what saw they treat the season in a similar way to how they treat sakura season. They have festivals, special lavender food, lavender designs and many products related. It is very fun place to be. Before my visit, I had never seen any lavender farms, so it was a great surprise to see all the never ending fields of purple and walk among the trails. It was an amazing experience.


my lavender

So, after my visit to the lavender farms that year, of course I had to have some lavender growing in the garden. I got a plant last autumn and took care of it hoping for some summer blooms. It grew a bit during the winter and even more in spring. Finally it started blooming in May, a bit earlier that I expected, but no complains, It was probably just another effect of the vacation drought of spring.

Now after blooming nicely all June, it seems to be starting to stop, so I decided to cut away the flowers that are left and let it grow for the next year.


See you next year

It was very fun to grow lavender, I had never had a chance to do it before. Even though is a very small plant the scent it produced was very strong, specially in the mornings when I the light wind made it come into the room from the balcony. Hopefully it will give a great display again next season, but for now I say good bye, is time to rest.
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