Ah Summer

Container Gardening in a Small Space


In the winter my balcony patio is bathed in sunlight that spills into the living room and gives the benefit of passive solar heat. I appreciate the help from the sun and it is noticeably colder on cloudy days. It makes me think what a great place to grow some things in the summer. But in the summer it is a shady patio which makes it a wonderful place to be outside without being sunburned. 

Last year I planted cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, basil, rosemary, and cantaloupe. The cucumbers grew up the railing and created a pleasant shade, pretty yellow flowers and maybe two cucumbers. A spider claimed the basil and it was too cool for the tomatoes to produce more than a handful of very small fruits. The cantaloupe grew but no fruit. Lesson learned. This year the plan was for maybe a tomato, and more flowers. I picked larkspurs because they grow tall and would have enough sun to create shade and privacy and produce pretty flowers, coleus because they would do well in the shadow of the larkspur and have beautiful multicolored foliage and birdhouse gourds because they could cover the railing and maybe produce some gourds I could decorate in a couple of years after they dry out. 

House plant, with coleus, two ivy plants, and the cat's favorite, a spiky plant.

For mother's day, my daughter got me a decorative pot and my son got me a hanging basket of petunias which we picked because of the color, vibrant purple with white spots. The petunia plant is quite large, especially for the small space, but we could not get that lovely variety in a smaller version. I planted a tall spiky plant, a couple of decorative ivy plants and several of the coleus in the decorative pot. It will be very pretty when the coleus plants grow bigger, and if the cat will stop trying to ruin the spiky plant. These both go very well with the flower plan. 

Purple petunias with white spots, 
Then a co-worker gave my son some acorn squash seeds that do well in container gardening. Only 10 seeds. I figured if I planted them maybe three of four would sprout, but they all sprouted. I transplanted some of them which are not doing quite as well as the direct planted ones but all of them grew. Every single seed, I should be so lucky to have that much success from seeds. I also planted two small watermelons, some peppers which I will be moving into larger pots soon. Even though I only planted 5 birdhouse gourd seeds, all of them sprouted too. Because space is limited I will have to string climbing twine and creating hammocks for the acorn squash, mini watermelons, and birdhouse gourds. In addition, I have two tomatoes that are loaded with blooms so maybe we will have tomatoes before too long.    

Acorn Squash

Tomatoes and birdhouse gourds

Yellow and Red Bell Pepper Plants

Larkspur and coleus


Orchids 2017

This is the last bloom on my orchid for spring 2017. In its wilted state, it is a pretty sorry sight.
The last orchid bloom of spring 2017
It makes me a little sad when the blooms fall away because they are so lovely and delicate and I know it will be a while before the plant produces another set of blooms.
Spring 2017 orchid at peak
 The blooms this year were extra special. Dot, the resident kitty, decided to walk on the orchid shelf and managed to knock the orchid pots to the floor last fall after blooming season. There was damage to both plants and I was not sure they would recover enough to bloom. One did not bloom, but I am hopeful it will bloom again in the future.

Close up of first bloom of the season
The plant that did bloom, bloomed in late February and has lasted until now, which is about two months longer than usual. I expect the last boom to fall off any moment. They are like tree leaves, once the blooms start to fall they all drop. Sometimes I have kept the blooms. They will dry and look nice in a flat dish, last season I put them on top of the potting mixture in the plant. Maybe that was a good thing because the plant that made the beautiful flower stem with the blooms also created a Keikis on the other flower stem.     
Spring 2017 Keikis
Keikis, Hawaiian for baby, usually do not bloom for about two years. Friends tell me I am really good with orchids, however, I am sure it has less to do with me and more to do with the environment. Orchids like bright, indirect light, in a warm humid environment. I live in an arid dry environment, but I have a south facing room that heats up nicely, especially in the winter. I keep the orchids where they get bright natural light but no direct sunlight.  

When they outgrew their original pots I moved them from the potting bark mixture to bare roots in glass vases. I set up a watering schedule reminder on my calendar and soak the roots for 30 minutes once each week. Because they are in vases, if it gets extra hot, I will splash about a tablespoon of water over the roots and into the vase during the week. This water will evaporate around the plant creating a slightly more humid mini environment for them. I think they are happy in this environment because they reward me with blooms and new plants and that makes me happy.