Actual summery view from our balcony in Zurich!
Growing Stuff…

A page to keep track of our efforts in the world of horticulture.

We thought we’d start off easily, this being the first time – for Ben at least – that we’ve tried to grow anything more substantial than a plant in a pot.  So we opted for some peppers and tomatoes (we eat a lot of salad so it seemed to be a logical choice) and a range of herbs (in this case sage, parsley, chives and basil).


The Beginning…

First shoots of peppers (left) and tomatoes (right):

Growing trays with little seedlings starting to show

And some herbs to round off the exercise (from left to right: basil, parsley, chives and sage):

Our herb pots The terrace decked out with our most recent purchases at the beginning of the summer (mid April 2009):
Balcony from doorBalcony table and seatingDrinks tray and romantic table

21/04/09 – A Little Update…

Look at our herbs now! Definite progress, some have grown more than others but we are very proud of them!
Left to right: Basil, parsely, sage, chives

Peppers and what looks like one tomato...     
Above: Our peppers, ready for their new homes. (We think a rogue tomato got in there somehow – can you spot it?

Tomatoes looking anxious to get to their new homes... Above: The tomatoes are growing well and ready for their new homes too!

Long pots with the strongest samples of tomatoes (left) and peppers (right)Above: The tomatoes and peppers in position on the balcony, just need some garden canes for them to grow up now!! (All photos in this update taken 21 April 2009).

12/05/09 – Hard Lessons…

Well it’s been a while since the last update but a lot has happened.  Unfortunately we were far too hasty getting our seedlings out into the open.  We should have re-potted them but then kept them inside for quite a bit longer.  As a result of our enthusiasm we lost most of the seedlings – but (probably due to our inexperience) we had plenty of spares so we have an option to try again.  This time we’re going to do it properly!

  1. Let the seedlings develop in their small pots for a while
  2. Once they look like they’re hardy enough to survive the shock of transplantation, re-pot them into their bigger pots
  3. Once they’ve got over the shock and started to grow well, harden them off by gently getting them used to the outside and the climate fluctuations it can bring (this is what we missed the first time round to the detriment of quite a few young plants)

Now we’ve had some time with the plants and are getting used to what needs to be done, we’ve decided to move on from the disastrous attempt previously.  As Becky mentioned in her blog post, we spent a bit of time re-potting some of the plants on Sunday 10th May.  The current situation is below (hover your mouse over the pictures for a bit of detail):

Long pots; closest to the window are peppers, behind are tomatoes

These are the two long pots that we have.  The one closest to the window is full of pepper plants.  One or two of these are the ones that survived the previous attempt at re-potting/hardening off, the rest are some of the younger ones we held back in reserve.  Behind it is a pot of tomatoes.  The biggest one on the left is the only survivor of the first attempt, but what a survivor!  The others were the strongest of the seedlings we had at the time when we re-potted.

Peppers in different stages of development

Left to right: peppers, tomatoes and hanging tomatoes

Above are two shots of the rest of our tomato and pepper plants.  The first picture shows different stages of pepper growth.  The square pot in the second shot is currently the strongest batch of peppers we have.  The round pot contains attempt two with the next strongest tomatoes (after the long pot above).  The growing tray contains the hanging tomato seedlings we were sent by Becky’s friend Shani.  They only turned up relatively recently so are lagging behind the rest.

Left to right: Basil, parsley, sage, chives

As you can see the herbs have been doing quite well outside on their own, clearly a bit more hardy than the tomatoes and peppers!  I think we planted too much seed in too small a pot for both the basil and parsley as they appear to be fighting for resources quite a bit.  We have been eating some of the basil though, so will continue that method of population control whenever possible!  Sage and chives have been quite slow in developing, but the sage is finally starting to come along a bit – obviously just needed some time!  The brown tubes you see leading into the pots are part of our watering system which will enable us not to worry about watering our plants when we go on holiday – more on this system later on.

Now that the plants are taking well to their new homes, it’s time to harden them off.  This is a process whereby they get acclimatised to conditions outside.  If we were just to move them outside permanently without first hardening them off, they would most likely die through shock (the mistake we made first time round).  To harden them off we need to slowly introduce them to the outside world, bit by bit.  This is easiest done by moving them out for a couple of hours one day, then a couple more hours the next day, and so on until they are spending the entire day outside – then start with nights.  So far the hardiest of our plants (shown below) are spending most of the day outside unless the weather really comes in.  Now that they’ve gotten used to it, they hardly roll their leaves (in the cold) or wilt (in the heat) anymore, which has got to be a good sign!

The hardiest plants proving they can survive life outdoors!

And here’s the whole gang doing the ‘hardening off’ thing.  Let’s see how far they make it – they might even be able to start spending the whole day and night outside next week…

All our plants enjoying the sun...

10/06/09 – Growing Up

So after several weeks of sun, some rain, and even some hail on occasion, the plants that were strong enough are now happy living outside.  They seem to shrug off most of the climatic variation that Swiss spring weather is throwing at them.  So far about half of them are outside.  The peppers are placed where they get slightly less sun as they seem to wilt quite disturbingly if they get too much afternoon sun.  Unfortunately with the angle of our terrace, there’s no chance to place them somewhere where they get only morning sun (as apparently would be best for them) so it’s a bit of mid-afternoon sun and then shade.  They seem to be doing OK with that idea though.

The pepper plant that is living outside already Above: The four pepper plants that have managed to survive being outside.  You can unfortunately see some leaf damage from where they were recently pelted with huge lumps of ice courtesy of a hail storm

The other peppers are doing well as well, although not quite as large because they’re younger, and also have not spent so much time in the sun.  They will however be ‘moving’ to be outside and join their siblings very soon – now that the weather is forecast to stop being quite so unpredictable.

The peppers that have not yet made it outside permanently yet Above: The peppers that are still living mainly indoors.  There almost strong enough to brave the outside world soon.

The tomatoes are doing very well however, growing strongly and seem not to have been so badly hit by the hailstorms.  They prefer more sunlight and don’t react as badly as the peppers to the strong afternoon rays so they’ve been placed in a sunnier position.  If you look very closely at the tomato plant furthest to the right you can just make out the first flower that we’ve had on our plants!

Tomato cultivation - geting very crowded in there! Above: The outside dwelling tomatoes

We were also sent some hanging tomato plants by Shani (one of Becky’s ex-colleagues and friends) which we have started to grow and are now potted into two hanging pots which we hope will allow them to drape over the sides of the pots (so they have not been staked yet) and hang on our terrace.

Hanging tomato plants in their pot, hardening off Hanging tomato plants hanging in their final position on our terrace Hanging tomato plants in their pot, hardening off
Above: Hanging tomato plants in their pots waiting to be hung like the one in the centre

After a bit of reading up however, it appears that hanging tomato plants can also (hopefully that shouldn’t be only) hung upside down.  Once I find a bucket or two, this is going to be our last project with the tomato plants this summer.  We have a couple of young plants that will be transplanted into hanging buckets and then grow downwards.  Once this has been setup and is working, some pics will follow.

17/06/09 – Upside down tomatoes

Well, what to say.  As my last comment mentioned, we needed to try hanging some tomatoes upside down since apparently that is how hanging tomatoes are supposed to grow.  Since this is our first growing season, we feel perfectly happy just experimenting, so the hanging tomatoes we received we have in three different types; normal hanging baskets, upside down buckets and some just planted and staked normally (really just because I want to see what the difference is between them and the normal plants!

Anyway, not too much to show so far, but here are the upside down buckets we have.  More pics will follow as soon as they’ve grown sufficiently to look impressive.  Considering how late these ones are, I imagine we won’t get a great harvest, but at least they’ll come late which should keep us in tomatoes for a while!

Upside down hanging tomato number 1      Upside down hanging tomato number 2

I was amazed at how well the upside down ones took to their new homes (buckets) considering that they were left far too long in the growing tray we had.  So much so that I couldn’t fit most of the root structure through the whole in the bucket so was very worried they’d not make it through the trauma of the move.  But lo and behold, within a day or two both of them had taken very happily.  Now to see how they like being upside down (note the one on the right already trying to grow upwards again!).

And just in order to provide some kind of comparison, here are the two types of actual hanging tomatoes we’ll have.  Once the staked ones have taken to their new home there’ll be some pictures of them too.

Both types of hanging tomato we have - let's compare again at the end of the season to see which were more successful!

29/06/09 – Flowers

Not too much to report on the plant front, except that most of the tomatoes and peppers are now flowering, or starting to.  The tomatoes are still growing ridiculously fast, and now look quite silly in the tiny pots we’ve got them in, but hopefully they’ll survive long enough to provide us with some decent vegetables.  Speaking of which, there are some growths on some of the older plants that look like they might be future ingredients for our salads!  Finally the weather has cleaned up its act and we’re due for some very warm (actual summer) weather this week.  I was mildly worried that the 12 degree highs that we had last week could have been unkind to the plants, but it looks like they’ve pulled through.

Tomatoes in hanging basket flowering happily  You can just about see the white flowers on the pepper plant at the back

Look at all the little yellow flowers!

10/08/09 – Fruit and of course more flowers

Well it’s been a while since the last update, but as can be expected the plants have all continued to do what they do best – grow and flower.  Now they are starting to bear fruit too!  The tomatoes are slowly getting redder as even more flowers are showing on the plants.  We have also become even more aware that our pots are woefully small for the poor plants – next year we’ll know better.

Tomatoes growing quite happily at the end of July. Cherry tomatoes are in the basket hanging above. The latest additions showing remarkable growth - tomatoes to the left and peppers to the right
Hanging basket of cherry tomatoes showing a lot of red as they ripen View of most of the plants showing just how much growth has taken place Some of the normal round tomatoes - looking forard to trying them in a week or so!

As you can see we will soon have a bumper crop of tomatoes.  We’ve had enough already for a couple of dinners, and they’ve definitely been very flavourful.  So far it’s mainly been the cherry tomatoes that have been ready.  Although some of the strange shaped tomatoes (we have some disfigured looking ones, mainly from the plants that were out in the cold at the beginning of the season) have also been ready and eaten – although these seem to have a rather unsightly black bit at the bottom that extends into the core – needless to say we cut that out before eating!  We’re looking forward to trying some of the normal large round tomatoes though to see how those compare with shop bought.

So far the peppers are growing along quite happily too, although they seem to be taking quite a bit longer (well they do have to grow bigger don’t they?) so some more of an update once they start to change colour too!

Hanging tomato pot two after returning from Paris Hanging pot one after returning from Paris Main tomato plantation after returning from Paris

07/09/09 – Not too much to report.

The tomatoes have been regularly providing us with fruit.  So far they seem to be just the right amount, although we have had to find a lot of things to cook with tomatoes to make sure none of them go to waste.  Which is fun anyway, so win-win.  As you can see by the first picture below, the upside down tomato plants are actually starting to come into their own now (in fact the one in that shot is challenging the ivy for space!) – sadly probably just in time to die when the first frosts hit, but never mind.

Hanging cherry tomatoes still providing nicely, upside down plant actually looking healthy!  Plenty of red, and green that will become red Hanging tomato plants still providing a regular dose of fruit

The peppers have also started developing nicely.  So far we’ve only had one green pepper and one yellow pepper (both of which were very nice) but there are several reds that are going to be ready in the next day or two.

Red peppers maturing nicely Peppers in various stages of maturity

Oddly one of the pepper plant pots (try saying that quickly) has managed to kill off most of the plants in it.  Not sure what happened there, if it was shock, disease or pest, but from one day to the next almost all plants in the pot shed their leaves!  There are a couple of peppers that are still growing slowly and should be eaten soon, but it was very strange behaviour.  The only thing that I did just before that happened was to change the stake and tie up one of the plants, neither of which should have had that effect!