August 18, 2012

Organic gardening : Lessons learnt

I started an urban balcony garden 2 years ago. Mostly veggies, some fruits, flowers, pretty much just for fun and experiment to see how able I'd be to survive on my own  :) and hopefully to grow some tomatoes, bell peppers and tea herbs. Everything from seeds. Both my saved seeds from organic produce, and shop-bought organic seeds.
Well, Spain is hot right from the spring so the seeds sprouted massively and much more than I expected. BUT that's where the fun ends.
I had it all, warm and sunny south "glazed" balcony (if that's the correct name) with bright direct and indirect light, very warm weather, very little cloudy days, dirt and fertilizer certified for organic gardening, watering on time.
The seedlings didn't like transplanting. They grew slowly. The tomatoes went fine and bushy but the more they grew, the more the bottom branches and leaves kept dying off with disease. They survived the mild winter (no frost) and I got first edible tomatoes next February.  O_o
Later on, with next year of experimenting, we had a heavy rainy April which brought all colors and shapes of bugs eating it all.
I wondered where all they came from, there's very little green parks around and not close to our house. We live on a higher floor and don't even get spiders coming inside, ever. Might be that my plants were in such poor health (?) and the pesticide-free zone surely is tasteful. Or because there's almost no green around, they attacked my own... maybe.
The more I take care of the plants, the worse they get, unlike my mom's totally neglected, in a too small pots planted, watered anyhow flowers and plant thrive and bloom all the time. Why? Oh why?!

Lesson #1 Planting anything in transparent plastic pots to save on buying fancy pots is not a good idea. They grew green algae all around the pot and on the roots because of the sun.

Lesson #2 Planting seeds first and then transplant sprouted seedlings into a bigger pot is also not a good idea. Although expert gardeners may disagree. Mine didn't like the stress no matter how careful i did it and many died off after transplanting. Planting seeds directly into pots worked better for me.

Lesson #3 Using big and mainly very deep pots means deep and strong roots which means strong plants. Like smaller buckets. Or bigger ones, like Urban Organic Gardener uses. Awesome.

Lesson #4 DIY pest sprays ussing things like cayenne pepper, lavender, mint, tea tree essential oils and similar didn't really work. Them bugs keep munching. Only me squeezing them manually helped. A while.

Lesson #5 Plastic (opaque, not transparent!) containers with holes at the bottom are the easiest and cheapest to use. I used natural clay pots for the second year since they absorb water and the roots can kinda breath. But after a while many of them grew white mold on the outside. I rubbed the surface with home made anti mold spray which didn't help and it grew again. Only rubbing it with conventional indoor mold spray helped. But that's not organic.

Lesson #6 Store-bought dirt packs may be infested with bugs or bug's larvae or eggs of the tiny black flies like "fungus gnats" or what, which were everywhere mainly around the indoor plants. They got way too much in numbers than it's normal so I searched and found out they dirt suppose to be checked out first and if there is anything flying out, I should STERILIZE the dirt. Which I have never heard about, but I did that to all the dirt I had using a microwave. Not sure if that helped.

Lesson #7 My gardening outcome was too much trouble and money spent and too little crops so now I just buy organic veggies at stores, and support those who can do it well. I'm just trying to keep growing plants and herbs that are not available to buy fresh like dill, mint and such.

Besides the balcony gardening I keep indoor plants as well, which are doing quite well. For this summer I left  for a vacation so I used an automatic irrigation system called Aquasolo, which I'll review later.

Some of my experiment garden's shots:

 sunflower, actually lol

 bell pepper flower

 bell pepper flower, October

 disease and spider mites on tomato leaves


 December pepper

 January tomatoes

 not bad, actually very tasteful and the seeds yielded very nice
next season again, but the pests and disease persisted

 radish, salad and peppers

 dill in bloom

conventionally grown white freesia, one of my favorite flowers

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