Tag Archives: urban farming

Gardening in January: Who’s up for some fresh air?

If there’s something about bad timing, it’s gardening in January for those who live in Northern Europe as I do.

The weather varies from being cold to being frosty. It rains a lot, at least in this part of Holland. The wind is ferocious. In fact, my flight back to the Netherlands from England just last week was delayed because of the strong wind. If a mighty plane has a problem landing, what are the chances the slender spring onions have?

Regardless of the harsh conditions, it’s time I tended to my garden. I have more energy now, being in the second trimester, so my balcony garden deserves some care and love.

And indeed, there are things you can do in January:

Clean pots for the spring

As we went away for a month, a lot of my plants died. It’s sad but nothing else I could do but to muster the courage and stayed out on the balcony for an hour to tidy up the loose ends.

Here’s the result:

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Only then had I realised how many pots I have been hoarding.

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Prune back

As I didn’t cut back all my perennial plants in late autumn, it became a job for January.

Here are my chilli plants with the few green leaves:

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Fill your nut holder with nuts for hungry birds

You are feeling blue in January as the holiday has finished over but the dark days haven’t. I got it, but do you know that the birds have it worse? It’s a tough time for them to find food so be kind and put out some nuts. Their visits to your balcony could well be the highlight of your winter.

Seeds auditing and a sowing plan

I have a Trello board for gardening. It has lists of things to buy, seeds to sow next, seeds in germination, plants to keep indoor and outdoor, etc. I might be a hobby gardener but I surely am a pro-planner 😛

Here are all the seeds I have in my precious box, plenty to get 2018 started.

  • Flowers
    • Bee Mix:
    • Lavatera
    • Marigold
    • Lavender
    • Sunflowers
    • Cornflower
    • Poppy
    • Dropplant
    • More butterfly and bee mix
    • Pansy
  • Herbs
    • Dill
    • Red Basil & Basil
    • Perilla
    • Sage
    • Coriander
  • Vegetables
    • Spinach
    • Thyme
    • Parsley
    • Tatsoi
    • Chards
  • Fruits
    • Cherry Tomato: to sow from Mar to May

    • Jalapeño

None of these seeds can be sold outdoor in January, but I can start with basil and dill, and keep them inside, away from the rain and frost. Besides, my autumn crops of tatsoi, chard and garlic seem to hold themselves well despite my absence, so I am hopeful.

Happy Gardening in 2018, everyone!<<<<
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Growing Potatoes Not in the Ground

I started growing potatoes mostly for fun. It’s not the same fun as waiting for lily or narcissus. It’s the excitement of experimenting.

When I searched for new things for my balcony garden, I found a YouTube video showing how to grow potatoes in containers. I’ve heard about growing potatoes in rice sacks before, but containers? It was the first. So, to satisfy my curiosity, I set out to make my own potatoes in both pots and big bags.

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For both options, you can use with any potatoes you buy from a supermarket. Leave a few to sprout and then you can start.

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Easy-Peasy Spring Onion

Spring Onion is my discovery this growing season. Even though, it’s not at all difficult to buy spring onions in Dutch supermarkets, growing them has some plus points.

I don’t remember how I came up with the idea of planting this common ingredient of Vietnamese cuisine. It seemed like one day I watched a tutorial video on YouTube and BAM.

I followed the guide and put the white stalk with roots into a glass of water. The water needed changing every other day, and that’s what I did. They grew longer root and taller on the top. When Ian saw my glass, he suggested that I should put the spring onions in the soil as it surely would be better for the plant. He was right.

Soon enough, small pots of spring onion dotted around our garden. Instead of buying a bunch every week, I now only get supermarket spring onions if a recipe asks specifically for its white parts. My spring onion might not be as mighty, and in oversize as the one I get from Albert Heijn, the biggest supermarket chain here, but it tastes a lot better being freshly cut from my little balcony garden.

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Growing Chillis Up North: Success and Failure

What is your most favourite type of chilli?

Mine is pickled jalapeños. It’s something I only discovered eight years ago when I moved to England. Back in Vietnam, I knew one type of chillies. We called it sky-pointing because of the direction the fruits grow (aka upwards). In England, it’s called bird’s eye chilli and known for being hot.

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Bird’s Eye Chilli or Ớt chỉ thiên

Personally, I can’t tell if bird eye is spicier than jalapeño or not. They are just different. However, there is a Scoville scale which measures the spicy heat of chilli peppers. It varies from zero (the level of bell peppers) to somewhere near two million five hundred (for the likes of Komodo Dragon Chilli Pepper and Naga Viper Pepper). According to this scale, bird’s eye chilli could be 100 times hotter than jalapeños. I found that shocking. Perhaps my taste bud is well off.

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