Heartbreak on Tomato Ridge – more tales from my balcony garden

Heartbreak on Tomato Ridge – more tales from my balcony garden

The gardening gods conspire against me … aphids, withering heat, smog and wind have all played a role in my balcony garden woes. I finally beat back the last of the aphids, admittedly, I think yesterday’s furious winds might have blown away most of the stragglers. But holy cats… when those little bastards entrench themselves, they don’t give up. I finally uprooted a bit of oregano and surrounded two afflicted peppers … yes, they are up to their leaves in leafy, lush herbs. I also go out and prune the garlic chive moat around the other pepper. Since doing that, there hasn’t been a sighting on any of the peppers. I’ve taken to muttering “I love the smell of chives in the morning”.

The morning glory has been a different beast! That was the last aphid bastion and they stubbornly clung to every leaf. I soaked some tomato leaves in water and sprayed the leaves for days and days and days… each time they reappeared, I’d blast them. Finally, my balcony is aphid free! Mr Morning Glory is looking quite robust and aggressive. It’s now hanging down onto the balcony below, looking for more things to grab onto.

But … sigh ….

I’m in mourning ….

We were walloped with a storm yesterday and the winds were so high, it sounded like a freight train was roaring up and down the balcony. We get ferocious winds up here on the 20th floor. How bad? Well, yesterday’s wind almost uprooted our fir tree. It’s been in the pot for about 5 years now. It did need to be propped up a bit, it’s taken to tilting towards the east because of all the winds over the years – it looks like one of those Group of 7 paintings, with the tree branches all pointing in one direction. But the winds were so bad at one point yesterday afternoon, the tree is now tilting almost 45 degrees and roots have lifted out of the ground.

And this brings me to a sad point… one of my tomatoes was beaten to near death. I have the plants in a sheltered spot and the wind rarely affects them, but yesterday it swirled around so fast, even they were battered about. My lovely, lovely cherry tomato plant snapped in half and the branches are mangled, possibly beyond recovery. All my growing tomatoes! Gone … gone … gone.

Sigh. Just … sigh.

The other two tomato plants weren’t affected much, a few battered branches but they came through like troopers. They weren’t showing as many tomatoes as my beloved cherry. Here’s hoping I get a few. They are big and leafy, but not really showing an inclination to sprout tomatoes. Not sure why.

I did, however, spot something lurking in the lavender:

Photo of mushroom found lurking in the lavender

It has been incredibly hot and humid around here so perfect growing conditions for them. I swear, my garden is taunting me. Oh well, if nothing else, I can boast about my nice crop of mushrooms.


The Aphid Wars: The Battle of Chili Pepper Pass has begun

Aphids to right of me,
Aphids to left of me,
Aphids in front of me
(with apologies to all Tennyson fans)

The little beggars have breached my defenses again. On routine patrol, checking the Morning Glory carefully and was lulled into a false victory. Only a few of the enemy aphids were hanging around, sluggish and easy to pick off. I flung their carcasses over the ramparts (balcony to civilians) and did my victory dance. I turned my attention to other potential weak spots in my defenses and felt satisfied all was good

But … then I spotted them  …

… aphids. APHIDS! On. My. Peppers.

The sneaky bastards skipped past the rose bush, and landed on the pepper plant with the chives moat. They must have tunneled underground, coming up under the chives. Tell-tale signs of their encroachment alerted me to the first wave’s advance. Sure enough, skulking under new leaves and on the budding peppers, they’d already laid in their defenses. Dozens of them were swarming for a full attack.

No time for a battle plan … I plunged headlong into the fight with my water bottle and blew them off. Each leaf was inspected carefully until the all clear was sounded. Tonight, when the sun goes down, I’ll return with a soap bath to get the rest.

The Battle of Chili Pepper Pass has begun.

Dispatches from the Aphid Front – balcony garden war continues

Although I thought the aphid invasion was stopped in it’s tracks, I continued doing daily patrols, checking each plant for signs of enemy activity. Nothing but dried up bug carcasses as far as the eye could see.  But tonight   … signs of a renewed aphid entrenchment in the morning glories. They must have snuck in while I was out at work.  The devious little peckerheads are skulking in the new growth and under the bodies of their mates.

If you don’t see any posts in the next 48 hours that means the aphids have gained the upper hand and have cornered me on the balcony. Send reinforcements.

… wish me luck.

Dispatches from the urban garden front – the great aphid battle of 2016

Dispatches from the urban garden front – the great aphid battle of 2016

During my daily garden check Saturday afternoon, I spotted a few aphids lurking on the morning glory.  For some reason, I found their mere presence an affront.  After last year’s pepper plant infestation debacle, I plotted and planned my little balcony garden layout with a ruthlessness that was sure to frighten off any invaders.  I posted herb guards around each pepper and went so far as to form a chive moat around one of the larger pepper plants. “HA … get through those defenses”. Who knew aphids liked morning glories? I was so obsessed with keeping them off my peppers, it didn’t dawn on me, the squishy pests would latch onto something else.

With embarassing glee, I flicked the few aphids I found, off the balcony and thought “Got ‘em”. Well … sometime during the night an entire battalion of aphids parachuted onto our 20th floor balcony and infested the entire plant. How could I go from a couple of aphids to a full blown invasion in 12 hrs? The plant was swarmed. I stomped up and down the balcony for a full 5 minutes berating the enemy…

… it soon became painfully obvious aphids don’t have ears.

TO ARMS … or more precisely a soapy insecticide bath.  Mom and I took to the battle field armed with our soapy water and covered the plant.  Whenever we ran fingers over a leaf, dozens of dying insects rolled off. For someone who hates getting her fingers dirty, this was particularly disturbing – little bugs by the handful …   clean, soapy bugs … but bugs nonetheless.

I just did another check this afternoon and must admit to a malicious happiness in seeing nothing but dead bugs. And the peppers are completely untouched.  We’ll have to keep a close on the garden, and tomorrow, we’ll give it another bath just in case. There’s bound to be a few of the little white vampires hiding somewhere.

The tomatoes are coming along nicely.  I’m soon going to have to get larger stakes, they’ve already outgrown the ones I used.  They’ve begun to grow rapidly, after a very slow start.

One of my tomato plants after a slow start

I had despaired over the cucumbers, convinced they had all given up, but last week they had a sudden burst of energy and are growing at an astonishing rate. Finger crossed, we may actually have a few. But the nasturtiums are going to out-do everything this year:

Nasturtiums on my balcony

I’ll grab a better shot later in the week. This one doesn’t do justice to their size, but I liked the colours. I’ll keep you posted on any further movement on the bug front.


Last chance lilacs – balcony lilacs in full bloom

Last chance lilacs – balcony lilacs in full bloom

Enjoying the brief and modest display from my lilac tree. They did far better than expected. Not a big showy display, but next year should be better.

Lilac blooming 2016 May 1 Toronto balcony

They’ll be gone by next week, so we’re enjoying them while we can. The temp took a U-turn and now we’re a little hot and sweaty, but not nearly as bad as the weather forcast was predicting. Hard to believe I was lamenting the ice on the balcony just 2 weeks ago.

Have to admit, it’s a hell of a view from my perch on the 20th overlooking Toronto:

Lilac blooming 2016 May 1 Toronto balcony skyline