Zee's Balcony Farm

Experimenting with urban food production on my balcony.

My big greenhouse  — June 20, 2015

My big greenhouse 

I needed another greenhouse to put the two composting planter tubs in so last week I made one.

I bought the bits of wood from Bunnings and the plastic from Spotlight. I also had to buy a 12mm woodworking drill bit. This is my very own design- yup, no YouTube tutorial this time. 👍🏽

After the painters finish working on the balcony, it will fit perfectly to the side, leaving space for the pallet planter box, mini greenhouse worm compost and all the other plants to come. 

 

I put together the sides first and stapled the PVC plastic sheet to them.
  
I inserted the sides into the long lengths with a dollop of liquid nails and it became 3D.
 
Stapled the sides , top and back with the plastic. The front is also covered with plastic but is attached with velcro.
  

The composting tubs fit in nicley with plenty of room to grow and I might possibly squish in some other pots. It will evetually be located on the side so that it doesn’t feel like it takes up a lot of space.
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Pallet planter box — June 19, 2015

Pallet planter box

I love pallets. Free sturdy wood! In the past,  I’ve made a (fairly rough) dining table, coffee table,  book display, vertical planter and now…. To add to my pallet constructions and balcony planter box. I got the instructions from YouTube and it was fairly easy to whip up in one afternoon. The hardest part of using pallets is desconstructing them; but once that is done, it’s just a quick cut, hammer and drill away from being whatever you want. 

I lined it with plastic and added some rocks along the bottom for clearer drainage. Then I dumped in some organic potting mix and the plants. I’m growing  lettuce, kale, parsley, cucumbers, and Lebanese zucchini. 

I added a mini greenhouse cover that I constructed, again using a tutorial from YouTube. 

Here’s my balcony planter: 

Sometimes it’s too hard to pull the planks off so I just cut them , which requires less force but takes longer.
  
You need to make three panels : front, back and bottom. Then you drill them together and, finally, you cut and attach bits of wood to make the sides. I also made drain holes and added some wood as ‘legs’ to elevate the box off the ground.
   
All planted! I added the plastic greenhouse cover, but I do need to make the ends a bit neater looking. I would also like to install a perforated pipe so that I can water it without always taking the cover off.
   

The little green house — May 21, 2015

The little green house

Years ago before travelling, I tried to grow some veggies, on this very same balcony but kept having night visits from hungry possums. Since I’ve been back,  I’ve seen some about but I think Mr Finch scares them off and, well, there isn’t anything for them to eat at the moment.

So this time I’m ready! I’m planning on making covers to protect the plants: it might not look pretty; but it will look much better the sticks in the dirt that was once bushy basil.

The first step I’ve taken is to invest in a little greenhouse from Bunnings. This will be useful for seedlings and shelf of greens like rocket or maybe even strawberries. At the moment, I’ve got one of the compost grow tubs in there but it’s a bit big.

The greenhouse box from Bunnings.

 

I’ve got worms! —

I’ve got worms!

The plants in the little composting grow tubs I made in my previous post are growing really well! However, I’m finding that there isn’t enough room for my kitchen scraps and it’s not always easy to blend them up before I add them. So I got Tumbleweed worm farm from Bunnings. It’s a good size for the balcony and can take the  amount of kitchen scraps we produce.

  
The great feature about this worm farm is that it has a little tap at the bottom so you can collect ‘worm juice’, a nutrient-rich leachate that is a brilliant natural free fertiliser.

I’ve had it for about 2 weeks now and it doesn’t smell bad at all; there are some little fruit flies, but I’m sure they are just helping the process. It should take about 3 months for the worms to munch on all the stuff in the first tray.Then I will somehow switch trays and keep feeding them.

It’s cool to think that once my garden is in full swing, the scraps from the veggies I grew will go back to the worms who will the help the next veggies to grow!  

The ground coconut substrate that comes with the worm farm. Can you see the sneaky cat tail?
  
Release the worms! i got these from the worm compost at my school, but you can get them online or even at Bunnings!
   

Add the top blanket cover (otherwise known as first level cat proofing). This actually encourages the worms to go up to the top layer of fresh scraps.

  

And that’s it! The worm farm and worm juice maker.

  

Composting grow tubs — May 11, 2015

Composting grow tubs

I found a great planter option called garden towers. There is a central perforated tube in a large planter tub where you can keep composting worms and add your compost directly to it. When the central tube is watered, the water flows through the composted matter and provides the plant roots with lovely nutrient- rich worm juice. Unfortunately for me, it’s only available in the North America so I kept searching to see if I could make one myself. I did find a mini version of it and a couple of weekends ago so I made two using large-ish olive tubs.

I planted only 3 sides and the top of one because it’s autumn and there isn’t as much sunlight. Seedlings I planted in the tub were basil, thyme, oregano, mint, lettuce, kale, tomato and a catnip cutting. Once I had everything planted out, I added worms and some blended kitchen waste. I also had to construct a makeshift little cage to keep Mr Finch and the possums out. This is just a temporary solution until I find or make something neater. 

In the second grow tub, I planted seeds just on 2 sides. Seeds I planted:cucumber, beans, snow peas, rocket, lettuce.

 So I wonder how they go!

See the instructions after the photos if you want to try on yourself.

Drilling large holes for the plants to pop out
Cutting the top off with a jig-saw!

Ready to put it all together with Mr Finch.
  
Mostly done. I added a tomato plant to the top.
  

Materials

  • Large plastic tub ( mine had olives from a deli)
  • Pipe slightly longer then the height of the tub with a diameter wide enough for your hand to go in.
  • A cap for the pipe
  • Potting mix
  • Bin bag
  • Seedlings
  • Composting worms

Equipment

  • Drill
  • Drill bit to make approx. 1cm diameter holes
  • Drill attachment to make large holes, approx. 10cm
  • Jigsaw
  • Knife

What to do

  1. Drill lots of holes in the inner pipe.
  2. Drill the large holes in your large tub.
  3. Cut off the top with the jigsaw if you need to.
  4. Place the bin bag inside the tub (so the soil doesn’t fall out)
  5. Place the pipe in the centre.
  6. Add the soil around it to the top
  7. Starting with a lower plant hole, cut a cross in thee posed bin bag.
  8. Dig into the soil and plant one of the seedlings. 
  9. Continue with all the holes.
  10. Add some soil into the central tub.
  11. Add composting worms followed by some blended kitchen compost scraps.
  12. Water it well through the tube.

*I’m not sure if I should add drain holes at the bottom of the tubs. I might -it seems sensible.

Little balcony; big edible ideas — May 10, 2015

Little balcony; big edible ideas

I have a long term goal of living on a block of land in the mountains in a little house and having a lucious veggie patch, fruit plants, chickens, goats and beehives. This desire to be self-sufficient might be in my genes- I’m part pacific islander and some of my family live off the food in their gardens, the forest and the sea. But the reality is that I’ve just finished a 10 year round the world work and travel stint so I haven’t got the funds to head for the hills just yet. I live in Brisbane and have a little apartment with a  partly sunny balcony. So I’ll have to start small. The great thing is that there are a bunch of options for urban gardening and I hope to try them out.  I have found ideas on the Internet and in books. This is my blog to track the hopeful evolution of my balcony  into a little food haven in sunny subtropical Brisbane.
My balcony started with a big yukka plant that I transplanted into a basket found on the side of the road. I bought  some catnip and catgrass for my little cat, Mr Finch. 

In the beginning , there was a sparse little balcony…