Balcony Garden Update: early July 2019

The peas (delicious…) and spinach finished up on the balcony in June.  Now peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, a strawberry, and flowers are having their turn.

Last year, the tomato plants grew incredibly large and lush in the City Picker planters.  This year, there is a determinate, smaller size, red cherry tomato plant (“Sweetheart of the Patio”) in a City Picker planter, and a indeterminate, larger, orange cherry tomato plant (“Sungold”) in the Earthbox with a 5-ft trellis.  Right now, in early July, there are many small green tomatoes on both plants.

Last year’s lavender plants that were planted in the City Picker planters all died over the winter, due to cold temperatures.  So this year, I chose perennial plants that are hardy to one zone colder than where we live.  Hopefully at least some of these will survive next winter.  Overwintering in a planter pot (and on an exposed balcony) is tougher on plants than overwintering in the ground.

One of these new perennial plants is Red Flowered Lamb’s Ear, also known as Scarlett Hedge Nettle or Stachys coccinea Mountain Red.  It came from High Country Gardens.  This is a native wildflower, and should attract hummingbirds, but none have made it up to our balcony yet.  It has grown amazingly in a City Picker planter, though.  The first picture (below) is right after planting in May.  Now, in early July it has grown to 18” tall with 15 to 20 flower spikes, each spike having many cheerful red trumpet-shaped flowers.

The Start Pickin’ Self-Watering Planter

If you have a truly small gardening space, the Start Pickin’ planter box might work for you. It is 10” wide and 20” long, and 10” deep. It is made by Emsco, and the part number is 2375.  The price seems to range from $20-$35, depending on sales.

It is a self-watering planter, with an internal screen that separates the soil from a gallon water reservoir below it.  You water the plants by pouring water through a black plastic tube that connects to the water reservoir.

The directions say you will need to add 0.75 cubic feet of potting mix, dolomite, fertilizer, water, and seeds or seedlings – none of that is included.  We’ve have a tutorial on how to prepare soil for similar planter boxes.

The Start Pickin’ planter does not have wheels attached.  Other, bigger, self-watering planter boxes – like the City Picker box or Earthbox - do have wheels.  I do miss having wheels on my Start Pickin’ box, but it’s small size makes it relatively easy to move.

When we purchased our Start Pickin’ planter, the description said that it came with an included mulch cover.  A mulch cover is mean to lie on top of the soil and keep water from evaporating so quickly.  We did not receive a mulch cover in our package, but our plants have been growing fine without one.

The directions say you can grow tomato, pepper, eggplant in the Start Pickin’ planter, in areas that get at last 8 hours of sun each day.  You can grow lettuce, spinach, or arugula in partially shaded areas.  We are using our Start Pickin’ box to grow a strawberry plant and some flowers this year on a sunny balcony.