Tag Archives: balcony garden

Summer 2020 – not all bad news

Kiddy Pool

Yes, it’s a crappy summer, but let’s try to ignore all of the bad news and focus on the positives for a few minutes.

Picnic in the Park

We went camping for 4 nights in the Okanagan and we’ve had lots of opportunities to enjoy small picnics in the park with friends and family in Vancouver.

Bike Rider

Astrid is learning to bike and picking it up remarkably quickly. The balance bike definitely made learning to ride a real peddle bike easier. Based on some great advice from neighbours, we skipped training wheels and just used a scarf around her armpits to give her some extra support. But now she’s zooming along with only a little help starting and stopping. Pretty soon I’ll be going for runs with her biking next to me.

Measuring Woodworking Helper

We’ve greened our balconies with herbs, flowers, and vegetables in pots. We started too late for a big garden this year, but we constructed two large planter boxes for next summer following this design.

Storytime

Astrid loved her time at the Ponderosa, but she’s been very excited to see other kids again. She spends most of her free time at home playing in the courtyard with the neighbours or begging to play in the courtyard with her neighbours. The adults are good at keeping a distance, but the kids have no such restrictions on them. With all the real kids to play with, Astrid’s imaginary friend Mayka now spends most of her time in Mexico.

Drumming

Each night at 7pm, our neighbours gather for drumming in support of healthcare workers. Astrid loves it. And it’s great to see all the kids singing and drumming along, lead by a retired nurse who lives next door. Astrid is a constant fixture at Aline’s side banging her wooden spoon and plastic pail.

Daddy Day

Astrid has been happy to see her daycare friends again, but it took a few weeks to get used to being away from us. I had one drop-off in her second week when she just cried and cried. Instead of trying to force her to stay (she probably would have calmed down eventually), we had a special Daddy-Astrid day. Luckily I wasn’t too busy at work, so we went to a park, rode her peddle bike for the first time, and had a picnic lunch.

New Brighton Pool

Summer finally arrived a week ago. We’ve been beating the heat with lots of lemonade and popsicles. Last weekend we booked a “pod” at one of Vancouver’s outdoor swimming pools – New Brighton. I was hoping for something more futuristic but our pod was just a painted square on the concrete pool deck. Still, it was a very kid-friendly pool and it wasn’t too crowded.

Kiddy Pool

We also bought an inflatable pool for our balcony. It’s tiny but Astrid still loves splashing around in it.

Farmers Market Bounty

We’ve been visiting the nearby Trout Lake Farmers Market on most Saturdays. COVID rules mean you usually have to line up for 30 minutes to get in, but it’s great getting fresh local produce. We’ve been eating as many berries as we can get our hands on – buying flats of blueberries, raspberry, and strawberries. Astrid and I even picked some blackberries we found along the trail when we went for a run last weekend.

Trout Lake

I hope everyone is finding ways to stay cool and safe this summer.

More pictures from June and July.

Successful Gardener, Failed Beekeeper

Balcony Garden

Now that we have a huge south-facing balcony, we thought it was time to expand our garden. Last year we grew peas, jalapenos, and herbs with limited success. This year we have 3 heirloom tomato plants, hot peppers, green peppers, pole beans, broccoli, lettuce, spinach, carrots, flowers, and a herb garden all planted on our balcony in pots and containers. There are also a few squash plants that are growing from seeds left in the compost that I don’t have the heart to pull out. So far, the plants are all looking green and healthy. The balcony has a large overhang, so the plants don’t get as much direct sunshine as I would like, but the balcony railing has glass which is protecting them from the wind.

Balcony Vegetables Flowering Green View

In addition to our balcony garden, we have a few other gardening experiments on the go. Inside the apartment we have a flowers planted in a Wally modular living wall system that we received as a house warming gift. We also have a hydroponic system with mint that I won in a silent auction. It’s made from a large recycled glass carboy that’s been cut in half and inserted into itself (they had smaller ones made from wine bottles that would be easy to make). I’m thinking of getting some fish to live in the bottom half.

Wally the Indoor Green Wall Hydroponics

The only gardening experiment that is failing is our urban bee keeping. When we won the farmer’s market raffle in March, we won mason bees from Balcony Bees. When I went to pick them up, I got suckered in to buying a home for them too, hoping to convince the bees to live on our balcony. The bees are mason bees that don’t produce honey, but pollinate flowers and are very docile.

The bees came in a box wrapped in toilet paper in a ziploc bag with ice in it. I was told to put them in the fridge until the beginning of April, when they would start emerging. Since we moved on April 22, we waited until then to let our bees out. We were a bit worried they would wake up in the fridge or die of hunger, but considering how cold the spring was it might have been better to wait even longer to let them out. A day after we put them on the balcony, I checked in the box to see how they were doing and one bee was emerging from his cocoon. Within the next 2 days, a bunch of the bees emerged (the males) and flew off. A week later the females emerged. None of them stuck around.

Bees in their Cocoons A Bee Emerges

We received a second bee house (this one is made by Bee Diverse) for our housewarming and have been hoping that some mason bees would take up residence in one our two homes, but none have. I’m not sure what we did wrong. From what I’ve read, mason bees need a lot of warm sun. When they emerged from their cocoons it was still cold and their house wasn’t facing east and didn’t get direct sunshine, so maybe that was the cause. I’m still hoping that some bees will relocate into our homes, but if we don’t get any this year I’m going to get more cocoons next year and see if I can’t convince some bees to stick around.

Bee House Bee Homes

We don’t have the outdoor space the Hirtle’s have for their garden, but it’s amazing what you can grow in an apartment with some pots, containers, and hydroponic systems. The real test will be later in the summer when our plants start producing food we can eat. Between our garden, the Fresh Roots Urban CSA we joined, and our weekly trips to the farmer’s markets, we’re going to be eating lots of fresh vegetables this summer.