A little while back, I replaced all the balustrades around our home. During this renovation I made a mistake and cut the plank that was to be used as the fascia of the upstairs balcony, too short. It was treated pine suitable for outdoor use and it about 4500mm (approx. 15ft) long by 300mm (12″) wide and 50mm (2″) thick. It wasn’t a cheap piece of wood and to add insult to injury, I’d already painted it with about 4 coats of paint.
It really bugged me that it would be wasted.
Every time I saw the wasted plank it annoyed me. Another thing that was bugging me was my upstairs balcony. In short, it was a useless waste of space. The view from the balcony just looked into other people’s back yards and it was completely open to the elements which meant it was too hot in the summer and too cold and wet in the winter.
Our backyard is very small and the little vegetable garden beds that we have, needed to have their crops rotated so we didn’t build up too many pests. Trouble was that we only have two garden beds and I wanted to give the beds more than a year’s rest from any specific crop. This dilemma led to me using the wasted plank to make a planter box for the upstairs balcony.
From the plank I was able to make a planter that measured approximately 800mm (about 2’6″) x 1500mm (5′). I mounted the planter on 9 castors to make it easy to move. The castors came from a series of cheap office chairs that I’d been stupid enough to buy over the years.
Engogirl had been reading about a new theory (to me at least) of mixed crowded planting. Basically the book she was reading suggested that in nature plants take up whatever ground is available and natural growth is quite dense and varied in species. Apparently this crowded mixed planting helps to control pests that love monoculture crops. We decided to plant chillies, cherry tomatoes, basil (a good companion crop for tomatoes) and chives.
The upstairs balcony gets much more sun than the rest of the garden and it wasn’t very long before our efforts were paid of with lovely organic vegetables.
The planter has been so productive that we’ve jokingly named it, “the top paddock”. You’ll notice that we cover our tomatoes in brown paper bags to protect them from pests so we don’t have to use insecticides.
The tomato seeds we planted were called “Tommy Toes” and they are a heritage seed which means that they are an older strain of tomatoes from the 1800s. We chose heritage tomatoes because they are “indeterminate” which means they bear fruit over a period of four to six months instead of the fruit becoming ripe all at once (determinate) like many modern tomatoes that are bred for industrialised agriculture that needs a crop to ripen all at the same time so as to be more efficient and economical to pick.
As I mentioned before, one of the main reasons why we grow our own tomatoes is because of how low quality the tomatoes that are offered by the supermarket chains are. I’ve never had a good tomato from a supermarket yet! The supermarkets basically dictate to the growers that they want a tomato that looks good for longer and travels well, rather than tomatoes that taste good.
A pox on all their houses!
To try and ensure that we will have plenty of tomatoes, we gave a few packets of some other heritage tomato seeds to my wife’s parents to plant on the property of their holiday home out at Tallong. This has already paid off because a few days ago my father in law dropped by with a shopping bag full of tomatoes. Of course we couldn’t use them all straight away so I semi-dried them
and put them in mixture of olive oil, herbs, garlic and capers.
Once you’ve eaten your own home grown tomatoes, you’ll never go back to those hard and tasteless excuses for tomatoes that the supermarkets sell.
A pox on all their houses!