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People who maintain a garden on their balcony are especially happy to grow fruit vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, or squash. A discussion about my balkony garden. We talk about pant care, pruning/pinching off shoots, fertilizing, and protecting your plants with natural pest antagonists.
I finally have a balcony where I can grow herbs and vegetables. Getting started, experimenting, making mistakes, that was my plan. At the end of June, my co-worker Claudia came to visit my balcony garden. She also works at the Bingenheimer Saatgut AG, where we sell organic seeds of non-hybrid varieties.
Fewer plants per pot in the balcony garden
Claudia noticed immediately that I, like many growers, planted everything very tightly in my balcony garden. Obviously, you try to get as much as possible into a small area. But if the plants are too close to one another, they cannot develop into their full glory. Furthermore, fungi can spread more quickly if the plants are not well ventilated on account of their density.
Claudio also indicated that the amount of earth I had put in the containers for my eggplant, tomatoes, cucumbers and squash was insufficient. For my balcony garden, my idea was to use copious amounts of liquid fertilizer to make up for my limited amount of substrate. We’ll see if I manage to get a good harvest nonetheless.
For eggplant – pinch off side shoots
We first took a look at my eggplant. One of my two plants was already showing fruit development, and there were several flowers on the bushy offshoots. What was new to me was that eggplant also should be pinched off. We took to this task immediately and broke off the side shoots. The side shoots would have hampered the supply of nutrients to the main stem as well as fruit development.
Here and there, you can also leave an offshoot on an eggplant. Growers should take a close look at the plant and decide how many offshoots to keep, based on the strength of the main stem. If the plant shows vigorous growth, you can grow the plant with two shoots, even in the balcony garden.
Fight harmful pests with beneficial insects
At the beginning of the year, I had several problem with aphids (plant lice) in my balcony garden. Claudia reported that eggplant, in general, is highly susceptible to pests. But when taking a closer look at my eggplant, we also noticed several beneficial insects.
On the leaves of my eggplant were small brown balls that Claudia identified as aphid eggs parasitized by parasitic wasps. Various parasitic wasps target specific types of plant lice. They pierce the aphid and lay their eggs inside it. The larvae develop in the aphid, killing it. The wasps ultimately hatch, and you can see the hole from which they hatched on the dead, brown-colored aphid. The parasitic wasps thus hold the aphid population in check.
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Fuzzy-white ladybug larvae
We also discovered a white, fuzzy ladybug larva on the eggplant. The red-and-black or orange-colored ladybug larvae are more common, but there are various ladybugs that have different-looking larvae.
In order to successfully grow fruit vegetables in a balcony garden, using supplemental fertilizer is required. Claudia recommends choosing a fertilizer specifically designed for fruit vegetables.
Male and female flowers with squash and cucumber
In terms of leaf material, the squash and cucumber showed a lot of development by the end of June. A few flower buds were also showing. Plants in the gourd family (Cucurbitaceae/cucurbits) have separate male and female flowers. At first, predominantly male flowers appeared. Female flowers have a thicker flower stalk than male flowers. Additionally, male flowers are often located in the axis of leaves and female flowers on the side shoots. Squash and pumpkins also develop their fruit on the side shoots. Therefore, as a rule of thumb, the balcony grower should not pinch off the side shoots of these plants.
Preference for lots of water and high humidity
Cucurbits come from tropical regions. They prefer high humidity and require a lot of water. Since the climate on a balcony is often dry, growers will do their plants a lot of good by spraying them with water.
On the tomato plants, we noticed that the first fruit sets had very differing fruit stalks. Since the weather was cool and wet at the time of flowering, we assumed simply that fertilization was somewhat delayed. If flowers develop fruits at the end of the cluster very late, they often do not mature correctly and it is better to remove them early on to leave more nutrients for the first fruits.
Fertilize tomatoes sufficiently
Especially with tomatoes, the balcony grower should not forget to provide supplemental liquid fertilizer. The development of fruit requires a lot of nutrients that, in general, are not sufficiently available in the soil of the small pot unless supplemental fertilizer has been added. A bountiful harvest from the balcony garden thus generally requires supplemental fertilizing.