Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Balcony Garden: what's eating Gilbert Grape?

OK, I'm not growing grapes on my balcony (although maybe I should be)...but that doesn't mean that there aren't all sorts of bugs and fungi out there wrecking havoc on the residents of my little balcony garden. My other posts and constant Instagram updates might make it look like it's a picnic out there...but let me tell you it's a WAR!

Those darn caterpillars seem to LOVE anything green + leafy (which is basically EVERYTHING on my balcony).  They have been chomping away happily on my baby spinach. If they only stuck to one leaf I might be OK with sharing, but they seem to take a few bites out of EVERY SINGLE LEAF. And another thing, how are they even getting up to my 2nd floor balcony? I know how they get off the balcony though...I'll leave that to your imagination.

The caterpillars have also been dining out on my beans...which is not so bad considering that we're not going to be eating the bean leaves.

From above my mint plant looks REALLY healthy, but when I look closer all the leaves underneath are dead! Why. WHY? I'm thinking the pot I have them in might not be so great - it's shaped like an urn (kind of) so perhaps that is killing the bottom of the plant. I think replanting the mint at this stage might kill it altogether  - I don't know what to do (HELP)! Oh, and the caterpillars also love mint...little buggers.

Speaking of dead things, what is going on with my chives people? For awhile there the whole plant sort of died, and I cannot get rid of those little dead leaves without nearly uprooting the whole bush. Mr Chive has also started to flower. I've been told that the flowers are good in salads, but I'm leaving the flower there as I'm hoping to attract some bees to the 'hood...cos my zucchinis need bees to pollinate them (at the moment I'm using an old makeup brush to help pollinate the zucchini fruit (long story...but this little video explains that I'm NOT crazy)!

And speaking of zucchini it's not all beautiful flowers and budding fruit out there. A few of my plants seem to have a "situation" going on with their leaves. Twitter has told me that the white patches on my leaves is a "white fungus" that I can try and get rid off with a milk/water spray (yes really). Some other leaves have become really papery and thin...almost like they are being sunburnt. Perhaps they need some SPF15 out there?

My parsley also seems to be suffering from sunburn (and we've only had 5 hot days this spring). I am also thinking that perhaps the dead leaves are a sign that I am over watering this poor little guy.

I've saved the best til last I promise you!

A few days ago The Boy was admiring my new sage seedlings when he noticed a white powder on the dirt.  When I scrapped the dirt back I uncovered three 'clumps' of a hard creamy coloured substance that looked a bit like wax...except it also had some gold foil attached to it. At first we thought it was a fungus, but the gold foil was confusing. Maybe in the Eastern Suburbs their fungus comes with gold leaf but stuff like that just does not happen in Parramatta. I thought perhaps some really strong ants had carried up some left over Indian desserts from our downstairs neighbours but that seems improbable.


So people this is an interactive post...I need you help, ideas, suggestions. Hit me with it!


  1. OK. I'm not an expert, but:
    caterpillers - if it's caterpillers there will be piles of tiny tiny poos. Poos will be green!
    Mint/chives/parsley - as the rest of the plants look so healthy, I'd say it's a variable watering problem. Especially as they're in pots. Chances are they got too dry at one point, roots started to die off, then you watered them, and now either they're fine (but there's been some die back from the 'I'm too dry' phase) or they're now too waterlogged (roots die off, fewer roots to take up water, water pools, roots start to rot etc etc). Basically, I tried growing stuff in pots for 5 years when I was renting and it's really hard, dude! Keep trying. Mint looks especially happy now, stick it out.
    Courgettes - I don't kno, but I get this too so if you find out what it is please share the news!! Sage - this is fecking weird, dude. Fungus?? Fudge?? What does it smell of? Anything?

  2. Are you fertilizing? Using Seasol and Powerfeed helps with some of the fungus issues.

    To me it looks like over watering.

    Have you used a mushroom compost? It could be what's in the sage pot. It happened in a rose pot I grew.

    Oh and the chives are fine. That's what they do. They kinda die off and grow back, die off grow back etc. they will be fine.

    You could add poo to the pots to help also. I use chook pellets. So not stinky on a balcony garden.

    Hope that helps :)

  3. Take a sample of all your problems to Flower Power at Enfield...they'll identify it and tell you what to do..

  4. I can totally relate - I've only just started growing three types of herbs but have already been having issues!

    The leaves at the bottom of my mint plant were looking dry and yellow and I figured out that this was due to a fungus that shows up as brown spots on the underside of the leaf. I plucked off the leaves with the fungus and started watering only the soil without getting water on the leaves and this seemed to fix the problem.

    My parsley is slowly going droopy and yellowing as well and I'm not sure if it's too much sun, too much water, too little water, or not enough fertiliser! I suspect I might have been overwatering it so I've given it some fertiliser and stopped watering it for now - we'll see how that turns out. I have no clue what to do with caterpillars but good luck with it all!

  5. Don't give up Miss Piggy...this gardening gig is all about trial and error. I think gardening in pots is even harder so good on you for getting stuck into it! The stuff in your sage is weird...could it be contamination/rubbish in your potting mix? I agree with Leah...using Season and or a little Powerfeed helps keep plant strong and better prepared to cope with bugs. But, you probably already knew that! Good luck!

  6. I wonder if the dryness is from water or something in the soil "burning" the leaves.like a fertilizer deficiency or too much of something..

  7. I am afraid I can't help with the gardening-I'm hopeless at it! I'm so impressed with what you've grown though!

  8. My basil is being eaten by some creature and it is driving me insane!
    I am still learning with gardening but am finding a seaweed based fertiliser (like seasol) works to make my plants somewhat resistant to pests...

  9. Wish I could help, but I can assure you that it isn't possums. I have given up on my garden of edibles due to them :(

  10. What a pain! Gardening is meant to be like having your own little paradise out the back, not being the plant doctor!

    I haven't much experience but more empathy - my parsley just wont take in the pot - my citrus trees have got sunburnt in very hot weather. Re flowers for bees - we have two citrus trees lemon and lime in pots and they produce quite a lot of flowers that attract bees. (we have also had rosemary and thyme flowers this year). Good luck!

  11. Use pyrethrum spray to keep those nasty catapillars at bay. It kills them off and it is organic and you can eat your food a day after spraying. You should be able to find it at bunnings in the pest control area. I use it to keep the catapillars off my tomaotes and flies off my lettuces.

    Most of the seedlings from bunnings take a little longer to settle in to a new garden. Just be patient and keep watering your herbs and they will come back. Use a pair of scissors to trim the dead leaves away from your chives.
    You may also want to get some geraniums, lavendar or marigolds to attract more bees too.

    Lastly the white stuff on the zucchini needs a mixture of soap and oil similar to what you have read. Another great way to avoid the problem is not to water the leaves. Just water the base of the plant and do it in the early mornings or afternoon so if any water does get on the leaves it does not get sunburnt.

    Hope this helps


Thanks for leaving your comment!

You Might Also Like:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Free Blog Template by June Lily