Basil in The Balcony

Simply put, now Basil is my favorite herb plant. The plant has a nice and distinct smell, it is easy to grow, easy to maintain and very versatile for any dish. Especially Italian dish – because I like cooking it, I add basil to pizza and pasta, yummy! It is not too easy to find fresh basil leaves in any supermarket in Jakarta, so if you use basil a lot, the best way to have continuous supply of it is to grow it ourselves.

The key of growing basil is good seed, enough sunshine, enough water and don’t forget to prune it.

I got the seed from “starter plant pack” sold in ACE Hardware store. At first I tried to grow them in the starter media – but no luck. The seeds grow but then they did not grow further. Then I tried to move them to regular dirt media, and it works! The plant grows bigger and produces a lot of leaves, even start to flower. If you grow basil for their leaves, as soon as it grows flower you have to cut it. This is an effective method, since there will be new branches in the place where you cut the flower stem. New branches means new leaves! But since I want to keep more basil seeds for growing more basil plants, I let it flowering. And I love the flowers! they are white and smell good.

So far, basil is the only herbs that I grow successfully here in Jakarta. I tried rosemary and mint before, but I failed with them.

So, do you want to have your own basil plant? contact me if you need the seeds to start because now I have plenty!

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Gardening: “Blossom Drop” and “Lack of Pollination” of Chili Plant

(Title in Bahasa Indonesia: Berkebun: “Bunga Gugur” dan “Kurangnya Penyerbukan” dari Tanaman Cabai)

Last August I moved to a slightly bigger flat which has a super tiny balcony. The balcony is literally only one meter square, and the top part (right side) was quickly filled-up after installation of 2 Air Conditioning (AC) outdoor. However the bottom part is still available, so I can use it to do my other interest: gardening.

I bought a lot of small containers for planting, but my priority is to plant something that I can eat, because I love cooking too. I think it must be cool to eat something that I grow by myself. And my bigger ambition is to have a continuous supply of food without a worry that it will be rotten in my fridge, because it was happen to me all the time! I bought vegetables or spices in standard package in supermarket and they are rotten quicker than my consumption speed. Because let’s face it, between my works, Italian course, going-out and other personal projects, it is quite difficult for me to find time to cook.

So, when I decided to start my balcony garden, chili is number one in my list for one simple reason: I like spicy food and I use it in almost my entire dish. I used the seeds from chili I bought from supermarket and planted them in the container. I planted 3 varieties of chili and I was very happy because they grew quickly and in about 2 months they started flowering, a lot of flowers! I quickly imagined that soon I will cross chili from my shopping list.

But the reality was not that beautiful. Soon after the flowers were blossom, they started to drop to the ground (picture below). All of them, none turned into chili fruit. As I have no gardening experience, I tried to find-out what was happening to my chili plants. Then I found out that the phenomenon called “blossom drop” and it can be caused by several factor.

blossom drop

The first article that I found mentioned it caused by deficiency of kalium, so I started to dose the plant with fertilizer, but nothing change after a week. Another article mentioned about unbalance composition of the planting media, it said that too much compost caused the “blossom drop”. Then I re-pot the plants at bigger container with more dirt and less compost. They were alive, getting bigger and continue flowering, but still no chili fruit!!.

I was almost frustrated, when I found other article which mentioned about “lack of pollination”. Basically the article said that chili is supposed to “self-pollinate” but because of lack of wind or small bugs to help the pollination, it did not happen and the un-pollinated flowers will die. The article also mentioned that it is very common to happen in balcony plants because they are protected from wind and non-existence of small bugs, especially in balconies of high rise building. I suddenly thought that this article is the most make sense of all, because it was similar to my situation. So I continued to read up to solution section in the article. There it said that to overcome this problem we should help the pollination process, either by shaking the plant or pinching the flower several times a day. And I was like – WHAT?! Who has time to do that?!! It will be easier for me to just forget it about growing my own chili than spending time to shake it several times a day!!

So, I did a little bit improvisation, I raised the plant containers and tied them in my balcony fence using super strong wire to secure them from falling down.  In this new position, they should be more exposed  to wind. And I expected the wind to do all the shaking for me, because that’s what it does!!

And.. Ta-daaa.. 2 weeks later, the “blossom drop” stopped and the chili fruit started to appear. I could not express how happy I was when I saw those chilis that soon I will eat!!

my chili plant

Happy Gardening!!