Scribbles in the Sand

All About My Life in Taiwan


Baby Plants!

Day 3 of gardening and it’s already bloody exciting people.

I advise anyone with a balcony or windowsill to go get some vegetables and start growing, because the sheer joy you get when you see your little babies pop out of the soil is just incredible.

On the packets I got the seeds in, the germination time for both the cucumber and Bai Cai (白菜) were 3 – 5 days. With cucumbers having a lower success rate of 35%. Naturally, I was a bit apprehensive as to whether the cucumbers would pop out at all. But to my delight the cucumbers have come out! All three of them!

For the veteran gardeners that are reading this you probably think I’m mad. But I was so happy I did a victory dance on the balcony and shouted “MY CUCUMBERS HAVE GERMINATED” at passers-by below. Okay, so I didn’t shout at the people below, but I totally did a victory dance.

It’s so exciting. Imagine what I’m going to be like when leaves come along! My Bai Cais are also coming up, although they are really really small at the moment.



Veggies aside. I sorted the rose plant and gave it some new soil. I carefully dug it up and found that the soil it had been living in was just dense, soggy clay like soil. So I replaced it with the ‘fancy’ soil I’ve bought and hopefully it will allow the plant to breathe a little. I chopped off all the mouldy bits and just left a couple of leaves and hopefully a flower that will bud soon. So we will see if I can rescue the plant.


The mini-orange tree…well this will be a bit of a larger project for me. As you can see, its looking pretty dead. As its got no leaves so I’m not sure how easy it will be to revive it. I’ve been advised to just take the whole thing out, chop off all the rotten roots and then pop it in the new soil. But I guess thats a project for this weekend.


I also got some mint plants from my mum’s old garden and popped them in a cool recycled bottle pot.I bet you are wondering how that is not rolling off the windowsill. The answer is chopsticks. I stuck to chopsticks to the bottom as stabilisers. They are so handy. I’m not sure if you noticed but I’ve also used chop sticks to prop up my rose plant. All recycled chopsticks.


The mint plants are looking a bit sad I know. My fault. I pulled them out them left them for a few hours before planting them so they went a bit soft, but I’m sure (well, I hope) they will look energised in no time.

Unfortunately, the gardening book that I bought in the end was written in central Japan. While informative, the seasons are all off. So this lead me to do some research into planting veggies in taiwan. I found this fantastic website which uses the key dates of the Taiwanese farmers calendar (lunar calendar) and tells you what to plant when, depending on where you live in taiwan.

Researching planting times have given me a new appreciation of the lunar calendar. The lunar calendar is divided into 24 solar divisions distinguished by the four seasons and times of heat and cold, all bearing close relationships to the yearly cycle of agricultural work. This month (May in the LC) there has been 芒種 (Mang Zhong) and 夏至 (Xia Zhi). The first character of Mang Zhong is the same character as Mango, the second character is planting. So I have always assumed it had something to do with planting Mangos. HA. How wrong was I. 芒種 (Mang Zhong) prompts the farmers to harvest their wheat and start planting rice. Cool huh. The calendar is full of useful farming tips. Im glad that I have got to learn a little more of my own history as well as figure out what I’m planting when. So I’ll be planting tomatoes and chill in August. Fun!

Anyway…… wish me luck and please pass on any good gardening tips 🙂



My Own Balcony Garden

Saturday 23rd June 2012

I started my balcony garden today. Very exciting.

I have been meaning to start a balcony garden for ages. But I guess its just one of those things you forget about. Like exercising…ha…just kidding Gwil (I’m going to get into trouble for saying that).

We went to the new mall the other day (Yes, Penghu now has a new shopping mall, it rubbish, but at least we have one) and there was a book sale on. I stumbled across “Vegetable Gardening in Plastic Bottles”, which sounds bloody dull, but trust me it looks wicked! The author shows you how to recycle your everyday rubbish, craft it into funky multi-storey plant pots. Its a Japanese book. Its cool. Trust me. However, after much torment might I add (it was £1.50 over my budget), I decided to go for “79 Vegetables suitable for your balcony”. Why I hear you screaming. Why not the cool Japanese plastic bottle gardening book. Well. Sure, it showed you a load of cool ways to put together plastic bottles, but as a beginner I felt that I needed something that taught me more about the veggies and how to grow them.

Having had a browse of the book last night, I set off today to buy some seed and some soil. Today I sowed some cucumber seeds and pok choi seeds. Following the ‘zenhabits’ spirit, I have started small and picked easy vegetables to start with. According to my new book, Pok Chois are the best thing to start out with as they germinate within 3-5 days and you can harvests in 25-30. Pretty cool!

I really hope it works. If my little baby Pok Chois pop out in the next week I will be over the moon. Please germinate!

However, not all is well in my balcony garden at the moment. I was given some roses by a student and I am ashamed to say that I haven’t been looking after them. I gave the pot a proper look this afternoon and the plant seems to have a white (I know this will sound crazy but) shellfish like inflection. Some of the leaves have also gone black. Sounds awful right! How did I let it get like this?! I haven’t uncovered the mysterious white shellfish infection. But after some googling and Taiwanese Yahooing, I discovered the the ‘black spot’ is quite a common problem with roses (coming to think of it, are they definitely roses? Who knows! I guess I’ll have to try and find out). So as well as looking after Pok Choi and cucumbers, saving the roses will be my new mission. (The mini orange plant is also looking a bit unhealthy but shhhhhh…don’t tell anyone…one at a time).

While filling my new plant pot with soil today, Dexter was having a great time digging up all the soil I had just put it. I let him play dig it all up and roll around in the dirt. Bless him. He’s just a toddler having some fun! But now that the seeds are sowed he is going nowhere near my veggies.

So fingers crossed. Hopefully my PC will grow to be yummy additions to my noodle soups!

Grow babies. Grow!

I’ll update with picture when they sprout. Otherwise its a bit dull just looking at soil.

P.S. While at the gardening shop, I also bought to lovely looking plants. See below: The mini coconut tree and the golden green plant (I’m translating here but I also can’t really remember the names of the plants.)

P.P.S. I really hope Gardening is not something I just pick up then give up, but a lifelong hobby.