CityDiggity

A green space for urban gardeners

Archive for March, 2009

Remains of the day: spring ice can’t dash gardeners’ hope

Much to my cat's dismay, ice had even settled on top of the dead grass in his pot.

Much to my cat's dismay, ice had even settled on top of the dead grass in his pot.

After a couple of really pleasant days, the week ended with Saturday evening rain turning to late night snow. By the time I looked out on Sunday, random patches of ice remained on the wooden deck of my balcony. But am I down? Nope. This is typical of the gentle, back-and-forth teasing Chicago weather unleashes on its hopeful gardeners in spring. We enjoy the flirtation! And with flower seeds on the way (I ordered a total of 11 packets) I’m already blocking out the garden in my mind.

And speaking of seeds, if I haven’t made it clear, let me stress to those starting this gardening journey for the first time: I don’t recommend depending on seeds alone. Whether through Read the rest of this entry »

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One garden, four delights: color, fragrance, texture and taste

Yellow Nasturtium has edible leaves and flowers.

Yellow Nasturtium (against purple Morning Glory) has edible leaves and flowers.

Sensory overload. It’s one of a garden’s most enchanting promises. And, indeed, it’s what likely contributes to a garden’s universal appeal. The vibrant colors, the delicate fragrances, the varied textures and wonderful flavors all stimulate the senses. I try to reflect each of these aspects in my small outdoor space. Here’s how I’ll introduce them:

Color: My palette — which plays off my interior color scheme — consists of yellows, greens, blues and oranges. I’m using some selections that have performed well for me in the past as a base, and Read the rest of this entry »

Picking flowers, part 2: respect your space

A zip tie kept this black plum heirloom tomato secure.

I use zip ties to fasten the metal hoops of my black plum heirloom tomatoes to the railing.

“To thine own ‘exposure’ be true.” Not exactly Shakespeare, but if you follow these simple words when choosing your plants I guarantee you will achieve some level of success in your garden. That means if you have partial shade, don’t pick flowers that need full sun to thrive — no matter how pretty they look on the rack at the nursery.We can extend this concept to mean respecting the complete range of variables that impact your garden.

For instance, my unprotected balcony is in direct sun, which means things can grow pretty quickly but it also means that if I skip watering for even a Read the rest of this entry »

Picking flowers, part 1: decisions, decisions, decisions

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Mixing heights adds dimension.

When I started my first balcony garden several seasons back I admit there was very little method to my madness. I raided the local nursery, home improvement store, grocery store — pretty much any sidewalk that boasted eye-catching plants for sale.

And though I’m still not completely invulnerable to impulse purchases, I am a little more deliberate in my selections. I typically choose a color scheme to work from ahead of time; most of what I pick are annuals (perennials generally don’t flower in the first season and they don’t usually survive Chicago’s Read the rest of this entry »

Starter gardener: planting a seed

A past season's end game:

A past season's end game: A view of my balcony garden with city vista beyond.

It doesn’t take much more than a 63 degree March day in Chicago to turn the thoughts of urban gardeners like myself outward.

Well, 63 degrees is exactly what we gotrecently, and before I had the slider fully open my cat Melon scampered through his (self-made) cat door onto my condo balcony. (I vow to replace the torn screen in the days to come.)

His pot of grass from last year sits dead and brown, but still he nibbled on the dry blades and doubtless recalled the pleasures of our gardens past.For several summers now I’ve cultivated a small-space garden on my city balcony to provide a buffer from life’s stresses and  downtown’s pounding heartbeat — at least for a few brief months.

If you’re a beginner looking to create your own oasis in the city, or, if you’ve been at it for a while like I have, we’ll share our experiences and triumphs through this blog. I just wanted to plant the seed…

So let’s get the garden party started!