CityDiggity

A green space for urban gardeners

Archive for May, 2009

Mother of all cleanup days: time for dirty job that has to be done

You can only put off cleanup day in the garden for so long before it has to be done.

You can only put off garden cleanup for so long before the day of reckoning arrives.

Those of you in warmer climes probably spent Mother’s Day Sunday winding down colorful garden paths and smelling the early roses, while here on Planet Chicago I tackled the dirty job of cleaning up the debris from last year’s garden.

I promise the garden duck and bird will stand upright when cleanup is done.

I promise the wooden duck and bird will stand proud again.

I know, many people choose to pull out the old plants in late fall, but for me it’s a pretty sad process at that time, since there always are a few flowers struggling to live on — if but for scant days more. I just can’t bear to deprive them of their extended moment of defiance. Cleaning up now, when I know the best Read the rest of this entry »

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Color my world… with lavender – it’s a real ‘scent’-sation, too

Lavender has so many uses, not to mention it smells wonderful.

A new lavender plant, in a well-weathered pot, is set to move out to my balcony for summer.

Lavender. If its loveliness isn’t enough to justify its existence, just wait for a gentle breeze and inhale: the aromatic herb’s knockout fragrance will doubtless seal the deal.

I have a friend who’s been a longtime lavender booster, and about four years ago I joined the fan club. And, as we’ve been discussing using herbs in the kitchen, let me say — modestly of course — that my lavender cookies have become legend.

Lavender can be used in many other baked goods, too. And, I also use powdered sugar flavored with Read the rest of this entry »

My friend was in the South of France, and all I got was this bloomin’ photograph

Well, actually, I got several photos of happy herbs with a view of the Mediterranean.

Well, actually, I got several photos of happy herbs with a view of the Mediterranean.

My friend Maureen called me last week from an aerie in the South of France, describing how much I’d appreciate the fact that a balcony, adorned with herbs, wrapped around the length of the place — which, by-the-way, looked out on the Mediterranean. And, of course, the weather was lovely. The photos she took bear witness to these facts.

So here I sit, staring out on a Chicago morning and longing for the Cote D’Azur… And the day when the herbs on my balcony will rival the ones sunning themselves within the friendly confines of this post. Usually, I wait and sow my herb seeds directly into their pots outside when the weather is right. But, a week or so ago I planted a few of them inside using peat pellets and the mini-greenhouse system — just to get a jump on things.

A picture-perfect stuccoed wall at the flat in Villefranche sur Mer.

A picturesque stucco wall flanks the wrap- around balcony at the Villefranche sur Mer flat.

Marjoram, thyme, oregano, sage and spearmint got the advance treatment, while I’ll probably toss my basil seeds directly into their clay pots this week and perch them on a windowsill to sprout. I Read the rest of this entry »

The long and short of it: stagger heights for lush containers

The sweet potato vine is a nice trailing plant for containers.

The sweet potato vine with its big heart-shaped leaves is a nice trailing plant for containers.

You must remember this: the rules of an in-ground garden don’t necessarily apply to your containers. One of the things I’ve learned from studying O.P.P. (Other People’s Planters) is that you really need to pack the plants in somewhat densely to achieve maximum effect.

When I set out my very first flower planter on my balcony some years back I had approximately six small cell packs of marigold spaced over the length of a 36-inch planter.

That’s fine if you’re cultivating a garden in your backyard of perennials and plants that will return Read the rest of this entry »