A green space for urban gardeners

Lots of places where gardens could take root in cities


Blue wildflowers suggest there's a garden longing to bloom on this undeveloped site.

There’s a conspicuously vacant lot on my block.

Its original low-rise buildings were razed some time ago in anticipation of the coming of a condominium tower. But that work ground to a halt a few months back — perhaps another casualty of these tough economic times.

Despite the building boom of the last 10 years, it’s not the only undeveloped plot of land I spied while driving through my downtown neighborhood. There was even one that seemed to be spontaneously becoming a garden, with pretty blue flowers popping up on its perimeter.

I immediately switched into “what if” mode: What if while we waited for “sold” signs those lots could somehow be put to good use…

Of course, that’s probably the kind of what if-ing that led to community gardens, which a CNN report suggests are experiencing a boom of their own.

Not surprising, with even First Lady Michelle Obama working the land by planting produce at the White House that eventually will make its way to the President’s dinner table. And, those royals across the pond will be munching organic “veg” soon, too, courtesy of Queen Elizabeth’s palace garden.

This brings me to my own small efforts toward sustainability; sadly, they’ve suffered some setbacks… After several years of extremely successful black plum and sun-sugar hybrid heirloom tomatoes in my balcony container garden, I think my streak has ended.

The black plum looked healthy when I put the plants back outside a week or so ago, but got really fried by all that heat. I thought it would come back given a little TLC, but now I think it’s a lost cause.

The sun-sugar isn’t dead, but it only has one spindly leg going on, and I don’t have high hopes of getting many tomatoes from that.

Luckily for me, I planted six heirloom tomatoes this year, and the other four seem to be doing fine. They are Isis candy, Dr. Carolyn, Wild cherry and Rosalita — all small-fruited varieties.

Meanwhile, my yellow jalapeno seems to be struggling along, and I’ve planted new herb seeds to replace most of the ones that I lost to sunburn last week.

(I also planted seeds for a vegetable that I haven’t mentioned to you before. It seems to be doing OK, and I’ll tell you more about it in a future post.)

Have you had surprise flops in your garden this summer? Share it in a comment.


  Jo wrote @

What a shame about your tomato plants. At least you still have another four, and you should still get plenty of lovely juicy tomatoes off those.
I’m also growing mainly small fruited tomatoes this year. They’re so sweet, and the kids love them!

  City Diggity wrote @

Jo, Those two tomatoes are heretofore my favorites, too. Maybe I’ll find a new favorite among the others!

  Sandy wrote @

How much I wish I could grow tomatoes like you do. My balcony is too shady for me to grow any vegetables and fruits. Well, at least it allows me to grow some basil, rosemary, and some other herbs. So, I am happy 🙂

  City Diggity wrote @

Sandy, If there’s one herb that can keep a person happy it’s basil! And I’m sorry to hear about your baby cacti! I guess we’ve both learned that we can’t forget to harden the tender young plants.

  Megan wrote @

So sad your streak has been broken. At least this balcony event should be a one time thing and you can get back to it next year. Hope your remaining tomatoes make up for the ones you lost.
It would be good temporary use of land that’s awaiting construction, to use it for vegetables. I wonder if there’s any organization like that in your area. Around here we have a place called that has a mission of tearing up unused paved lots and replacing them with gardens, so groups like this seem to be popping up.

  City Diggity wrote @

Megan, Yes, this is an unusual summer with all the work. Hopefully it’ll be over soon and things will heat up for the remaining tomatoes. Cheers!

  Stephanie wrote @

Hi Avis, when the climate suddenly turns hot and sunny here, my plants will definitely be burnt too. I will prune off the dried leaves or stems as much as possible to make way for new growth. I am actually more surprised by those little snails. They can be monsters. They ate all my little shoots! Btw, regarding the agapathus blue lily, it may grow well here but has to be kept undershaded. Hmm…. if I see them in the nursery, I might consider getting one 😉 And, those blue wildflowers in the pix, they are pretty. Happy gardening!

  City Diggity wrote @

Stephanie, I’m sorry the snails give you so much trouble. One of the nice things about being this high up is that I’m not plagued by insects and bugs in the garden, except for Lady bugs and mosquitoes. Of course, the downside is that butterflies don’t come up here very often either. Cheers!

  michelle wrote @

Hi Avis. Thanks for visiting my blog & leaving a comment. My dearest grandmother’s name is Avis & I learned almost all I know about gardening from her, so I had to come on over and say hello. As for surprise flops, it would have to be my broccoli. I have had great success in the past, but this year I have managed to fry it under row cover & force it to bolt prematurely by planting the wrong kind at the wrong time. It remains to be seen if I will be dining on those lovely buds at all this year. Next year I will do it all perfectly, right? 🙂

  City Diggity wrote @

Michelle, Thanks for stopping in and give my regards to grandma Avis!

  Chicago Garden wrote @

Hi Avis,

Sorry to hear about your tomatoes. That empty lot is a garden already with many awesome plants and flowers to be found. I love empty lots like this because the plant diversity is so awesome, yes weeds are plants too.

If I’m not mistaken that blue flower is a Chicory. Google it, it is a pretty cool plant.

  City Diggity wrote @

CG, I think your identification is right on — looks like chicory. And I also love what nature crafts on its own — at roadsides and on vacant lots. Cheers!

  Chicago Garden wrote @


There is an on ramp on the south side I used to travel a lot on and there was a pink cultivar growing along the road and I always wanted to go collect it because I’ve only seen the blue variety growing near my house.

  City Diggity wrote @

Chicago Garden, It would be pretty in pink! I’ve seen so many pretty flowers going at roadsides and along ramps here in Chicago. I’m going to have to start traveling with my camera so I can try to snap shots. Cheers!

  Teresa~ Gardening with Soule wrote @

I thought it was chicory also. Very pretty periwinkle color. Funny how nature dresses up vacant areas with no one taking care of them and they look great.

  Miss Daisy wrote @

I think a community garden would be wonderful idea! That’s the one thing I loved about Austria when I lived there. No one had land, so they had lots of community gardens and I love that idea! It’s slowly spreading to the U.S. And YES I’ve had flops already this summer. I planted some Quakies and they aren’t taking. I think they had shock when planted. So so sad that they aren’t taking. Sniff-sniff.

  City Diggity wrote @

Miss Daisy,
I know what you mean. When I read all the tales of allotment gardens from UK bloggers I always wonder why we don’t have a similar system here. Perhaps with this new gardening boom that people seem to be embracing we’ll see more things happen along those lines. Sorry your quakies didn’t take. Are you sure they’re done for?

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