CityDiggity

A green space for urban gardeners

Archive for Herbs

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 »

Seeds of time: a couple of fast starters for slowpoke gardeners

Nasturtium seeds are large and they sprout quickly.

Nasturtium seeds sprout quickly, so they'll make up the time lost if you procrastinate.

Winter blew out of Chicago a few nights ago with thunderous exultation. And the rain rained down. The next day temperatures reached 80. Of course it’s cooled off a bit since, but there is the definite feeling that the worm has turned (yes, a pun for you in-ground gardeners).

Even Burpee is on board. Three of the plants I ordered from them arrived on the very day that temperatures soared. So, container gardeners start your engines… we’re just three short weeks or so away from the time when we can introduce our plants to the great outdoors.

If you haven’t started any seeds yet and are lamenting the fact that because you’ve procrastinated you’ll have to spend more money and buy all your plants from a nursery, fear not… Read the rest of this entry »

The good earth: last season’s soil may be right for reuse

Someone forgot to tell these sprouts that they shouldn't survive outdoors in containers over the Chicago winter.

Even though this soil has been subjected to the elements, healthy sprouts are popping up.

I love getting my hands dirty. In fact when I open those big bags of rich, fluffy potting soil mix I don’t even bother to wear gloves — despite my manicured fingernails. It is one of those joyful rituals that mark the start of what will hopefully be another rewarding season of container gardening.

But hold on, what about the soil left in the pots from last year? Isn’t it wasteful to just dump all that dirt? Is there any way to recycle it for this season’s planters? These are questions a curious city gardener posed to me recently. And Earth Day Read the rest of this entry »

Herbs bring on the freshness – and everyone has a favorite

I get a little crazy when it comes to basil, note the pot of the purple variety (top).

I get a little crazy when it comes to my basil (note the pot of the purple variety, top).

I once extended a hand in greeting when making an acquaintance, only to be rebuked by the suspect non sequitur, “Sorry, I have pickle juice on my hand.” Well, it turns out it wasn’t a case of closeted O.C.D., it was just that the gent in question was serious about his dill. He actually made his own pickles, and, indeed, had pickle juice on his hands!

And while I plant dill for use in salads, dips and, of course, to season salmon, I don’t quite share his level of affection for the herb. Basil, however, is Read the rest of this entry »