CityDiggity

A green space for urban gardeners

Archive for Other edibles

This and that: plant finds, artful secateurs, project updates

DSC00325DSC00339DSC00309There will come a point this summer when the phenomenon of “cooler by the lake” will provide a welcomed reprieve. But for now, when downtown Chicago can’t seem to string together two 70-plus days in a row, it’s not of great comfort.

Meanwhile my sprouts are outside fending for themselves over the cool nights and variably cloudy days. All the rain of late has washed away some of their identifying labels, so figuring out what’s what is going to be a challenge.

Oh well, I never promised you a rose garden. However, I do have a progress report on the projects started inside — plus some new plants and a very chic garden tool — to share with you: Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Four dollars and a dream: is a windowsill lettuce crop possible?

I'm hoping that this lettuce will survive and thrive on my condo windowsill.

Here's hoping this leaf lettuce will survive and thrive on the windowsill of my Chicago condo.

We’ve talked about growing heirloom tomatoes as an entree into recession gardening, well, now dare we dream of cultivating a companion crop of lettuce, too?

I recently read somewhere in cyberspace that it was relatively easy to grow lettuce on your windowsill — and to keep it going! And while I always assumed lettuce required lots of space, who am I to argue with the Worldwide Web.

So today, when glancing at the plant offerings on flats outside my local grocery store I stopped and took notice of the lovely cell packs of lettuce and thought: I have an empty windowsill, so why not 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 »

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 »

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 »