CityDiggity

A green space for urban gardeners

Archive for the beginning

A sweet, potato project: Lazy, drizzly day perfect for vine time

Sweet potato vine is a staple in my garden.

Sweet potato vine is a staple in my garden; I've already picked up two for my planter boxes.

‘One potato, two potato …’ I was thinking of the children’s rhyme today when I compared two sweet potatoes that had been languishing in my larder since Easter.

One looked much like it did when I bought it, while the other had several sprouts jutting from it — purple sprouts. And, what’s more, a closer examination revealed what looked to be tiny purple leaves extending, in turn, from them.

Dig the tiny purple leaves

Tiny purple leaves jut from the sprouts of my sweet potato.

The garden is great for awakening a sense of wonder. Even if it’s a long time coming. I’ve used sweet potato vine in my planters for several years now, but only recently started to ponder their relationship to, duh, sweet potatoes.

A little online research gave instructions on how Read the rest of this entry »

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Inside out: go with a seamless flow from interior to garden

Wrought iron chair adds whimsy.

A wrought iron chair used to add elevation and whimsy plays off similar interior elements.

Today was magnificent! Sunny, 80 degrees, with the softest of breezes playing across my balcony. Gone was the icy chill that has been hidden in the winds of recent days.

Chimes for feng shui

Chimes for feng shui

Sprouts, small plants, and my tabby sunned themselves outside, and as if on cue, I got an email from Burpee saying that the remainder of my plant order was being shipped and would arrive in two days. The danger of frost has past. At last.

With tonight’s low temperature forecast at a nice 60 degrees, I think that for the first time, I’ll leave things out for the duration. Except for the cat, of course. I’ve begun to envision being able to finally sit  Read the rest of this entry »

Make no small plans: use time inside to enhance time outside

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Lantana is one of the ready and waiting small plants I've bought to go in my balcony boxes.

My sprouts and plants are lined up like soldiers next to the balcony sliders, my cat has taken to staring wistfully through the glass while making his little bird sounds, and the empty terra cotta pots outside are stacked and waiting to fulfill their destiny. But Zone Five summers won’t be rushed, despite the impatient champing at the bit to shift into full garden mode.

Birds shouldn't get to have all the outdoor fun

When the bird sounds start, summer is on the way.

With the sunshine battling the chilly air and bouts of icy rain for dominance, we won’t get the green thumbs up until total victory over the fluctuating elements is claimed in this seasonal smackdown.

Of course, when you don’t have California weather, a good portion of your garden work is spent California dreaming — better known here as Read the rest of this entry »

Lights, climbers, action: building a twinkling, virtual garden wall

Net lights hung around the railing of the balcony make for a magical ambience.

Net lights hung around the railing of my city balcony make for nighttime ambiance.

Every summer the City of Chicago puts on a festival called Venetian Night, in which a host of boats tricked out in sparkling lights drift past the city’s shoreline. Did I mention — for those who have never visited Chicago — that the beach here is ACTUALLY DOWNTOWN? What more could an urban dweller ask for?

Technically, it’s lakefront, not beachfront. But, it’s a Great Lake, so it has the aspect of a beach, without the salt water. Anyway, the magical effect of those twinkling lights is what I try to evoke on my 5×12-foot balcony.

I make my brand of magic by attaching a length of Read the rest of this entry »

The color of water and other splashy container gardening secrets revealed

A little water is a wonderful thing. But don't depend on raindrops alone.

A little water is a wonderful thing. But don't depend on raindrops alone to nourish plants.

Armchair sleuth that I am, I jumped at the chance to gather intel when I saw a crew making its way down one of our city streets attending to the splendid hanging baskets Chicago adorns its lamp posts with during summer.

As the magic wand was extended over the baskets I made a discovery that changed the way I would maintain my container plants in the years to come: the water he used … it was, well, BLUE! Maybe that was the secret to success.

From that point forward every other watering lavished on my plants had just the slightest tinge Read the rest of this entry »

It’s showtime: pellets and seeds today, tomatoes tomorrow

Peat pellets expand in minutes, so it's not quite like watching paint dry. (See slideshow below.)

Peat pellets expand in minutes, so it's not quite like watching paint dry. (See slideshow below.)

They don’t look like much right now, but the small peat purses I’ve tucked safely away in a mini-greenhouse will, with a few seeds and a little luck, produce a bounty of heirloom tomatoes by mid-summer.

I finally chose four seed varieties to join my two stars (black plum and sun-sugar hybrid) in this year’s garden. Yes, I know I said I was only planting four or five heirlooms total, but I was so intrigued by my options that I decided to try and squeeze in an extra pot. So, drum roll please . . . 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 »