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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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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 »

Picking flowers, part 1: decisions, decisions, decisions

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Mixing heights adds dimension.

When I started my first balcony garden several seasons back I admit there was very little method to my madness. I raided the local nursery, home improvement store, grocery store — pretty much any sidewalk that boasted eye-catching plants for sale.

And though I’m still not completely invulnerable to impulse purchases, I am a little more deliberate in my selections. I typically choose a color scheme to work from ahead of time; most of what I pick are annuals (perennials generally don’t flower in the first season and they don’t usually survive Chicago’s Read the rest of this entry »