CityDiggity

A green space for urban gardeners

Archive for Heirloom tomatoes

Care and maintenance of plants in the urban container garden

The dead blooms on this geranium need to be removed for aesthetics and to promote new flower production. (Click on image to enlarge.)

The dead blooms on this geranium need to be removed for aesthetics and to promote new flower production. (Click on image to enlarge.)

I remove the flowers that form on herbs like this Thai basil periodically.

I remove the flowers that form on herbs like this Thai basil periodically.

In some respects, we urban container gardeners have it easier than those of you with lush, never-ending yard gardens.

For example, there are no raccoons, squirrels or deer nibbling away at the plants of my 10th-floor Chicago balcony garden. And I never have the wits scared out of me by slithering soft-bodied invertebrates or slippery gastropods.

Weeds? Unless delivered by way of a seed dropped as one of our feathered friends buzzes overhead, weeds just don’t exist in my world.

But, in order to keep our small verdant spaces looking pristine throughout a long summer, even container gardeners have to suffer through deadheading and other routine upkeep necessary Read the rest of this entry »

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It’s deja vu: plants have to be hauled inside – one last time

DSC00640DSC00631DSC00636If you’ve been following my posts, you’ve read about how work on the exterior of my building has been interfering with my balcony garden. I had to move all the plants — herbs, flowers, heirloom tomatoes — inside for nearly two weeks! And once they were back outside there was still the issue of mortar dust blowing about.

Well, the dust has finally settled, but instead of being able to kick back and relax in the garden I had to move the plants inside — all over again! This time it was because our association mandated painting of the balcony railings and washing and sealing of the wooden deck flooring.

So, I was up at 7 on Tuesday morning hauling three 36-inch boxes of flowering and trailing plants, two 36-inch boxes of herbs and edibles, Read the rest of this entry »

Tomato rites of passage: hoops and hoopla as first fruit emerge

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DSC00565The proudest moment for an heirloom tomato parent arrived in recent days with much pomp and circumstance: my plants had graduated to the point where it was time for the ceremonial “presentation of the hoops.”

Hoops being those wire support systems that, when inverted, look like the framework beneath all those crinoline skirts of a century ago.

I’ve learned the hard way that if you wait too long to slip them over the tender stems of your tomatoes you can damage the plants trying to squeeze them in later.

If you haven’t been following the evolution of my Read the rest of this entry »

Progress report: Hey, there’s actual progress to report!

DSC00467DSC00466DSC00471The 4th of July was the kind of day every garden needs — to my mind, at least once a week or so. It rained all day, not a hard, raucous rain, but a soft and gentle one. A rain that caressed the plants — from leaf to root — encouraging them to new heights.

And, of course, it gave the weary container gardener a day’s reprieve from having to hoist the watering vessel.

By Sunday morning the rain was a misty memory, and by the afternoon I was able to get out on the balcony and take advantage of the last day of the three-day hiatus from workers doing their best Spider-man impressions on the south face of our building.

I surveyed the planters and pots and took stock of what needed to be done to fill in the thin spots. I think I’ve mentioned before that I had extra plants in a flat that I held on to in case I needed to replace Read the rest of this entry »

Plants – and temperatures – go from one extreme to another

DSC00437Downtown Chicago’s weather went from zero to 60 seemingly overnight. Or, more accurately, from 60 to 90 — degrees that is. A great time to get my plants back outside, right?

Not necessarily… While sun and heat would appear to be the perfect prescription for perking up plants that had been sentenced to home confinement for days on end, it proved too much of a good thing for some. Here’s a recap:

On the upside, despite their time indoors (after work to the facade of my building forced me to clear my balcony garden), my flowering plants boxes still looked pretty good. [The lobelia pictured is a prime example.]

But, my herb/edibles planters were a different story. The marigold foliage had gone from bright 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 »

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 »