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If garden is a work in progress, then start by working with what’s already there

dillwild

Confession time. I didn’t clean up the wilted and battered relics of my balcony container garden at the end of last season before the soil froze over. I also have been slow to get this season’s garden up and running. I add a random plant here, sprinkle a few seeds there, sweep up one corner of my deck one day, bag up a broken pot the next.

As you can imagine it’s been slow going and frankly, it’s still a work in progress. But I suppose a garden always is, right? You’re constantly making changes and additions, and of course marveling at the surprise changes not of your own making.

PetuniareturnsOne of the advantages of procrastinating with my small, urban garden is that it gives some of the plants that have re-seeded on their own a chance to pop up and perhaps set the basis for the overall arrangement. I recognize the leaves of one of my standard bearers, petunias, at their very early stages so it was easy to begin work from there.

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Unearthing old seeds for a brand new garden

When I pull out my bag of stockpiled seeds it’s like hitting the reset button on the thrill of a new garden.

I get to pick through the wacky assorted packets I just couldn’t pass up when the grocery store decided to clear its shelves, the splurge purchases from the garden center that were never opened, previously opened envelopes that still have seeds left over, and, not least, the seeds I harvested from gardens past.

The first order of business is creating two stacks — one consisting of seeds for edibles, the other of seeds for flowers.

The edibles cache turned out wonderfully; I found seeds for herbs, lettuce and heirloom tomatoes. In fact, I had an embarrassment of riches and was able to choose from multiple tomatoes for the two pots I’ll eventually set out on the balcony for my container garden. Black plum and Ildi were the heirlooms I decided to plant this year — both small fruit varieties sized right for a small urban space.

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Spring’s shown its face, now I’m a believer!

It’s been the kind of day that even melts the resolve of those with the frostiest of dispositions. Chicago had a record-setting March 14 — hitting 80 glorious degrees!

Forecasters caution that the temperatures likely aren’t here to stay, but — for a city that’s reveled in unseasonably warm weather since early February — pardon us if we choose not to believe.

And we’re not alone in our complete disdain for the prognostications of Punxsutawney Phil and his ilk. Nature seems to have joined us in a conspiracy to usher in spring earlier than reason would dictate. Trees and flowers are giving in to the spirit of “carpe diem” and pushing up the date Read the rest of this entry »

Easy green tips that small-space urban gardeners can embrace

Talk about tough love: This past weekend I came across a cautionary essay on purchasing Valentine’s Day flowers.

The writer, bless his green heart, viewed the arguably commercial holiday through the prism of factory farms. It wasn’t a pretty picture.

But even those of us trying to be increasingly environmentally conscious might have found it difficult to go cold turkey and give up that sentimental bouquet.

If you weren’t quite able to wrap your head (or your arms) around the idea this year, take heart, there are other ways to up your green quotient Read the rest of this entry »

Tomatoes give one last harvest for the road (and posterity)

DSC00827DSC01031As I cleared away the debris of expired plants from my balcony, I smiled — imagining archaeologists a century from now examining the boards of my deck and finding the fossilized remains of small-fruited heirloom tomatoes that had rolled into crannies and become unwitting players in history.

And next, bring on the anthropologists, to hypothesize about early 21st century urban dwellers and their desperate efforts to secure green space and achieve some small measure of sustainability.

Let me back up a bit in telling this story: About 10 days ago, I went outside to survey the garden since I’d pulled up stakes and called it a wrap for Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Coleus: It’s not fall, but these leaves are showing their colors

DSC00277DSC00278DSC00292Nothing turns my head faster than a pretty flower. But, lately I’ve been thinking a lot about leaves.

I’ve seen photos online of leaves with so much pattern and texture that I forgot to look for what blossomed among them. Actually, I  think a leaf appreciation has been playing at the back of my mind for a while now…

A few years ago Chicago held a show downtown in Grant Park called “Garden in a City,” which featured displays of various urban garden possibilities: small yards, roofs, balconies. (Chicago is a big proponent of green roofs, so the Read the rest of this entry »