CityDiggity

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Archive for urban garden

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 »

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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 »

The ‘recession garden’ and home-grown tomatoes

A black plum heirloom tomato plant just beginning to fruit a couple summers back.

A black plum heirloom tomato plant just beginning to fruit a couple summers back.

As you’ve doubtless surmised, I’m absolutely passionate about my heirloom tomatoes. What began as a lark and later became a hobby, has blossomed into a full-on obsession. So, when a friend drew my attention to the CNN Web site’s “recession gardens” report, I figured now was the perfect time to pull out my soapbox and extol the virtues of home-grown tomatoes.

The gist of the CNN article is that the recession (and possibly First Lady Michelle Obama) is encouraging an increasing number of Americans to make use of their personal green space to grow Read the rest of this entry »

Picking flowers, part 2: respect your space

A zip tie kept this black plum heirloom tomato secure.

I use zip ties to fasten the metal hoops of my black plum heirloom tomatoes to the railing.

“To thine own ‘exposure’ be true.” Not exactly Shakespeare, but if you follow these simple words when choosing your plants I guarantee you will achieve some level of success in your garden. That means if you have partial shade, don’t pick flowers that need full sun to thrive — no matter how pretty they look on the rack at the nursery.We can extend this concept to mean respecting the complete range of variables that impact your garden.

For instance, my unprotected balcony is in direct sun, which means things can grow pretty quickly but it also means that if I skip watering for even a Read the rest of this entry »

Starter gardener: planting a seed

A past season's end game:

A past season's end game: A view of my balcony garden with city vista beyond.

It doesn’t take much more than a 63 degree March day in Chicago to turn the thoughts of urban gardeners like myself outward.

Well, 63 degrees is exactly what we gotrecently, and before I had the slider fully open my cat Melon scampered through his (self-made) cat door onto my condo balcony. (I vow to replace the torn screen in the days to come.)

His pot of grass from last year sits dead and brown, but still he nibbled on the dry blades and doubtless recalled the pleasures of our gardens past.For several summers now I’ve cultivated a small-space garden on my city balcony to provide a buffer from life’s stresses and  downtown’s pounding heartbeat — at least for a few brief months.

If you’re a beginner looking to create your own oasis in the city, or, if you’ve been at it for a while like I have, we’ll share our experiences and triumphs through this blog. I just wanted to plant the seed…

So let’s get the garden party started!