Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Growing a Bigger Garden

Summer is finally here and things are really starting to grow after a very wet and stormy Chicago spring. Little Green Girl and I are most excited because we've increased the size of our garden, gone vertical, and added more SIPs.

Here's our original two 4" X 8" beds with a new strawberry bed in the middle. This year we've added a trellis to the back of each bed to grow small Asian melons and pole beans. We're maximizing the amount of food we can grow in the smallest amount of space. Love the challenge of growing vertical!

Little Green Girl is growing a pizza garden again but with beautiful Scarlett Runner beans trellised in the middle. There's also Cannellini beans, purple, yellow and green bush beans, assorted carrots including Parmex, Kaleidoscope, and some Jaune Du Doubs... a fancy name for yellow heirloom carrots from France!

Each year we try to grow something new and unusual, this year we discovered Tigger melons, a 1 lb. Asian melon that's bright yellow with brilliant red zig-zag stripes from Bakers Creek. Hope this one tastes as interesting as it looks.

Our middle bed has strawberries and Borage (good companion plants) with a double row of pole beans in the back, they'll provide a backdrop of fresh green color dotted with quaint white flowers as they fill up the trellis.

Finally, the family bed has herbs, 5 special heirloom tomatoes and sweet Korean Ginkaku melons from Kitazawaseeds.com, they're 1.5 lb melons that are supposed to be highly productive. We'll see how many our trellis will hold!

Carrots, kale, onions and beans are doing well.

In the back of the beds we've placed two 5 gallon yellow SIPs where the Asian melons will be grown.

Garlic planted last November have matured and scapes have been snipped. Further back are a few more SIPs. We've planted lemon cucumbers and more sweet melons that will trellis off the cyclone fence.

I'm experimenting with the idea of a portable trellis on top of a 5 gallon SIP.

Last year's tomato patch is now a little farmette, that's 4 long rows of heirloom tomatoes and peppers. Over 80+ heirloom seeds were carefully selected last winter, warm tea and seeds catalogs are what get gardeners through the winter!

Note the small garden to the right on the other side of the fence, I'm working on an edible landscape with artichokes, purple and white okra, tomatillios, some green and hopefully some purple, Borage with beautiful purple flowers, and some Green Zebra tomatoes.

Spending quality time with my tomatoes.

Here's Amish Deer Tongue lettuce. Thanks H2 for letting me know about this one, a wonderful cut and come again variety.

Heirloom potatoes from a GRG friend I've yet to meet. Thanks Brad and local urban garden blogger Cassandra West of Seeding Chicago for sharing your potato seeds.

Garlic scapes ready for a stir-fry in the wok.

Wild Arugula for Margaret, a dear friend without a garden.

Gardening is a lot of work and a lot of joy... here's homegrown kale (mushrooms store bought but considering growing them next year) sauteed in homemade garlic oil topped with fresh cut chives.

... then there are gifts from the garden that we never expect, like the 2 little creatures that Little Green Girl found at Peterson Gardens. She's adopted a couple of beautiful caterpillars found on a dill plant and has been feeding them fresh dill and parsley everyday, sometimes two times a day. She hopes that she can nurture and care for them till they grow in to butterflies. Will they grow into blackswallow tail butterflies? We hope to find out.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Living in the Present While the Future Beckons

I haven't been posting much, if anything, to the blog.  What time I do spend online has more to do with reading about/sharing words and images--that touch on artsy, political, economic, and social subjects--than taking the time to compose a blog post on what's happening in my little urban camp. 

Here's an example of what I'm talking about --

If you'd like to see more links like this, you can add my Shared Reader page to your Google Reader.  I've come to think of it as a kind of virtual collage, where I post bits and pieces from the internet that catch my eye.

If you're not familiar with Google Reader, I'd encourage you to use it; it's made my time online much more pleasant.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Summer Solstice on the Roof Farm and Friends Visit the Coop

June 21 summer solstice quick roof walk...

 In the Earthboxes, spring peas in decline,
tomatillos on the rise

Tomatoes are robust--
thank you, Bruce, for the healthy starts!

I direct-seeded a few types of beans and the Mystery Greek Squash from Root Simple. Thanks, Erik, for sharing the seeds. Each year we get powdery mildew on squash and cukes and I vow not to plant the following year. And each year I do.

I have this notion that squirrels are attracted to open soil (and some proof of that), so I laid some plastic netting over the direct-seeded SIPs to deter them.

Golden Midget watermelons are up, seeds via Debbie and Little Green Girl. Thanks, garden friends.

A visit the next day from Trish and her boys, who remembered everything we discussed last year about sub-irrigation growing and bees. JT, at left, shared even more about bees that he'd learned in school. He's going to be a natural beekeeper. And Alex chowed down on every single kind of greens we're growing. Excellent palate!

We walked to Bruce's 
and got right into the coop...

...where the kids learned all about the hens
and their living arrangements
Summer's here.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Climate Change: Spend Four Minutes on This

By Bill McKibben, author and founder of 350.org

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Direct-Seeding Melons and Beans...and Greens Go to Seed

You know it's summer when it's warmed up enough to direct-seed melons and beans.
 Decisions, decisions

After a spate of extreme fluctuation in temperature (97 degrees F to 54) we had a couple moderate days. I got out the beans and melons, some old favorites and a new Japanese icebox watermelon shared by Debbie in our seed swap.

In the past I've had problems with the potting mix drying out before germination occurred, so this year I rigged up a little greenhouse for these SIPs with clear plastic secured with the gasket from the bucket lid top.
I was a little concerned that the moisture would encourage fungal growth, so yesterday I removed the plastic to air them out. Then the weather lightened yesterday afternoon and, predictably, when I went to the roof this morning the potting mix had dried out. I redampened the mix and put the plastic back in place.

The cool-weather greens shot up in the high heat and they're going to seed, which we'll collect for next year. I moved them all to the shadier side of the roof, with some under the gazebo that collects rainwater for watering.

They sure are pretty, and we're still eating them all, every single day. What a gift, those greens. 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Agretti in June

I'm enchanted by the texture and flavor of agretti--salty with hints of lime. The mouth feel is fun...and I'd never ever cook it. It's too good raw.

The Agretti took its time coming up, but we patiently didn't regularly clip it to eat and here we are.
Because of its exceedingly poor germination rate, I'd like these plants to go to seed. That way we'd have next year's seed supply.

I'm going to plant these in a portable microgarden next time, because they don't require the large amount of growing medium other greens need.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Snap Peas and Lettuces Abound on Our Roof

These Amish snap peas from Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) are producing lots of tender peapods for tossing into the freshest salads possible. Shown are lettuces Carmona, Jester, and Joker, all from Wild Garden Seed. Despite the extreme early-season temperatures here in Chicago--97 for a couple days now--the lettuces remain sweet and tender.

The SSE package says the peapod yield runs for six weeks if kept picked.

No problem!
 The lettuces are growing in a 5-gallon SIP

And the peas in an Earthbox

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

More Early Summer Pictures

H2 came over and took plenty of good ones.

One of the two cedar SIPs that I'm growing potatoes in this year.  I dug a small trench and mounded the soil up over the vine as it grew.

Carl taking a breather in the partial shade.

The chickens like to eat the maple tree seedlings that spin/whirl everywhere this time of year.

Not what it seems: Carl likes to "eat" the spray as it comes out of the hose.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Early Summer Pictures

Scorzonera is a striking plant.
Swiss Chard is still going strong.


The chimney I put in last fall displaced one of the SIP runs.

The chickens have settled in.  A couple of more months and they'll start producing eggs.

They like to eat weeds.

Carl and I watching chickens.  They calm me down; he doesn't seem to be affected by them.

Carl loves to "chew" on the water coming out of the hose.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

More Tomato Planting June 3

Seems late to be finishing tomato planting. Do you have yours in? As of yesterday they're planted, and four eggplant too. Excited to try the Thai Green Eggplant from both Seed Savers Exchange and Bountiful Gardens. Side-by-side, we'll see if there's any difference in the fruit.

Brad H phoned a couple weeks back asking if we needed perlite. He'd found an extra-large bag for ten bucks. Yes, please! We decided to make fresh potting mix for the 20 SIPs sbove--the 6-gal in 7-gal bucket sets Art put together to create larger reservoirs.

It's a good workout, making new mix. 
We'll reuse mix for all other SIPs.

I don't recall in previous years staking every single plant (except for the greens) against the stiff winds, but that's what I did this year. Maybe it's the new normal in weather. 

Yesterday the wind kept snatching the plastic shower caps and the fertilizer was flying. I had to finish the eggplants in the 120-degree greenhouse. Yikes. Then I tied everyone up secure against the gusts.

I even staked the tobaccos...

Anyone else feeling stymied by weather?