Tuesday, January 29, 2013

61+ Degrees F Jan 29 2013 Chicago

It's 61 degrees currently, with 87% humidity. There's a chance we'll hit 67 this afternoon and get as much as three inches of rain.

The bizarre just keeps on coming.

Never in my life have I talked about weather as a matter of course. But when was weather like this? We broke a record today at 6:45 a.m., hitting 60 degrees. I awoke at 3 this morning to the sound of a brief driving rain (or, I thought wryly in my half-sleep, maybe given weather extremes it's raining frogs like in Magnolia).

Remember these, planted in the unheated greenhouse and covered with plastic on Jan 9, another extra-warm winter day? Well they sprouted.

I set them all out to get a good rain pounding, the action of the water spurring more to germinate. Then they'll return to the greenhouse in their plastic bags. It's all an experiment.

Downstairs, we uncovered the raised bed to find the rats had done a nice job aerating the soil, flipping all the cool-weather greens roots-up to die. I'd want to live under that plastic too if I were them, not to mention the organic buffet. Art still has his trap line set up around the yard, with cameras trained on the important parts. Maybe he should add a couple traps here.

With the coming rain I thought I'd try broadcasting some seed on top of that nicely roughed up terrain, with a layer of straw to follow tomorrow. Here's what I sowed.

Thursday's low is supposed to be 6 degrees F. That's closer to a real Chi winter. All bets are off on the gardening front though. Wondering if Bruce and I should start seedlings earlier for spring planting. Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Are You Battery Raised or Free Range?

Forbes Magazine called Vandana Shiva one of the seven most influential women in the world. A noted philosopher, scientist and author, Dr. Shiva addressed a full house at Coady International Institute at StFX University on the theme of food justice.

That story about the battery raised hens and the free rangers was good. I suppose we'd all like to think we're the free ones, but the moral of the story is that, in either case, we need to talk.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


It's 12ยบ outside right now. After watching the video it doesn't feel so cold.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A (Very) Early Spring Day in Chicago

On Jan 9 I stepped out and sniffed the 50-degree+ Chicago air. Like an animal waking from its winter slumber, I smelled the warm earth and immediately had the urge to plant something. So I located a few empty SIPs and washed them in hot vinegar water.

Happily, I have a friend on the roof to hoist up my planting boxes and watering can (no running water up there in winter, despite these occasional oddly warm temps).

The sun was shining as I opened the potting mix bin to reveal a couple of bags of peat, ready to be mixed with perlite this spring to create fresh potting mix.

I filled my small SIPs...and added a little balanced fertilizer.

Our growing roof is all tucked in for winter. Some of those yellow SIPs have even been washed and dried, stored now in the unheated greenhouse, which is where I'm heading.

I always have winter-spring seeds on hand, including some I ordered from Franchi late this fall.

Root Simple recently wrote about one of Franchi's gorgeous salad mixes, shown here growing in their LA garden. Eye-popping color.

Hey, I'm planting! This makes me happy.

We watered in the seeds lightly and covered the grouping with a plastic bag. As the greenhouse warms on sunny days, so too will the potting mix. During the single-digit cold coming this week, the mix will freeze, mimicking the in-ground environment.

When spring temperatures and increasing sun crack those seeds, they'll show some green, like these snap peas I planted in SIPs in the greenhouse in just the same way last winter. Here are their sturdy sprouts on March 11, 2012, when they were easily lifted and transplanted to one of our earthboxes. Check out the root development.
Why not plant peas or greens directly into a SIP? The greenhouse-trapped sun and heat prompts  germination weeks earlier than otherwise on our roof. A head start on good eating.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Uli Westphal's Ripening Tomatoes

Tomorrow's Chicago temperature is predicted to hit 60. Here's a diversion from what that probably means, Berlin artist Uli Wesphal's view of tomatoes ripening.

If you've never checked out his Mutato Archive...go look.