Monday, June 28, 2010

Every Little Thing Gonna Be All Right: Early July Roof Garden

Happens every year. I find myself up on the roof, looking around and singing Bob Marley, in a kind of daze at the magic of it all.

Peas flourishing

Seed pods forming on the baby bok choy

The exquisite beauty of an eggplant fleur

Melons putting out tendrils

Strawberry tomatoes with their pleats

Amish paste, pointy

Black Sea Man, new to us this year

SIPs in the sunshine

Eggplant udumalapet emerging

Honey in the hive

Herbs on the street, boundless in the heat

Sharing the first tomato

Tomatillos hanging in their papery lanterns

French climbing beans, reaching

Seeing red!

And despite the sad photos below of plant starts unplanted, a little early blossom end rot, and my nonexistent blog posts...

... I've decided this Sharon Astyk essay and Bob Marley have something in common: Don't worry, 'bout a thing...

Sunday, June 27, 2010

My visit to an Organic Farm

On Father' Day weekend we went to Angelic Organics farm in Caledonia Illinois. We learned about what it was like to be on a farm. We got to feed the animals, hold the chickens, see a chicken lay an egg, and also see a rooster.

My favorite thing at the farm were the goats. Feeding them and milking them were the funnest. One even snuggled up to me. At the thorny bush they seemed to have eaten all the leaves except the ones at the top. I held it down and started picking them. It was extra hard because it was extremely thorny. One small goat got a little impatient and jumped on me. So, I gave her some leaves and picked some more. The next day it happened again. Guess they're as smart as dogs after all.

We also made goat cheese with goat's milk and took a tour of the farm too. There were lots of plants such as eggplants, tomatoes, and lettuces. Maybe you will enjoy the trip too. You might get inspired to start your own mini farm.


A Red Star hen.

Me petting Cocoset the goat.

Making goat cheese.

A tour of the greenhouse on the farm.

Dirt cake seedling brownies.

Saying goodbye to my favorite kid.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Mulberries: Free for the Taking

A sheet, a stick, and two colanders. That's all it takes to harvest one of the sweetest berries around this time of year. Chicago's rife with mulberry trees, and if you have a neighbor as generous as Claude, you just gather your tools and a couple friends and walk on over.

Claude's garden,
reminiscent of Monet's

The tree is heavy with fruit,
for now and the next time we visit
A couple sharp thwacks with the stick and the berries rain down into our linen.

Picking out twigs.

One of two colanders
we filled in no time.

Right now Bruce is putting a mulberry tart in the oven, same as last year. I'll opt for mulberries and cream myself, a perfect celebration of the summer solstice, unless he's sharing...

Friday, June 11, 2010

My Watermelon SIP

(Note from H2: with this post we welcome Kara--aka Little Green Girl--as co-blogger. Yesterday she attended the Chicago Blackhawks celebration parade with two million of her closest friends. Let's give her a warm hello, GRGers!)

SIP stands for Sub Irrigated Planter. My watermelon SIP fits in a small space 12" X 12". The best thing about it is that it's easy to take care of and it can't be over-watered either because of the holes at the bottom that drain the water.

You can grow almost any plant in it. I have 2 kinds of personal watermelons. One is a Fordhook Hybrid, which can weigh up to 14 pounds. The other is an Ice Box Mickylee and it can weigh up to 8 to 10 pounds. It takes 70 to 80 days to grow a melon. They are both supposed to be very tasty!

My watermelons are doing great now and are about a month and a half old and the vines are 10" long. We'll need to make a trellis soon. I'll share that in my next post.

Thanks Heidi, Bruce and Art for making my SIP!


Sunday, June 6, 2010

New Wicking Strategy for Sub-Irrigated Planters

Well, it's new to us anyway. Based on many posts over at Inside Urban Green on using wicking fabric in sub irrigation, I contacted Greenscaper Bob for a little assist on how best to use absorbent fabric to wick water up into our 5-gal SIPs.

He advised making slits and criss-crossing strips of the fabric at the bottom of the top bucket, letting the ends drape down into the water reservoir.

I asked my sister the accomplished seamstress if she ever ran into pellon thermolam plus (recommended by Bob) on her frequent fabric store visits. Next thing I knew, she'd brought me a big roll of it, tied up in a pretty bow.

Thank you, Holly!

Over Memorial Day weekend, niece Brooke and her pal Amy came over to learn how to make SIPs. We were also going to work on the fabric wicking project, but got sidetracked by rain.

Still, we got the fabric strips cut.

A few days later I tried to cut the bucket slits with a utility knife, but those food-grade buckets are tough customers. Gardeners' friend to the rescue.

I marked the bucket...

...and Art used a small circular saw
to get it done in no time

Once threaded, Art wondered if we possibly wanted more wet fabric to touch the soil. Duh--why didn't I think of that? Thanks to Homegrown Evolution for making me feel better about making mistakes with this lovely quote from Mark Frauenfelder's new book Made By Hand, which we picked up from the library this week.

Art re-cut the slits closer to the edge
and I soaked the fabric and threaded it through.

Here are the ends,
which sit down in the water reservoir.

And the result? This tomato looks just as happy as the SIPs with soil-loaded wicking cups. Using fabric eliminates one more plastic component from SIP-building. If you've never seen Bruce's post on the dizzying status of various plastics, it's a worthwhile read and a real motivator.

Thanks for the help,
Greenscaper Bob!

Brooke and Amy, two smart, curious librarians who work with children at the Fremont Public Library District, did their homework before coming over on Memorial Day, reading up on sub irrigation. They "got it" immediately when I showed them the components and we planted two peppers before the storms came.

Well done, you two.
Now go show the kids how to do it...

I get by with a little help from my friends...

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Au Revoir, Russ

Today we're saying goodbye to Russ as a GRG contributor. He was featured in a nice Chicago Magazine piece by Karin Horgan Sullivan in May 2009 and went on to have a bountiful harvest later that year.

Russ's roof in Sept 2009

He and Alyssa and their little sprout Hank will be spending the next eight weeks strolling through gardens like this one. Yes, they're off to Paris for a couple months before returning to Minneapolis, where they'll live.

Bon voyage, Russ, Alyssa, and Henry!

We hope you'll return to blog in 2011 from your next verdant roof.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Late Spring Rooftop Pictures

It's been unseasonably warm in the past few weeks. The rapini (or is that rapa) has gone to seed. It's nice to see that my cedar SIPs are working properly.

My test run of peat based potting mix (foreground SIPs) vs. coir (at top) is still going strong.

The tomatoes are off to a good start. Despite our tomato seedling glitch, I have tomatoes in 8 SIPs this year, all growing varieties I bought from Genesis Growers at Green City Market.

You'll notice that I've skipped the plastic bag mulch/UV cover and am using ordinary pine bark mulch. After seeing that the SIP used by the Montreal Rooftop Garden program uses wood mulch in place of plastic (as detailed in the instruction manual contained in a pdf found at this link), I decided it would be worth breaking with our normal procedure in order to eliminate some plastic. That discovery also led to my next change.

Earlier this spring, I surrounded my rubbermaid tub SIPs with long panels made out of 2x2 lumber, UV resistant brown tarps, and cedar fencing boards. There are a several advantages: I don't have to use a plastic bag to protect the tubs from UV; I can now roll a length of tarp over the top of a row of planters at the end of the growing season, offering protection against the winter elements; best of all it doesn't look like my rooftop is littered with plastic bags that are sprouting plants.

After stopping by to say hello and take some pics, H2 headed home with her herb starts.