Category Archives: Organic Gardening

What To Plant When

This came across my Facebook feed this morning from Mother Earth News. It may not be precise, but it’s a good start for preparing which veggies to plant in which month. February in Chicago may have freezing temperatures but it’s still a good time to transplant your asparagus or sow your mache seeds outside, according to this chart.

To use the chart, pick your region and then choose the month on the following page.

Compare the Mother Earth News chart to your planting zone as indicated by the 2012 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. The zone map changes due to climactic variations; so if you’re in Chicago, for instance, your long-time zone of 5a may now be 5b. Do a zip code search here:

Keep in mind, both charts are only estimates and projections based on past data. Considering the strange weather the past two years, your guess is as good as mine on what to plant when. Happy growing!

One Seed Chicago: Vote Now For Free Seeds

 Press Release:
NeighborSpace’s One Seed Chicago project lets Chicago gardeners vote on their favorite seed then distributes the winning seed for free to encourage urban farming, healthy eating habits, and sitting down for meals with family and friends. 
CHICAGO-Gardeners across Chicago started the New Year by voting for their favorite herb seed for One Seed Chicago and the winning seed will be mailed to them for free. This year’s candidates are basil, chamomile, and cilantro. As in previous years, One Seed Chicago will teach Chicagoans who to grow the winning seed in their garden. Local chefs and foodies are encouraged to submit original recipes for the community featuring any of this year’s candidates to demonstrate how easy it is to go from garden to plate.
“For the fifth year One Seed Chicago is uniting Chicago gardeners,” said Ben Helphand, NeighborSpace Executive Director. “By planting a common seed, backyards, windowsills, community gardens and balconies across the City will be linked together in a season-long celebration of urban gardening and local eating.”
The three candidates were selected at the annual GreenNet Potluck. Community gardeners from across the city took part in a One Seed Chicago primary election which narrowed the race to the three herb candidates. In addtion, this year One Seed Chicago is expanding voting even further, offering schools, offices, garden clubs and wherever gardeners gather the opportunity to host a polling station.
“This being an election year, we thought we’d celebrate our democracy by growing new voters along with seeds,” explains Helphand. “Gardeners who want to host a polling station can download a ballot, poster and Teacher’s activity guides from the One Seed Chicago website.”
Voting
Voting began on Sunday, January 1, 2012 and continues until April 1, 2012. The winning seed will be unveiled at GreenNet’s annual Green and Growing Fair at the Garfield Park Conservatory. To vote simply log onto www.OneSeedChicago.com.
Origins of One Seed Chicago
One Seed Chicago is a project of NeighborSpace, Chicago’s land trust for community gardens. Entering its fourth year One Seed Chicago aims to introduce more Chicagoans to the joys and benefits of gardening. Previous winners: Sunflower 2008. Blue Lake Pole bean 2009. Beebalm 2010. Swiss chard 2011. Since 2008 One Seed Chicago has distributed over one million seeds to Chicago residents.
About NeighborSpace
NeighborSpace is a nonprofit urban land trust dedicated to preserving and sustaining community managed open spaces in Chicago. Their growing network of gardens provide thousands of people the opportunity to grow fruits, vegetables and flowers; to restore habitats; and create unique gathering places in their own neighborhoods. NeighborSpace’s partners in the community can rest assured that the land will remain dedicated to conservation and their efforts will never be displaced. For more information, please visit www.neighbor-space.org .
If you would like more information about One Seed Chicago or to schedule an interview with Ben Helphand, please call Ramon Gonzalez at 312.970.9642 or Email Ramon at ramon@oneseedchicago.com. You can find more graphics for web use at http://info.oneseedchicago.com

Freaky Fruits & Vegetables Part 2

Actually, these aren’t so much “freaky” as “differently developed”.  They’re just an unexpected surprise when you happen upon them in the garden. Came across these cute little twins today:

Linda at rooftopgarden.com calles them “Kissing ‘maters”. These fruits are pretty small, about the size of standard cherry tomatoes. The twins appear to share a single calyx (the green leafy star at the top of a tomato fruit).

In other news I’ve seen two late season tomato hornworms… boooooo.

Reader Request: Aphids! and Container Fruits

I’m putting a request out to my readers to respond with your advice. After a  relatively pest-free summer I now have aphids on my late season bok choy. I think the tender leaves are a lost cause but now I have a few questions:

What’s your preferred way of eliminating outdoor aphids? When I have aphids on my houseplants I use an effective spray made out of crushed garlic and hot chili peppers steeped into a tea.

Outdoors I don’t mind pulling up infested plants, but that what about the soil? Does aphid larvae overwinter? Do you reuse potting mix next year if you had any sort of infestation the previous year?

I’m still pulling in some beautiful tomatoes, mostly Stupice and Opalka. The Kellogg’s Breakfast didn’t do much this year. Has anybody else had success with them? Shishito peppers are doing beautifully and one of my Ozark strawberries put out the biggest fruits I saw all year. Chinese/Japanese ggplants are as hardy as weeds and I’m constantly bringing them in, almost daily. Cukes and squashes fizzled out. I’m tempted to do a lot more fruit next year: blueberries and strawberries. Any suggestions for other Midwest hardy container fruit?

Stupice Tomatoes and How I Picked Them

I arrived home from Portland, OR last night to find this beautiful crop of tomatoes all lined up on my living room floor. No, that’s a lie. I put them there just now for dramatic effect:

These are heirloom Stupice tomatoes that I started from seeds purchased from Seed Savers Exchange (where Prez Obama visited last week, I might add). They are early, prolific, consistent and highly flavorful. For an excellent article about picking vegetable varieties, including Stupice, check out Growing Taste. Those folks do the research and taste tests to take the guess work out of which plants to choose.

Some of the tomatoes I picked had cracks or splits in the skin. So, I found this helpful description about tomato splitting over at the Veggie Gardener blog. With the intense heat on the rooftop it can be tricky to provide consistent watering, but I’m getting the hang of the micro-irrigation and I’m on my second battery operated hose timer. Oh, and while I’m thinking about it, I should mention I haven’t used ANY pesticide this year. Fingers crossed.

Lessons for next year… although, not exhaustive of all lessons I’ve learned:

  • Better arrangement of Earthboxes and irrigation drippers from early on in the season = consistent irrigation and less back pain.
  • More plant variety = fewer eggplants. We’ve tried every eggplant dish save for babaganouj and moussaka. Who knew they’d be so productive.
  • Later transplanting = fewer heartaches.
  • Cool it on the eggplant!

Miniature Shishito Peppers

Ok, they probably haven’t hybridized such a thing because they’re small enough already. But if a strange or stunted vegetable is going to grow, leave it to my garden to grow it.

If you read my blogs from this spring, I was so excited to grow Shishitos but they got wiped out due to some failed early transplants and rough weather. Little did I know, a few rather sickly plants were struggling in their peat pots and managed to survive the trauma of their youth. I potted them, tended to them with empathy and nurturing (as a trained social worker should), and believed in their capabilities. And what did I get as a result…

Now, I could go two ways with this. Actually, I’ll let you choose: Have I harvested the brave fruits of a struggle through insurmountable odds? Or do I have a plain old pathetic harvest with only these puny things to show for my efforts:1/4 of their intended size, but kind of cute, right?

Gallery

You Go To China and Look What Happens…

This gallery contains 3 photos.

This past weekend we returned from a week in Shanghai and Beijing. I kept an eye on the Chicago weather forecast while I was gone and with the tornado warnings I wasn’t sure what I’d come home to. Well, to … Continue reading