Here’s what’s growing on the rooftop 6/14/12 – no words today, just colors…
I’m just about to head out to buy potting mix and then get the last of my seeds in. Aside from the inevitable wind & hail that spring will bring, the weather is looking great for the garden. In fact, just harvested my first batch of dwarf bok choy (pak choi) today. This variety from Kitazawa grew so quickly it was ready to harvest in just a few weeks:
Last night at Home Depot I found a slightly cheaper alternative to EarthBoxes. The self-irrigated planter called “City Pickers” is made in the U.S. by Emsco Group. It was $29.95 which is a few bucks less than the online price of EarthBoxes, plus you save on shipping. Also, they claim the plastic is recycled & recyclable. The box measures 24″ x 20″ and holds 1.5 cubic ft. of potting media. Like EarthBox, Emsco suggests adding granular fertilizer and dolomite (lime). City Pickers comes with a mulch cover, aeration screen, fill tube, and, unlike EarthBox, the casters are included at no extra cost. Looking forward to comparing the two. The only other immediate difference I see is that the Emsco box has a shallower but wider surface area for root systems.
Since I’m sending in my rebate forms for Chicago’s “Sustainable Backyards” program this week, I thought it would be a good reminder for city residents to look into this program if you haven’t already. The city will reimburse you up to 50% of the cost of certain landscaping plants, rain barrels, and composters that are purchased locally. After the rebate, my double chamber composter will only cost $50! The program runs until the end of the year.
Potatoes are one of the easiest things you can grow at home, regardless of how much space you have. And if you have any potatoes in your pantry, you’re halfway there already. All you need to do is plunge a few of those potatoes into a container of soil and wait few weeks. Here is today’s before and after picture of a few organic supermarket potatoes that I planted exactly 2 months ago. So in a matter of 8 weeks you can grow your own meal of garden fresh new potatoes:
How to Grow Potatoes At Home:
1. Gather a few potatoes from your pantry or buy some from the supermarket. Look for ones that have “eyes” starting to form or sprout. The eyes are simply those white protrusions on the surface of the potato- usually there are several.
2. Fill a container with soil rich in organic matter. Any standard patio planter will work as long as there are holes in the bottom and room enough to accommodate the growing potatoes. Potatoes like well-draining soil, especially if it’s amended with manure, compost or even whole kitchen vegetable scraps mixed in. Beyond this, they won’t require additional fertilizer.
3. Bury 2 or 3 potatoes several inches down into the soil. Alternatively, you can carve out the sprouting “eyes” from the starter potato, leaving a small chuck of flesh around each eye. The eye will sprout into the root system and foliage as seen above. Each eye you plant will produce an individual plant, so the more eyes you start with the more potatoes you’ll end up with. But remember they need room in the pot to handle all their newborns!
4. Water well and place in a location that will receive plenty of sun once the foliage emerges. Water regularly when the soil starts to dry, but don’t make your potatoes live in soggy soil. Potatoes are hardy and can tolerate a fair amount of abuse.
5. After 8 weeks, when foliage reaches 1 to 2 feet in height, gently pull the soil away from the base of the foliage to explore the size of the new potatoes. Harvest if they are a size you want to cook with or cover them back up and wait a couple more weeks if you want more mature potatoes. When harvesting, explore the soil well as the potatoes may be scattered throughout the container.
6. After harvesting the potatoes, you might place some of the small or imperfect ones back into the soil to start the process all over again.
After reading this blog post about fossil digging in Braidwood, IL, I took a look on the map and realized there would be enough outdoor attractions nearby to make a weekend out of it. Check out some of these great sites that are only an hour and a half southwest of Chicago:
Have you spent time in this area? What’s a must see and what have I missed?
The 10-day forecast is looking pretty decent Chicago (zones 5-6), save for tomorrow’s night time temp in the mid-40s. Dare I risk making a predication that we’ll be in the safe planting zone starting the end of this week? I don’t foresee frost being an issue, but many varieties of warm weather veggies don’t like cold nighttime temps- unlike leafy greens which thrive under cooler conditions. So if you’re thinking spinach and lettuce, the 80’s we’re receiving this week is not a good seeding climate. Everything else, however might just be in the clear. But don’t take my word for it, I don’t want anybody knocking on my door with shriveled or stunted seedlings if we have a midwest surprise! Start the conversation here… what are you planting and when?
If you can make it to Wicker Park this weekend, visit the actual Wicker Park (field house) where they’ll be having a plant sale Saturday 5/5 & Sunday 5/6. Proceeds benefit the Wicker Park Garden Club’s maintenance of 10,000 sq. ft. of gardens within Wicker Park itself and the garden club’s 7 month lecture & workshop series (Saturday’s lecture is on raising chickens).
I walked the pup to Wicker Park today and it’s beautiful right now- the gardens are lush with greenery, white iris are in full bloom, and birds are singing. The garden club is setting up the plant sale today and they have a great mix of annuals, perennials and veggies. Gardening experts are on-hand to give advice on the best plants for your garden.
This weekend at Navy Pier is Green Festival 2012, an event dedicated to sustainable economy, ecological balance, and social justice. If you happen to subscribe to email updates from the Organic Consumer’s Association, check your inbox for a code to get into the festival for free (otherwise tickets are available at the door).
Version Fest kicks off its big first weekend in Bridgeport with a blend of pop-up shops and rotating list of food trucks. Version 12 lasts for the full month of May in the Bridgeport neighborhood. Don’t miss Enoch’s Doughnuts, I wrote a blog about them a couple months back and according to their Facebook page they sell out fast.
Last event for this weekend is gazing at the “super moon” on Saturday night. It’s everywhere in the news but you might have needed a reminder. Chicago’s looking pretty cloudy so you might have to use your imagination on this one.