Tag Archives: Earthbox

Self-irrigated Planters and City of Chicago Gardening Rebates

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:

Dwarf bok choi grown in an EarthBox. From seed to table 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.

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!

Pre-storm Bounty

Recent travel is really putting my mico-irrigation system to the test- so far so good. I’m using the Raindrip brand container gardening kit that uses 1/4″ feeder hoses with inline drippers. Fairly easy set-up, although I do wish it came with clearer instructions and descriptions of the various fittings. It doesn’t directly connect to EarthBoxes but I’m simply hanging the drippers into the fill tubes. Kind of mundane blog material, so feel free to get in touch if you have any questions about it.

Another intense storm this morning appears to have taken out more tomato plants. What a harsh year for gardening in Chicago. Needless to say I’ll be making a lot of adjustments and precautions next year. I’m heading to South Carolina on Wednesday, so next week I’ll take pics of whatever is left in the garden when I get back. Getting tired of just peas and pak choi!

Here’s a look at some peas and pak choy I harvested last week (still life on Tolix chair). And a bonus shot of blooming prickly pear on a Chicago beach/dune.

Early Rooftop Harvest of 2011

Portland, OR was beautiful as always. My intention was to post some panoramic pictures of the International Rose Test Garden, but their roses did not bloom in time for the Rose Festival. They’ve had strange weather this year, just like Chicago.

And just when I thought all hope was lost on my rooftop, I came back from Portland to find edible vegetables. Despite the wind, despite the 60 degree change in temperature over a 48-hour period, everything survived and without my attention. Is that like “a watched pot never boils”?

The micro-irrigation drip system I bought from Green Thumb Garden Center worked perfectly. I was plenty nervous to leave a faucet running on the rooftop for a week unattended, but between the anti-siphon attachment and the automatic watering timer, it all seemed to run smoothly. Simple set up too- approximately 45 minutes to run the entire system throughout my planters.

There were about 6 green beans ready for harvest. Hey, I didn’t say A LOT of edible vegetables… I had only planted a few beans as an afterthought. The real beauties were the Pai-Tsai, otherwise known as white-stemmed Chinese cabbage or “choy”. The original seeds were not organic but they were grown organically in an EarthBox. I’m letting one plant go to seed and here is what I harvested on 6/12/11:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s What’s Growing 6/2/11

I haven’t been posting much about the rooftop situation out of pure shame and embarrassment. I was mislead by a few nice days in mid-May to think I could plan my SIPs. Then the weather got weird; warm season veggies got too cold and otherwise hardy veggies were shredded by high winds.

Three tomatoes survived and now have stems that could survive a hurricane. Most of the pak choi survived (pictured below). Peas did great.  The rest of the vacancies were replaced this week by heirlooms I bought at Gethsemene Gardens or leftover seedlings I kept indoors. Tomorrow I’m heading to Portland, OR for a week so these babies better learn to get along without me.

Here’s a look at what’s up:

 

 

 

pak choi

 

 

 

 

 

SIPs well-staked and bamboo-d

 

 

 

Micro-irrigation kit in place for my upcoming week out-of-town

 

 

 

 

Very hardy and prolific Dwarf Gray peas

 

 

 

 

First meal of indoor-grown baby Asian greens

 

 

I have a couple hundred amaranth seedlings I’m not quite sure what to do with. Lots of pho’ I guess.

 

 

 

Not bad for an $8 rose bush from English Gardens in Royal Oak, MI, eh?

The Aftermath

Upstairs/Downstairs

A mere two days after the Great Seed Disaster of 2011, here’s a look at some of my makeshift sprouting vessels in the living room. The larger plants on the left were started the first week of April, the rest were added this past weekend.

Looks like peas and radishes were the first to sprout. This is just a sample- more rain soaked seeds not pictured.

Meanwhile, up on the roof, the Dwarf Gray peas in their EarthBox are loving this cool rainy weather.

Nifty new bird feeder we picked up at Grand Street Gardens in Chicago.

Popoutz bird feeder – cheap and simple. This one only cost $1.99 and was perfect to hang on this rose tree. The feeders are sold as a single flat unit (heavy duty plastic) and they simply pop into shape. The excess seed falls into the planter and is already sprouting a few days since I hung it out. The feeders are small so they don’t waste much seed if strong winds or rain gets in. Of course that also means you have to refill it more frequently. Still, a nice option for the rooftop where we have no squirrels and a larger more expensive feeder would just get knocked around in the wind.

Sunday April 10, 2011 – in like a lamb out like a lion?

An amazing treat for us today in Chicagoland – 80+ degrees by noon and a nice breeze (bordering on strong wind). Problem is, that breeze is predicated to turn into severe weather later today with potential for tornadoes and hail.

Got all the Earthboxes set up today and planted one box of Dwarf Gray Peas. They like to start in cooler weather but this will have to do for now. Here’s a look at my seed starts inside that were planted on 4/4 – 6 days ago. The clam shell is sprouting asian baby greens and the trays are showing cukes, pak choi, beans, amaranth, tomato, watermelon, yellow squash and basil… so far

Seed Starts after 6 days

Filled the Earthboxes with mix of peat/perlite/dolomite and using FoxFarm’s Peace of Mind Tomato and Vegetable granular fertilizer.

 

Earthbox Prep

Mia trying to escape the heat amongst planters:

Shade is hard to come by on the rooftop.