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.
Posted in Container Gardening, Organic Gardening, Rooftop Gardening, Wicker Park, Chicago
Tagged bok choi, chicago, city pickers, Earthbox, emsco, kitazawa seed, rebate, rooftop gardening, self-irrigated planters, SIP, sustainable backyards
1. The above picture isn’t a mockup of some lofty futuristic eco-architecture. It is now and it’s Chicago’s City Hall. If you’ve never explored Chicago’s Green Roofs project, you’re in for some surprises. For instance, did you know that nestled in that photo above are beehives that produce salable honey? If you’re curious about which city rooftops are green (or where to buy some of that honey) check out the city’s Green Roofs page or take your binoculars up to the Skydeck of Willis Tower and see for yourself.
2. A little more visible from our vantage point are the city’s Green Alleys projects. Chicago’s Department of Transportation began the green alleys pilot project in 2006 and renovated more than 100 alleys by 2010. What is a green alley? Check out the city’s comprehensive and well-illustrated Green Alley Handbook. Who knew your back alley could be a marvel of modern eco engineering. By the way, there’s a lot more to these alleys than just pretty landscaping. Take a look.
3. Being a relative newcomer to Chicago, I was very pleasantly surprised by the city’s incredibly progressive Sustainable Backyard Program. Residents can get cash rebates from the city for buying rain barrels, compost bins, native plants and trees from local retailers. A great way to help the environment while supporting local business and spending more time outdoors. Unless extended, the rebate program runs until 12/31/2012 so make this your year for creating a more sustainable backyard. Oh, and if you’re a retailer wanting to learn more about getting involved with the rebate program, consider attending the upcoming workshop on March 1st.
4. Finally, to learn more about any green & growing topic imaginable, check out the list of free and low-fee workshops offered by the Chicago Center for Green Technology. Learn about anything from how to install green countertops to finding out how the city uses vegetable oil from local restaurants to produce biofuel. Their building also contains a staffed resource center and free exhibits throughout the year.
Posted in Events, Irrigation, Native Plants, Rooftop Gardening, Wicker Park, Chicago
Tagged beehive, bees, center for green technology, chicago, chicago city hall, chicago continuing education, chicago honey, compost bin, composting, eco architecture, eco engineering, education, green alleys, green architecture, green engineering, green roofs, green rooftop, rain barrels, roof garden, rooftop bee keeping, rooftop gardening, skydeck, surprising chicago, sustainability, sustainable, sustainable backyard program, urban agriculture, urban gardening, willis tower, workshops
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?
Posted in Container Gardening, Organic Gardening, Rooftop Gardening, Weather and Climate, Wicker Park, Chicago
Tagged chicago, miniature peppers, organic gardening, peat pots, rooftop gardening, shishito peppers, wicker park
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
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:
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?
Posted in Container Gardening, Irrigation, Organic Gardening, Rooftop Gardening, Seed, Weather and Climate, Wicker Park, Chicago
Tagged amaranth, chicago, container gardening, Earthbox, indoor gardening, irrigation, micro-irrigation, organic gardening, Portland, rooftop gardening, roses, self-irrigated planters, SIP, tomatoes, wicker park
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.
Posted in Container Gardening, Rooftop Gardening, Seed, Weather and Climate, Wicker Park, Chicago
Tagged bird feeding, chicago, Earthbox, popoutz, rooftop gardening, seed, sprouting, wicker park
Ozark Beauty strawberry
Vernal equinox in Chicago was ushered in today by a perigee “super” moon and morning thunder showers. The strawberries and roses I transplanted early in the week are loving this weather and already showing signs of growth. Aside from those plantings I won’t be doing much upstairs until I get back from Portland, OR. SO anxious to get my hands dirty on April 2nd when I get back- better late than never.
Gives me time to find a source for organic granular all-purpose fertilizer. Probably go with FoxFarm or a vegetarian fert. Any suggestions out there?
As promised, here’s a quick rundown of yesterday’s Family Farmed Expo. When we arrived Dale Levitsky of Sprout Restaurant was giving a demonstration and treating the audience to samples. Samples was a theme for the day, with nearly every table offering small treats. Picked up a free pack of heirloom okra from Chicago Botanic Garden’s table and Chipotle was giving out coupons for free soup. We sampled some tasty spicy arugula sprouts. Must start sprouting!
Baker's Creek heirloom okra "Vidrine's Midget Cowhorn"
The Kids Corner was busy with young’ns playing with fluffy little chicks. We wanted to play with the chickens too but it wouldn’t have looked good for us adults to be displacing the curious kids!
Came across adverts for several upcoming regional green and gardening events:
If you know of an upcoming Chicagoland/regional event or green/food/gardening related giveaway, please feel welcome to comment here or message me.
Posted in Growing Media, Fertilizer and Ammendments, Organic Gardening, Rooftop Gardening, Seed, Weather and Climate, Wicker Park, Chicago
Tagged chicago, Family Farmed Expo, fertilizer, FoxFarm, Green City Market, Ozark Beauty strawberry, perigree moon, rooftop gardening, super moon, vernal equinox
Weather Underground is showing 67 degrees today, but it sure is windy 4 stories up. I figure it’s good training for the 10 strawberry plugs I planted today. This year I’m trying Ozark Beauty which is an everbearing cultivar. Here’s a really nice Purdue University pdf guide to planting strawberries.
This year I planted them in traditional planters with organic peat-based potting mix. Last year I made the mistake of buying strawberry bags that contained pure coir. Coir, or coconut husk, can be tricky to work with. It dries out quickly on top during hot days and then blows away with the slightest wind. Yet in rainy/cool periods I found it retained too much water for strawberries. Mine did produce some fruit last year but endured way too much water stress. My fault, though; should have mixed it with perlite at the very least.
I’m still interested in affordable alternatives to peat, so if anybody has suggestions for a good non-peat mix please feel welcome to comment here. Coir is probably still a good alternative if amended properly, but it’s still more expensive and harder to find in large quantities. Here’s a nice Oregon State University article about coir vs. peat.
Well, I’m done outside for the day. The wind was blowing peat in my eyes and I was getting worried that my little 10 pound dog was going to catch a gust and end up in Lincoln Park.
Posted in Container Gardening, Growing Media, Fertilizer and Ammendments, Rooftop Gardening, Weather and Climate
Tagged chicago, coconut husk, coir, container gardening, Ozark Beauty, peat, potting mix, rooftop gardening, soil, strawberries
Ten EarthBoxes arrived today, 5 per box. Each shipping box weighed about 30 lbs. and came via FedEx. I ordered them on 3/2 so that’s just under 2 weeks. I spoke with the EarthBox folks last week who said they have been inundated with orders and barely have enough people to handle the packing volume. I guess that’s a good sign for them, but for the rest of us it means we better hurry up and order if we want Boxes for spring planting.
EarthBoxes are self-irrigated planters or SIPs. Here is their about us blurb on their website:
“Since 1994, EarthBox® has been the pioneer in container gardening systems. The patented EarthBox® was developed by commercial farmers and proven in the lab and on the farm. Our maintenance-free, award-winning, high-tech growing system controls soil conditions, eliminates guesswork and more than doubles the yield of a conventional garden…with less fertilizer, less water and virtually no effort!”
For the record, I’m not affiliated with EarthBox in any way nor am I endorsing them (not yet, anyway). They are my planter choice for this year’s rooftop garden; and at $28 a box, hopefully a wise one!