Tag Archives: rooftop gardening

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.

4 Surprising “Green” Chicago Websites

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.

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

July 18th Harvest: Before and After

We were in the Carolinas last week when we heard about the heatwave headed towards Chicago. About 80% of my containers were connected to irrigation, so I figured I’d suffer a few casualties. Arrived back home to find the garden doing surprisingly well and recovering nicely from the recent storms. Never expected to be eating an entire meal from the garden today. Sometimes gardens like to be ignored (ignored plus irrigation and fertilizer).                                                      (Above) Bush cucumbers, Blue LakeBeans, Red Potatoes, Squash Blossoms, Tomatoes (Opalka and Stupice)

An hour later and voila! Lightly breaded fried squash blossoms and two salads: 1) an Indian-street-food-inspired salad of tomatoes, cucumber and cilantro in a sweet lemon cumin vinaigrette. 2) A red skin potato and green bean salad tossed in a dressing of veganaise, vegan sour cream, mustard, celery seed, salt & pepper:

The foliage (above) has grown in so quickly you can’t even see the storm damage. I’m not getting any pollination on the zucchini or yellow sqash- hence eating their blossoms for lunch. Blossoms taste better than a boring zucchini anyway. With only that single pot of Blue Lake beans pictured on the right, we’ve already had 2 meals and there are plenty more beans on the way. Tons of green tomatoes have recently popped out and check out this baby eggplant that’s about 1/2″ long:

I nearly forgot about a few spindly seedlings that I was sure would die off. I put them in a windowsill greenhouse just to see what would happen. Well, as luck would have it, the little greenhouse got destroyed in the storm but not before it nurtured this Shishito pepper and a few tomatoes seedlings to hardiness. Not sure how prolific these plants will be, but I’ll enjoy every inch of these two peppers that have appeared:

A few random flowers currently in bloom 4 flights up:

And finally a few glimpses of the not-so-edible things thriving on the rooftop. One mantis is green and the other is brown. I don’t know if that indicates gender, but I guess I could just wait to see who eats whom. Ladies first!

With today’s perfect harvest and some critter sightings, I have renewed hope for our rooftop garden. Next year when we encounter hurricane-strength wind, marble-sized hail and 100-degree heat,  I’ll just flip back to today’s post and remember that lunch.

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.