Thursday, May 29, 2008

irrigation, pre-columbian style

Last November I attended a workshop on soil health organized by the Chicago Park District.  I learned so many things I haven't tried yet let alone write about them, a sure way to forget them.  
The presenter, Mike the worm guy, gave lots of composting tips I'll go into when I try them. (Hopefully soon) 

He also mentioned clay pot irrigation.  
This is an irrigation method that's been around for millenia that involves burying clay pots filled with water next to your plants/crops and letting the porous nature of unglazed ceramics do the rest. 
It seeps.  You refill.

He suggested using terra cotta pots and plugging the hole with a wine cork or some other plug that won't leak. You bury them up to the rim and place them near your plants.  They should be filled to the top with water and have a lid of sorts, maybe a tile or even the pots' dish to keep out mosquitoes and slow down evaporation.

This sounded genius to me, especially for containers and new plantings when we're out of town, which will be soon.
This will be be a bit of an experiment but better than nothing.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

seedlings, continued

Although I'm still not convinced that seeds are the way to go completely, it is exciting to plant the little sprouts. They're a little spindly and probably should have been planted on a couple weeks ago, but a little neglect might get them used to this garden.

The bottles contain blue violet, amaranth, nasturtium, zinnia, and some too spindly to count bells of ireland.
The peat pots are mostly tomatoes, with some very tiny coleus.

More amaranth, tomatoes (an heirloom variety), mini foxglove, black viola, and the three large seedlings are castor bean plants.
I've planted some but hope to finish up all seedlings tomorrow.

I had to include some pictures of the 'Grace' Smokebush I planted last fall to fill in the ugly chain link fence gap.
Even though it's leafing out in a really systematic manner, (top first, then bottom, maybe middle soon?) which gives it a bit of a strange look, the leaves are so delicately bronzed I'm really happy with it.
The bit of green in front belongs to the 'endless summer' hydrangea. I like the color of the new leaves, but I'm never sure about whether to cut down last season's branches. I know it's supposed to have new growth on old wood as well as basal, but I haven't seen any this year or last. It looks pretty scraggly. And I only got one bloom last year. And I have two of them.

On top of its lovely bronzed leaves, the smokebush is also beginning to bud.

It's tough to see, but crammed in on either side of the smokebush is some transplanted joe pye weed that looks like it made it. This was much easier to transplant than the baptisia I wrestled with last weekend. Which is also, last I checked, still alive.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

my misery, my everything

Thought I would include some photos from last year's saga of Miep (the cat) vs. squirrel.

The forces of nature are upon her again and the squirrels are in their glory. They are fearless. They've begun their pot digging and we must shut all doors and windows in defense of the pantry and Miep's food.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

all in

Things are growing. This is good.
But some are things I haven't asked for, (hello mr. bindweed)
and some I can't find (chocolate joe pye weed?)
I attacked the front bed, my back can attest, and I'm about 1/4 of the way through it. How did people work the fields from dusk to dawn without the miracles of ibuprofen?
I had 3 batches of false indigo, two were great but one was pretty sad under the growing shade of the neighbor's Kentucky coffee tree.
So today, after an hour's digging, I moved it.
Afterwards I read about its strong tap root and resistance to mobility so I hope it recovers. I can live with no blooms this year, but its foliage would be missed.
Next up, 'Gateway' joe pye weed is taking a trip to a sunnier spot. I hope this move isn't as intense.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

may day

It was the first trip to the garden center that did me in. The tiny seedlings I was so happy with two days ago look hopelessly small and unsatisfying compared with the greenhouse grown offerings.
I was pleased with the two leaves my bergenia seedlings were sporting, until I saw them fully grown and flowering for only $12.99.
I dismissed my dad's grumblings about the futility of seeds in a season as short as Chicago's as a lack of commitment. But I get it.
Next year, grow light.
Commit to the contraptions, and order by January.