Friday, July 25, 2008

Vegetable Gardening 08

This is my second year of vegetable gardening. Last year I planted 2 large pots and filled them with 2 types of tomatoes (Roma & Fantastic), some green onion, and small leaf basil (mostly all courteous of my grandpa who taught me how to veggie garden). For me, it was a huge accomplishment to tend my own vegetables, to walk out of my kitchen and pick a tomato off the vine for a dinner salad, or basil to throw into pasta sauce.

This year, I added to my collection of "plants-in-a-pot", increasing the number to 6 plastic pots. Now they contain:
  • 3 types of tomatoes: Early Girl, cherry, and yellow plums
  • green onions
  • 2 types of peppers (yellow and chocolate)
  • purple basil
  • dill
  • strawberries
  • and a squash plant that appeared out of nowhere
My little veggie garden in the sun

So far, the troops are doing well. They all hang out on my tiny 8x8 brick patio that is the only place in my yard to get the full sun they need to grow. I'm okay with this because I like to veggie plant in pots ... mainly because of this:

I think this little guy just ate my very ripe strawberry I was waiting to grow bigger. He has good taste, they're delicious.

My green onion is huge. This came from the grocery store in March. I ate it, then saved the roots and grew them in some water before transplating them outside in April. Now they are the biggest green onions anyone has seen. It could be the compost -- all the pots contain more than 50% composted material.
The squash is a mystery. It just appeared in my strawberry plant. I didn't plant it unless it came from a seed that got into the compost (we compost a lot of veggie scraps). If so ... very cool. Right now I have flowers on the squash plant but no idea if I will get a squash.

The peppers are getting bigger and I just read that I should pick them green and let them ripen off the vine, so that the plant has more energy to make more peppers. I have a lot of flowers, but not a lot of peppers.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Garden Class: Landscape Design Finished

My six week Intro to Landscape Design class at the Arboretum has finally ended. For the class, we were supposed to choose an area or project we wanted to design in our own yard and for the last class show what we've done using the design principles we're learned.
It was an Intro class, and one that's mandatory for the Arboretum's Home Gardening certificate, so we covered a lot of ground. I really did learn a lot, and it gave me the time to focus on designing our backyard patio -- a project I always had problems starting never knowing if I was doing it right.

So here was my plan by the end of the class --I have a small backyard (50x30) -- small for the suburbs at least-- I was completely inspired by the Arboretum's small Reading garden off the library, which is a small space with room for small plant beds, a table and chairs, a water feature, and pergola area.
  • I can't recreate the actual stone walls, so I chose to mimic the walls using a shrub border. Something that will spill between the picket fence especially since my fence is ON the lot line.
  • I don't want to use gravel (like the Arb did). but I would like the large squares of bluestone to match the house. And then carve two beds out on the opposite ends (by the window and the tree).
  • The blue water fountain I got for Christmas will be in one of the garden beds.
  • And the Amur Maple will serve as the "roof"
  • We want to cover the screen porch with a real roof, so I want to extend the pergola rails out over the patio with a vine
  • Add a shrub to cover the utility pole and compost pile - and add stepping stones to the compost pile.
  • Finally, redo the garden beds along the fence.
I haven't thought too much about plant material yet. We talked about it in class and what I learned is - figure out what your site is and then pick your plants. Kind of opposite to how I act now -- more like, "I want this... now where will I put it?"

We've been trying to plan this patio for 2 years now, so now Matt is ready to break ground tomorrow! But no, not yet...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Garden Blogger Bloom Day: July 2008

This is a record! I am actually posting GBBD one day in advance, as opposed to one week after.

This summer, I have not been posting as much, but I've also not been out in the yard as much as I want to be. I talked to my neighbor and we agreed that the mosquitos are horrible this year and unless you want to be caked in Eau d'OFF on a daily basis or be eaten alive by potential West Nile critters, then you're mostly indoors thankful for the windows where you can view your yard from the inside.

But I digress .... Here's what's in bloom in my small Chicago western suburbs garden.

Front Yard:

This mophead hydrangea appeared in my yard my 2nd year. It had one bloom on it.
I moved it 3 times before finally settling it in it's "forever" home.
This year I have about 5-6 blooms and it looks really happy. It's alone right now, so I'm thinking about adding a few siblings for him to play with.

Of course, it's not summer without the purple coneflowers.
This one is new to my yard. I picked it up late last summer and it didn't have a tag but the garden center said it was some sort of potentilla. This is it's first bloom and I think it's lovely, although short -lived.
I bought this Astilbe also late last summer and it turned out to have this bright pink frond. I like it paired with the grey tones of the japanese fern.
White and pink yarrow

Side Yard:

My gigantic Astilbe ... planted on the west side of the house ... I didn't do this.
It does good except it needs to be watered regularly, and when it does I get the pretty pink fronds.

Back yard:

Here's my new Pinky Winky Hydrangea I got at the Arboretum's plant sale. It was so tiny when I bought it and I left it in the pot until only about 3 weeks ago. It started to bloom in the pot so I decided to finally plant it. I removed a huge purple loosestrife that Carol/May Dreams recommended and replaced it with this lovely.

Cranesbill geranium
Potentilla fructiosa
clustered bellflower
coral bells
annual geraniums, petunias, begonias