Planting Update Early June

We are not as far along as I would hope for with our planting this year, but we have managed to get most of our containers planted and going. I plan to keep adding to the garden over the next few weeks with plants that do well late in the season. We also lost a hydrangea bed that was on the north side of the house – not sure what happened to the plants, but we are going to transplant the survivors to other areas and transform that bed to a salad/shade herb garden. It will be an interesting shade garden experiment and I will post back with what does well.  Meanwhile, our tomatoes that were planted from seedlings are doing excellent.  We lost most everything else we tried to start from seed, I think next year I will try to plant them in the pots they will eventually be in.  Sneak peek of our deck renovation is also included – more pictures of the finished product to come soon!

container gardencontainer gardening

Container Garden Update

Organic Container Garden Our container garden is doing quite well this year! After an early on loss of most of our seedlings (I have not yet mastered the art of transplanting seedlings), I ordered organic vegetable plants online and replanted our garden. I would say things are going quite well with our garden tower and our second batch of plants!

I had a few doubts about whether or not the garden tower would work at first, but those have been quickly put to rest. I am definitely going to order a second tower for our deck next year. Even our neighbor who thought I was nuts for this purchase is impressed with how well it is working.

Our New Garden Tower

Garden Tower ProjectWe ordered a garden tower from the good folks at gardentowerproject.com a few weeks ago. The weather here in Chicago has finally gotten to the point that it seems safe to move our seedlings outdoors, so today was planting day! Set up was super easy, although you should definitely try to get it in it’s final spot before filling it with soil and water as it can become quite heavy (my mistake – I will have to let it dry out a little once the plants are established so I can move it). I think this will work great though! It fits more plants than we could otherwise grow in a huge garden plot and will use just a fraction of the water. I love the fact that we can use it to compost as well. These would be a wonderful way to expand the usability of a greenhouse too. Overall I am extremely happy with this purchase and highly recommend it!

I can’t wait to see how things fill out once the plants settle in, some of the poor things are still in shock from being transplanted. Our pepper seedlings seemed to separate quite well, and even if only a portion make it to maturity, we will still have a massive pepper crop this season. We also have several tomato seedlings, cabbage, collards, pumpkins, squash, and a bunch of herbs that over wintered indoors. I think that because we do have the ability to move the tower indoors for the winter I will try starting a new batch of seedlings to grow in the autumn. We are very pleased with this find!

How To Grow A Pineapple From a Pineapple Top

Grow A Pineapple From a Pineapple TopI intended to do this as an update post to show how the pineapple I first planted 2 years ago has progressed, but it seems I never wrote a post about it then.  My little pineapple friend had outgrown it’s original pot, so I transferred it over to a larger home and added a new friend for it in its original place.

To plant a pineapple from the scraps, leave 1/2″ inch or so of the fruit when you remove the top.  Check underneath to see if there are any brown dots around the edges (these are the root buds).  If you don’t, keep removing thin slices of the fruit until you do.  Now carefully remove the lower 1 inch of the leaves so you have a small stem exposed.

This next part I have seen conflicting information about.  Some say to allow the pineapple top to dry for a few days before planting and others say to place it in water.  The little pineapple top below was done with the water method, and it doesn’t look quite as good as planting the pineapple top dry (how I did the larger plant above).  Both plants looked slightly unhappy at first before perking up though, so the smaller plant still might have a chance.  Even though it is a bit dry around the edges, there is some promising new growth in the center.  Either way you do this, water around the outside of the plant and not at the center as it can cause rot.  When planting, do not allow any soil to fall into the center of the plant or cover the stem with soil, only cover up to the top of the fruit.

Pineapples like well drained soil, so you can add vermiculite to the soil to help with this and keep them in a pot that drains.  Water daily to keep the soil wet, but not water logged, for the first week.  Water once a week after they are established and keep them in a place where they can get plenty of sun.

For those in a cooler climate, pineapples can be kept in pots and moved inside over the winter.  They will die if the temperature falls to 32 degrees or lower.  We move ours indoors well before that point to keep them happy.

Growing Sweet Potatoes In Hanging Planters

Growing Sweet Potatoes In Hanging Planters
Image credit: Grow Food Not Lawns

This is a great idea for those with limited gardening space! You won’t exactly be growing sweet potatoes in bulk, but you could make a great salad from the leaves and I like the idea of hanging plants being edible as well as beautiful. This is additional food garden square footage I had not yet considered. I need to do an experiment propagating some sweet potato vines soon so they have a chance to sprout before the weather gets warm!

Caution: while sweet potato leaves are not poisonous, common potato leaves are so don’t eat the leaves from those!

Tiered Planters

Tiered PlanterI love the idea of being able to grow more food in a smaller space, especially now when we are still located in suburban Chicago. I came across these, and love the look of them. They can be extremely expensive to purchase pre-made, but luckily they should be simple enough to build yourself.  You can either purchase plans though the company linked through the photo to the left or wing it off of the photo. If I ever get a spare moment, this would be a project that would actually be fun to do.  These would work perfectly for berries, herbs and spices!

 

As an alternative for those of us with absolutely no spare time on our hands (this is me lately), you can also get something similar premade from Amazon.

 

 

How To Grow Ginger

How To Grow A Ginger PlantGrowing ginger in your garden is really quite easy.  Purchase a fresh piece of ginger from your grocery or farmers market.  Look for a large piece with plenty of “nubs” and soak the root overnight in warm water before planting.

If you are in a northern climate where frost is a possibility, you will need to plant the ginger root in a pot that can be transferred indoors in the winter.  Either drill a hole in the bottom of the pot, or place rocks at the base for drainage.

Fill the pot with well draining soil almost to the rim.  Place the ginger root on top of the soil and cover with a thin (1/2″ to 1″) layer of dirt.  Water well and place the pot in a place that gets plenty of sunlight.

Ginger plants like to be watered regularly, but they do best in well drained soil.  When I did this experiment in our garden I tried to grow ginger in two pots, the one that received less water did much better than the one that received too much (that root rotted, an extremely stinky experience preparing that pot for the next planting).

After your ginger plant has matured, you can carefully harvest small portions of the root as needed without killing the plant.  If you are anything like us, we always end up buying much more ginger than we could use and it either rots in the refrigerator or ends up forgotten in the freezer, so having a ginger plant we can harvest from is a much more sustainable option.  If you try this let me know how the ginger does in your own garden!

Window Boxes

While it is still the heart of winter in Chicago, it is never too early to begin thinking about how we want to use and decorate our outdoor spaces come springtime. Even in the most urban of areas, window boxes (placed inside if necessary) can bring the peace and beauty of the outdoors into any space. Window boxes can even be used to dress up plain windows or visually correct the scale of undersized or uneven windows.

Now is the time to begin thinking of the color scheme or plant varieties you want to surround yourself with in the coming warmer months and how you will tie that in with the existing environment. Color combinations like the bright red flowers against the blue and white of the building in the photograph above make a bold statement. You can also use a variety of mixed colors for a more natural look or stick with a specific color scheme that compliments your home and existing landscape.