Monday, June 23, 2014

Urban gardening update, June 23rd.

June 23: Well, exciting news in the last week -- I picked up my second-ever store-bought plant! And that's because I finally found a large and inexpensive garden center in the city but without all the attitude -- turns out the Home Depot on North Avenue has a huge garden section, for both indoor and outdoor gardeners. After some debate, I picked up the croton plant you're seeing in these photos next to the palm, on sale for six bucks; like the palm, it's a tropical plant that likes a lot of water but needs to drain quickly as well, likes lots of indirect light but will wilt under direct exposure to the sun's rays, and that needs to be kept humid at all times, which I've usually been doing by misting both plants once every 24 hours, but just today finally also got a rock garden with water set up underneath them, so the evaporating water will constantly be going up the lengths of the plants too. That's why these plants are always so cheap, because they need a fairly decent amount of care to keep them thriving.

I also finally sat down and read up again in detail about lettuce and mesclun plants, and realized that if I didn't harvest my three adult pots soon, they would "bolt" and the leaves would turn bitter; I got one large salad and one small one out of the pickings (I gave the small one to Carrie), plus a big pot of pesto (my two adult basil plants produced three packed cups of leaves here on its latest harvesting). Sadly, though, I also learned that salad greens are not really a "cut and carry on" crop; you can pretty much expect to get only one good harvest from each plant, and MAYBE a second or third smaller one if you cut the first harvesting right (that is, all the way down to the last inch of the previous stalks). And that seems to be bearing fruit so far -- as you can see in the photos taken today, there are new leaves already coming up on these stripped lettuce plants just a week later.

Other than that, everything else is looking great right now too -- especially impressive are the coleus plants, which were literally seeds just seven weeks ago, and also how nice the newest moonflower plant looks when put next to my older and now untangled morning glory plant, both of them on top of my lamp during the day so they can trail down in the direct sunlight. (These get moved to the top of my bookshelves during the night and when company is over, along with my ivy.) And I started a new round of seeds today too, although just three new crops of warm-weather plants (chamomile, lavender, and sage), to try again after the sudden death of all three last month during a random cold day while they were next to an open window. I THINK the weather in Chicago has finally turned warm for good by now (it freaking BETTER have), so I'm excited to try all three of these again and see if I can grow them into adult form. These are part my plan for Christmas presents this year -- to harvest and dry all these myself, then make my own customized "bath bombs" to give out to everyone -- so it'd be nice if I could get these more delicate and fragrant plants to bloom well in August when they'll just be hitting their adult forms and flowering for the first time. As always, more later!

Oh, and one more surprise -- my viola plant from April 8th finally bloomed for the very first time yesterday! Here's hoping it's the first flower of many!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Urban gardening update, June 12th.

(I'm trying something special this year and am keeping a "photo blog," telling my story mostly through images but with a bit of description added as well, concerning my first-ever year of being an urban gardener. Check the "Garden 2014" photoset at my Flickr account for the entire series, including more photos for each entry than you see here.)

June 12: So, I finally had some time yesterday to get the last of my sprouts repotted into their final adult six-inch pots; I'm essentially now done with all my seeds and small plants, although I might do another round if I end up with the time and energy. (For what it's worth, a big chunk of my latest seedlings all died off literally over the course of eight hours the other week, after being next to an open window on a day when the weather unexpectedly plunged into the 50s while I wasn't home. Man, those seedlings will just die at the drop of a hat, I'm discovering, so fast that you can't even do anything about it; combined with Chicago's constantly shifting temperatures, this has presented a real challenge this year to my gardening experiments.) As you can see, my latest pot of moonflowers is growing in much more nicely than the first pot, which I think you can attribute to the warmer weather and the longer amount of sunshine each day; and the coleus is already starting to look great, just six weeks after I first planted the seeds, and I'm looking forward to seeing them blossom and fill with color even more as the summer continues. I'm also happy to say that my ivy cuttings from April 9th are now finally strong enough and big enough to be counted as a mini-plant unto itself, and looks really nice in its little four-inch clay pot on a shelf of my floor-length lamp; and my main trailing plants that I started earlier this year are still growing apace too, and the longest tendrils are now reaching down a good foot and a half from the pot lid itself.

In fact, there's really only one bit of sad news to report, which is that it looks like my sugar snap pea plant is on its last legs, without having ever produced any peas; the gardening guides all warn that these pea plants tend to die once the weather starts getting warmer, and it indeed looks like this is going to be the case soon with mine. In fact, this has been an important lesson I've learned about indoor gardening this year, which you can also see exhibited in my trailing plants; that there's a difference between the ability of a plant to simply GROW while indoors, and to grow big and bushy and with lots of leaves. Although I've been successful with most of the stuff I've tried this year, in terms of simply keeping it alive, certainly many of my more sun-intensive plants have turned out to only be scraggly-looking in their mature stage, and this will be an important thing to remember next winter when I'm making plans for year 2 of my gardening adventures. Anyway, more soon, I'm sure!