Wednesday, October 31, 2007

What The Heck Is This?: Restaurant Edition

Pie Guy stumbled on a restaurant that was getting rid of their plants and he talked them into giving him some. He brought back one bag for me and one bag for Garden Buddy. Thanks, Pie Guy! So what the heck are these things please? Will they live in my house? Do they need a lot of water or a little of water?

They are very pretty, yes?

Monday, October 29, 2007

In My Hood

Inspired by all the bloggers who have posted pictures of gardens in their neighborhoods I decided to take a walk around my own neighborhood to get a closer look at a few that have caught my eye from the car.

The house below is one that I ran across a few weeks ago. When I first saw it I actually gasped "wow! they removed all the grass in the front yard!! go on with your bad self, neighbor!" When I actually walked by it I noticed there is still some grass left. Judging from the very tall plants at the street, I'm thinking they must be looking for privacy. Either way, I admire their nerve and I'll be sure to check this garden out again in the spring when everything is in it's full beauty.

The house below is where my favorite neighborhood garden lives. I wish I knew these people and I wish they'd let me look in their backyard - I bet it's awesome! For some reason I always imagine that everybody is like me when it comes to their front yard. I figure all their best work is in the back and they only move to the front when they run out of space or find themselves pressured into improving their curb appeal by some fancy landscapers *glaring at Carolyn and MBT*

Here's the view from both ways on the street. The house is on a pretty busy street so I tried to snap the pictures quickly so nobody would think I'm with the FBI or anything. What, you don't think light blue crocs and Vols sweatshirt scream FBI?What I noticed about my neighborhood is that the gardens are mostly straight and narrow. There are very few curvy lines therefore the few that do have them, like the one in the picture above, really command attention. Walking in my neighborhood also reaffirmed that I prefer the messy look in the garden. You call it "cottage style" I call it charming disarray.

I'm still in search of that gardener in my hood who actually took the plunge to remove all their grass. Or, maybe I'll be the first?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Bastard Garden Flower Arrangement

I love reading about Heather's husband's bastard garden and today I was thinking of them as I was ripping out old dead Zinnias. We had our first frost last night and now I understand the significance. These Zinnias were wet and gross looking so I decided it was time to get rid of them. So long first plants I ever grew from seed!
As I was cramming these things into the old rusty metal "yard waste only" trash cans I noticed a bastard garden work of art starting to emerge. Heather - don't you think this would make the perfect centerpiece for the bastard garden??? The bees loved it so much that I couldn't even move it to the alley for trash pick up because they were attacking me every time I went near it.

In other bastard news, I planted all my bulbs this morning and by the time I was out of the shower the bastard squirrel was already digging them up. I am not a violent person but I so wish I had a gun today.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Productivity Slightly Up

I was finally able to get outside for a couple of hours today. I got a few things accomplished but I still have plenty left to do and last I heard we are in danger of a light frost tonight. I don't really know what that means for my garden but I know all you gardening bloggers are obsessed about it so it must be important.

Here's the composter in it's new home. I put it by the door for easy access. I started a batch today using wood chips and plants from the kitchen garden that I needed to git rid of (broccoli, tomato, oregano). That I was able to recycle the plants made it so much less painful to cut them back.
Here it is about half full before mixing.

And after mixing. Carolyn - you were right! It was much harder to turn with stuff in it. The package insert says finished compost takes 6-8 weeks but I'm sure that's probably in the summer. It's getting colder so I'd be surprised if it was ready that soon. I plan to add leaves and coffee grounds if I can get more from Starbucks.

I also built the second raised bed. YAY!
I put the cardboard box the composter was delivered in in the bottom of the beds (it was the perfect size for these 2 beds) and then put newspaper on top of that and wet it. You may notice in the picture that the papers are all the same. Here's a little known fact that will probably change your opinion of me in some way. Mr. W and I use to have a weekly reading of Savage Love, a very inappropriate sex column published in the Chicago Reader that would embarrass the even the un-embarrassable. I will spare you the details of the column but for some sick reason we find it entertaining that this guy mixes sex and politics in an ever so disgusting way. Anyway, we fell behind in our reading but my dear Mr. W has been keeping every issue in date order for years, in case we ever got a hankering to pick up where we left off. So, I was granted approval to use them in the new raised lasagna bed - Savage Love lives on! Funny comment by non-gardening bf "is there any chance that somebody will find all those papers later and think we are crazy".

Remember the homemade composter I made earlier this summer? Well, I dumped the contents into the new raised beds too. Holy crap you should have seen the 2 big ass worms that were in there!!!! It was so gross but I guess my little contraption was working. Can somebody tell me how those worms get in there? They were much too fat to have fit through the small holes I drilled in the bottom.

Here is what the the beds looked like after I dumped all the crap in that I've been piling up here and there. As I suspected, it didn't even make a dent in it. I plan to add the rest of the plant material from the kitchen garden along with as many leaves as I can get in there, then cover it for the winter.

I still need to plant bulbs and I still need an assistant!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Crap I Still Need To Do

  1. Start compost (the new composter is still sitting in the middle of the living room. Mr. W is not happy about this and has chastised me about it daily)
  2. Build 2nd raised bed (I bought the wood today!)
  3. Plant bulbs (I bought a few crocus and allium tonight)
  4. Rake leaves
  5. Lasagna the raised beds
  6. Pick remaining tomatoes (it's going to be in the 30's tomorrow night)

I need an assistant!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

It Is ON!!

The magic dirt maker arrived!

It's the Envirocycle compost tumbler and I love it already! I can't wait to take it outside and start throwing stuff it in! It's so easy to turn and its green. The instructions don't really say how long it should take to finish but I'll keep you posted.

Compost - here I come!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Big Box Bulbs

I am so not excited about planting these...I got these a couple of weeks ago at Costco. They were a great deal at around 13 bucks for each bag. I gotta say I'm only buying bulbs to keep up with the Joneses. What's to like about planting 150 bulbs? Truth is, the only reason I bought bulbs is because if I didnt plant any, knowing me, next spring when all you gardening bloggers are bragging and showing off pictures of your flowers, I'd be cursing myself for being lazy and not planting any. I chose the pink Daffodil mix because Daffodils remind me of my grandma. Mr. W chose the Tulips.

In other bulb news, I went to the Chicago Botanic Garden today with GB and got a few things...
  • Navarra Lily
  • Stargazer Lily
  • Rhine Wine Daffodil

Anybody wanna plant some bulbs?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

40 Years Ago...

40 years ago my mother gave birth to me. I imagine she probably had one shitty day other than the joy she may have felt from seeing her first baby born healthy. I can't even imagine the pain of something that big passing through your whatchamacallit. Anyway, 40 years later I had a much more relaxing day. Here's how I spent my birthday.

TA DAAA!!! I built my first raised veggie bed! It was so easy! GB - I did it all by myself! Yay me! I had originally planned to make 3 of these but they are bigger than I expected. I don't know how much smaller I expected a 4x4 bed to bed. You guessed it - IT'S 4X4! I think one more should do it. Tomorrow I'm going to get my lasagna going in this bed.

Other stuff I did .....

  1. Got the sweetest card ever from my honey. It made me cry.
  2. Cut, Color, Wax at the salon courtesy of my honey.
  3. Dinner at my favorite Italian restaurant with my honey. They even gave me a little tiramisu in a little clay pot with a real flower in the top for my birthday. They did not sing to me at the restaurant. Thank God!
  4. Picked up 5 pounds of coffee grounds from Starbucks for my garden.
  5. Took a nap
  6. Went to the basketball game where my Chicago Bulls beat the Indiana Pacers.
  7. Got ice cream from my favorite ice cream place The Brown Cow Ice Cream Parlor.
  8. The composter is on the way! It has been ordered but did not arrive on time which spoiled my guys master plan. I'm excited about it!

It was a very quiet day. Other than my honey, I only spoke to my mother. Other well wishers left me voicemails. For some reason I just didn't feel like talking today. Birthdays are hard for me. This one was pretty good.

Thank you all for the birthday wishes - I really appreciated it.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Happy Early Birthday To Me!

Guess who got Light Blue Crocs straight off her wish list????? Today I had a working meeting scheduled with Pie Guy at 11am. So 11 rolls around...

Me: "Okay Pie Guy, time to get to work??"
Pie Guy: "I need to get food first, lets go downstairs"

Me: "Where are we going"
Pie Guy: "Lets go down to the first floor"
Me: "Why???"
Pie Guy: "Well there's variety on the first floor
Pie Guy: "'ve got *pseudo-restaurant x* you've go *large coffee chain Y*, you've got *crowded bakery z* across the street...."
Me: "Pie Guy has lost his damn mind if this is what he calls variety". (thinking it-not saying it.)

So we walk outside and I see GB walking towards us grinning ear to ear with GB Jr #1 and GB Jr #2 in tow. I was so confused! GB is off today, what the heck is she doing here? And then I saw the bag! It's my birthday! They totally got me this time! Surpriseeeeeeeeeeeee!!

We went to lunch and had a great time! GB Jr. made me the prettiest birthday card I've seen in a long time.

They are so pretty I don't want to get them dirty!

Thanks, GB, GB Jr's, Pie Guy and Computer Guy! You guys are awesome!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

I'd Rather Be Gardening, Or Blogging About Gardening

My day job is standing in the way of gardening and garden blogging and I'm pissed off about it. Ever since I got this new job I've been working later than usual and I'm back to being obsessed about work, even when I'm at home.

Today was a typical day. I worked until almost 7:30 - by the time I get home I can't even see the garden, let alone work in it. I haven't picked a single tomato this week so I'm assuming they are rotting on the vine. Not only that, but I'm having a really hard time keeping up with all the blogs I love to read as well as writing on my own blog. Gardening Bloggers - I MISS YOU!

The weekends are mostly devoted to doing crap that simply prepares me to work my ass of the next week - laundry, grocery shopping, blah blah blah. This sucks! I need a gardening vacation...
On a positive note, I'm going to the bulb sale at the Botanical Garden with GB this weekend. YAY!

If anybody has any suggestions on how I can blow off work to do some gardening without getting fired, please email me immediately! If by some wild chance my boss is reading this blog - I NEED A FREAKIN VACATION! I'M STRESSED OUT AND MY PLANTS NEED ME DAMMIT!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Winter Sowing

In preparation to try winter sowing for the first, I requested free seeds from the people over at They came in the mail today!

It was very simple, I just mailed them a self addressed stamped envelope per the instructions on their website and the seeds arrived about a week later. They came wrapped in this little flyer that also tells me how to grow tomatoes in a bucket.

They tell you that they'll send 6 different kinds of seeds but they sent me 10! Count em! Talk about "under promise and over deliver."

Here's the list of seeds they sent me...

  1. Tomato Blend - assortment of different shapes, sizes and colors. Are they mind readers?
  2. Poppy Blend
  3. Snapdragon Mix
  4. Bells of Ireland. Are they mind readers?
  5. Columbine Blend
  6. Shasta Daisy
  7. Heirloom, purple-tinged, butterhead lettuce
  8. Red Cardinal Flower
  9. Mammoth Sunflower
  10. Zinnia Canary Yellow

I'm so glad I waited to order seeds since a couple of the things they sent are on my list. I can't wait!

They also sent a label and encourage me to send my extra seeds to them. I'll definitely be sending in a few things.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day: Progressively Green

For me, getting greener has been a gradual process. It's not like one day I just decided to start conserving and stop polluting. It's happened over the last decade. Here are some of the things I consider to have been catalysts for it.

1. I attended an earth day festival in Memphis with my girlfriend.

2. I stopped eating meat. This was a direct result of befriending a guy vegetarian. It's possible that I was trying to impress him but it stuck. So did he!

3. I joined a hippie gym full of awesome people who taught me tons of great stuff.

4. I quit smoking. Come on! Who ever heard of a smoking vegetarian? Besides, the guy vegetarian made me do it...

5. I moved to Chicago and discovered whole foods. They make it so easy!

6. I was diagnosed and treated for thyroid cancer which made me question everything I put in my body.

7. I planted a vegetable garden and started a blog about it.

8. I had "the talk" with a dear friend about chemicals on lawns.

Steps 1-7 happened sporadically between 1999 and 2007. Step 8 was the light bulb moment for me. Since then, I've gone "balls to the walls" with getting green. I had planted my veggie garden and at that point I had made sure to buy organically grown plants simply because they were there, right next to the non-organic ones at the big box store. Why not, right? Anyway, I was on the phone with my very dear friend J and we were talking about gardening. She was telling me about how she was working hard on trying to get rid of the weeds in her grass. Here's a snippet of our conversation...

J - "my sister says if I just let the grass grow longer it will choke out the weeds"
me - "why don't you just call *well known chemical lawn company*, they are actually very affordable"
J - "*well known chemical lawn company?"
me - "yeah, I actually had them come out one year and treat my grass it it looked awesome!"
J - "sorry but I don't want anything to do with anything that's got 'chemicals' and 'lawn' right in the name of the company....I've got a little boy that plays in that yard and I don't want him hosed down with poison."

All these years, it had never even occurred to me that we pay some company that proudly advertises that they spray chemicals on our lawn just to keep out things we think are uglier than the grass around it. At that moment my life changed. Well, not actually at that moment. At that moment I was thinking BOY IS SHE UPTIGHT! But shortly after I got off the phone with her it hit me HOLY SHIT - SHE'S RIGHT!!!

Since then, I've taken many actions to help my family reduce consumption of resources and to stop adding to our already polluted planet. I drove a Hybrid. I didn't buy one yet but I'm working towards it. In the next year I will definitely be downsizing in the car category. I want something that uses less fuel. I bought a Brita water pitcher. I began landscaping my yard organically and cheaply. I signed up for and regularly surf craigslist to find stuff I need for my gardens that other people are looking to get rid of. I grew my own food. I haven't bought a tomato in months and I've even been giving them away to friends. I've done lots of other small things. I have no idea what I'm doing. It's not as if my family taught me this stuff. I'm from the south. My mother just got a brand new deep fryer a few months ago. She fries everything, even fresh veggies. Almost every person in my family smokes - we are not a healthy people. I learn from reading stuff on the internet and watching TV shows designed to teach people like me how to make simple changes for the planet.

I'd say by far the biggest impact on my green-ness has been gardening. Just getting outside did a lot for me. Focusing on growing things is a great way to be more mindful about the planet. I can't really explain way - it's like magic. Digging and planting and sweating has made me be more aware of other people's hard work on their gardens, something I've ignored for the last 39 years. Reading gardening blogs has introduced me to wonderful strangers all over the world who have been so helpful to me which has renewed my faith in the human spirit. Buying bags of dirt this summer really gave me a new perspective on recycling food. I don't want to continue throwing away things that can work magic in my garden and help preserve the planet. This is the reason I've asked for a composter for my birthday.

I'll be turning 40 this Saturday. According to my genetics, my life is at or close to being half over. I'd like to spend the second half trying my best to undo the damage I did to our planet in the first half.

If you are reading this blog or any other blog participating in Blog Action Day, I implore you to pick one thing to work on this year that's good for the planet. Plant some vegetables or make the commitment to buy more local food. Make the choice to buy environmentally safe chemicals to clean with - they are better for your family - need I say more? Discontinue your lawn treatment service and look for ways to maintain it chemical free. Get a rain barrel or start a compost pile. Filter your own water or at least be sure to recycle the plastic water bottles. Any of these small changes will help more than you can imagine. And, they make you feel so good that you'll want to do more - that's what happened to me...

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Suggest A Plant: Curb Appeal

I had such great luck back in the summer when I asked people to suggest their favorite plant that I thought I'd try it again with front gardens I'm trying to design.

In case you need a reminder, here's where my new front gardens will be. I'm not finished removing the sod but you can see the outline of where the edge of the bed will be. These part shade beds are about 6 feet from the 5-6 feet tall shrubs. Disclaimer: I am aware the shrubs look like freshly groomed poodles. I hate them, too. But they are staying at least until next year, and I vow to never let the landscape guy do that again.

So, here's what I need oh wise gardeners with your beautiful gardens and your exquisite garden designs. Give me your 3 favorite plants that work together height wise and try to work them into the design. I'll either grow them from seed or grab them on clearance over the next couple of weeks.

Suggest a...
Tall plant - for the back of the bed near the poodle shrubs
Medium plant - to place in front of the tall plant you just suggested
Short plant - to place in front of the medium one you suggested

Thank you in advance for your suggestions! I appreciate you!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

I'm A Winner!

For the third year in a row, I'm participating in a football pool. I've never won a dime. I'm about as unlucky as they come. UNTIL NOW! I picked the most games right last week and won!
So, I bought 3 Charlie Brown Azaleas for the good neighbor garden I'm working on. I also bought 4 boards to make one of the raised beds I'm planning for next year. The leaves are starting to fall and I really want to get my lasagna gardening on!

The Azaleas are Northern Lights and although I can't tell what they'll look like if they survive, I did look them up on the net and they seem to be orange-ish. I've been wanting to get azaleas because they remind me of home. I had azaleas at the house I rented from my grandma in Memphis and I never appreciated them. AND, I never took care of them. Man oh man, I thought the soil in my backyard was bad - this stuff was horrible! It was so hard it was like rocks. I did mix in some compost - I sure hope they live. I never noticed that there is not spigot anywhere in the front of my house. Watering should be interesting.

Tomorrow I'll be building the first of the raised veggie beds.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Gardening Charlie Brown Style

Here's the shrub sale section at my neighborhood garden center. It's wayyyyyyyyyyy in the back so nobody sees the sickly little plants unless they are really looking for them. I could be wrong, but I think I really scored today! I haven't been this excited about a bargain in a while. Here are my 5 new Charlie Brown shrubs. I got them all for 40 bucks! I took Jodi's suggestion and scraped the wood to make sure I saw green. I think all these are alive, but we'll see. Thanks for the tip, Jodi!
Here's the Limelight Hydrangea. This is the only plant I knew for sure I wanted to pick up today. It's another one of the plants that I was seduced into buying after reading Carolyn Gail's post about it's awesomeness. The very nice garden center lady (NGCL) who rode up on her golf cart to help me says this is actually in good shape. She told me to plant it right away but don't prune since it blooms on old wood. It's really nice sized.

Here's the Tardiva Hydrangea. There is definitely some dead parts on this plant but I'm hoping it can be saved.

This is suppose to be a Japanese Kerria. Nice NGCL threw this in for 5 bucks. After seeing a few of them yesterday when I stopped in, I came home and looked up Kerria on the Internet. I love that it grows in shade and the little yellow flowers were cute. I think this goes in the Good Neighbor Garden. I wish I knew if I liked these. They had several more like it.

Nice NGCL talked me into this Viburnum. I was trying to decide between this and a Tinkerbelle Lilac. Actually, I didn't even look at this Viburnum until she said "HEY, HOW ABOUT THIS VIBURNUM? I THINK YOU'LL REALLY LIKE IT!" The label just says "Fragrant Viburnum." Is that an actual variety or just some generic name they slapped on it because they forgot which one this was?

Here's my surprise find. It's a Bailey's Redtwig Dogwood. I was so drawn to the red stems that I had to ask about it. NGCL said it only gets about 6 feet tall so I thought I'd be crazy to pass it up.

Guess what I'll be doing this evening?
So that's it. 5 shrubs for 40 bucks. How'd I do?

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Sale On Mostly Dead Shrubs

Ever since I was told by almost every single person who reads my blog that I need taller shrubs or grasses in my backyard beds, I've been thinking of what I should plant back there.

Today I popped in my neighborhood landscape/garden center to see if they had any great sales. Most stuff was about 25% off. The old guy who works there said I should go to the back to check out the 10 dollar sale. They had a whole section of shrubs regularly priced around $40 for 10 dollars each. I saw 3 hydrangeas back there and a bunch of other crap that I've never heard of. Limelight, PeeGee and Tardiva only identifiable by their tags all looked pretty dead to me. The old garden center guy assured me that, since they had some new growth, they'd be okay next year. 2 of the 3 were very nice sized plants.

What do you think? Is it worth it to buy 3 mostly dead Hydrangeas for 10 dollars each? I'm thinking of going back tomorrow unless somebody talks me out of it.

Monday, October 1, 2007

October Muse Day: Motherhood

Born from my desire to nurture and love
I protect you - I nourish you
Hoping you’ll grow strong and stay healthy
I brag about how beautiful you are to all my friends
They know I am biased but when I show them your pictures
They say you are pretty, too.
Maybe they are just being nice
I don’t care
At night I think about what is next for you
I think of how you will grow and change over time and
I get excited.
It’s exactly like they say, hard work, but so worth it
My garden, my love child
Please visit Carolyn Gail at Sweet Home and Garden Chicago where she hosts Garden Bloggers Muse Day on the 1st of every month.