Saturday, February 27, 2010

Petunia Seedlings

The world feels very fragile today. Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Suicides...

Still, my thoughts are with Katie as she continues to fight for her life this weekend.

"Go ahead, Cornelius, you can cry."
Fight Club


Thursday, February 25, 2010

One Seed Chicago: Promoting Solidarity Amongst Chicago Gardeners

Seeds on the ballot for One Seed Chicago this year.
  • Bee Balm
  • Nodding Onion
  • P. Coneflower

Winning seed will be announced April 24th at the Green and Growing Fair, Garfield Park Conservatory.

I remember learning in General Psychology about how participating in tandem rituals builds loyalty and unity in societies. In the United States, the best examples of this are standing during the National Anthem and saying the Pledge of Allegiance to our flag. I've struggled with this concept at times (for reasons not relevant to a garden blog), but I get the point. It brings us together and sometimes that's a good thing.

For the third year in a row One Seed Chicago will be distributing a single seed variety to Chicago Gardeners and come summer, I'll be standing in my garden admiring a beautiful plant whilst a bunch of other Chicago Gardeners admire the same plant in their own gardens. Pictures will be taken. Blog posts will be written. We'll be tweeting our asses off about these plants. Holy Cow, this is gonna be fun!

Gardening is a very solitary activity. And what a person plants in their garden tells just as much about them as the way they decorate their home does. We may never get to visit each other's gardens, but, by reading about these three beautiful prairie plants, voting, then growing the seed in your garden, you'll be gardening with me, in spirit.

One Seed Chicago is fostering a sense of community amongst gardeners and I think we need that.

Here's the official press release...


NeighborSpace's One Seed Chicago project lets Chicago gardeners vote on their favorite seed then distributes the winning seed for free in an effort to help Chicago "Grow Together" in 2010.

CHICAGO-This month gardeners across Chicago will begin voting for their favorite prairie seed for One Seed Chicago and the winning seed will be sent to them through the mail.

“For the third year One Seed Chicago is uniting Chicagoans,” said Ben Helphand, NeighborSpace Executive Director. “By planting a common seed, backyards, windowsills, community gardens and balconies across thie City will be linked together in a season-long celebration of urban greening.”

In partnership with GreenNet, Chicago's community greening coalition, One Seed Chicago selected the three candidates Chicagoans will choose from. This year the winning seed will be from a plant that was once commonly found in the prairies around Chicago, but that is now rare in the wild outside of prairie restoration projects and cultivated gardens. Once established this native plant will require little water, is less prone to diseases and attracts beneficial insects and birds to a garden.

"Native plants attract native birds and insects and help to increase biodiversity in your garden," said Colleen Lockovitch, Director and Horticulturalist at the Lurie Garden at Millennium Park. "Our native plant friends are more adapted to their local surroundings and can handle the Chicago area's fluctuations in climate and weather."

Vote from Jan 1 until April 1st.

The winning seed will be announced at the annual Green and Growing Fair, April 24, 2010 at the Garfield Park Conservatory.

For more information or to vote visit

Origins of One Seed Chicago

One Seed Chicago is a project of NeighborSpace, Chicago’s land trust for community gardens. Entering its third year One Seed Chicago aims to build upon the success of the previous years and get even more gardeners involved. In 2009 One Seed Chicago distributed 10,000 Blue Lake Pole green bean seeds thanks to a generous donation from the Ball Horticultural Company. “The Year of the Bean,” as 2009 was called, was popular because it dovetailed with Chicagoans who rediscovered growing their own food in a recession.

About NeighborSpace

NeighborSpace is a nonprofit urban land trust dedicated to preserving and sustaining community managed open spaces in Chicago. Their growing network of gardens provide thousands of people the opportunity to grow fruits, vegetables and flowers; to restore habitats; and create unique gathering places in their own neighborhoods.NeighborSpace’s partners in the community can rest assured that the land will remain dedicated to conservation and their efforts will never be displaced. For more information, please visit .

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Growing the Blue Himalayan Poppy - Take Two!

Disclaimer: I did not grow this, either

I tried to grow the Blue Himalayan Poppy back in 2008. (Meconopsis Betonicifolia) I failed so miserably that I can't even recall if a single seed ever even germinated. I think I've blocked it out. Oh! The trauma! The disappointment! I was so hopeful, so confident, and so crushed.

We'll I'm getting back on the horse this year. I've ordered 2 packs of seeds from Park Seed. Unfortunately two packs of seeds only gets me a total of 20 seeds. What a rip! This is the reason I never order from Park (and the reason most of my gardening friends don't, either.) Unfortunately, these Blue Poppies are hard to find and Park Seed is one of very few vendors who carry them.

EDIT: The Blue Himalayan Poppy seed packs from Park Seed actually contain 100 seeds, not 10. The Petunia only contains 10 and I got them mixed up. Apologies to Park Seed!

From what I've read, these Poppies like really damp soil. Never let it dry out. And also a fair amount of shade, especially in hotter climates. If I can get them to grow, I'm thinking of planting them along my north-facing fence line. I have a narrow garden that only gets a little morning sun, then it is shaded by the fence for the remainder of the day.

I'm planning to diversify in an effort to get these bastards to grow. I'll start some indoors now. I'll winter sow some in a few weeks, and I'll direct sow some now, too.

If any of you (besides Jodi, the queen of the Blue Himalayan Poppy) have ever grown these successfully, please leave me a message so I can know that there is hope for those of us who don't live in Canada (or apparently Alaska.) And by all means, if you'd like to join me in this experiment, please do.

Friday, February 19, 2010

How to Organize a Seed Swap

  1. Find a group of seed geeks who want to trade seeds.
  2. Pick an appropriate location based on the size of your group.
  3. Give each participant one ticket per pack of seeds they bring to trade.
  4. Organize seeds into 3 groups, Vegetables/Fruits, Flowers, Herbs/Other.
  5. Give the participants time to browse the available seeds/socialize/drink wine & beer/eat delicious snacks.
  6. Allow each person to choose one pack of seeds in return for one ticket.
  7. Repeat #6 until all tickets are used.
Last night I attended my first seed swap. I was pretty unsure of how this thing would go down but then arrived to find that everybody else felt the same apprehension as me. There were about 7 of us. One of the girls who participated said she was a little intimidated and didn't know if her seeds were "cool enough" to bring for trade. Then she likened the seed swap to a "seed prom!" We informally decided the seed prom queen was someone who showed up with seeds she brought home from Italy in lovely homemade packaging.

It was really incredible to sit around talking seeds and gardening with these folks. They really knew their stuff! Plus, I met 3 new people. One of them was a male who again shattered the male gardener stereotype floating around in my head. Before we knew it, it was 10:30. A seed swap until 10:30! That's crazy! Obviously we all had a very enjoyable time and we're already plotting our next swap.

If you grow stuff from seed, chances are that you've got a whole bunch of seeds you'll never use. I encourage you to get together with your other seed geek friends for an informal seed swap. It's great fun and I brought home some really cool stuff that I would never think to buy.

Happy Swapping!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Cafe Ba Ba Reeba Las Vegas: The Tomato Trip

Remember that tomato contest I won back in August 2009? Well we finally took our free trip to Las Vegas. What a great time! As it turns out, gambling is way less stressful when your airfare, hotel and dinner are paid for by somebody else.

We stayed at the Paris Hotel which we found very comfortable. If you're thinking of heading to Vegas, check them out. They have a really nice spa which I spent nearly an entire day at spending all the money I'd won playing blackjack the first two nights. Did you know that you can buy a little Black Jack card to tell you exactly what to play no matter what your hand is? Thanks for that info, Dad!

The weather in Vegas was not hot but I didn't need a coat and that's about all I needed considering the cold temperatures and snow we've had in Chicago this winter. And I even saw Snapdragons growing on the strip!

The Show Me Your Tomatoes contest was hosted Cafe Ba Ba Reeba, a great tapas restaurant with locations in Chicago and in Las Vegas. The last night we were there, we headed down to Cafe Ba Ba Vegas which is located across from the Wynn hotel on the strip. We felt like rock stars because the folks at Lettuce Entertain You made our reservations for us - we just had to show up. My husband had never eaten tapas and since we're both rather picky, I was concerned about being able to find dishes we'd enjoy. We ordered nearly every non-meat item on the menu. And it was all amazing! Our two favorites were the Walnut Date salad and the Caramel Crunch desert.

After dinner, the manager, Michael (whom we'd never met), walked up to our table and said to my husband "So, are you the guy who was mad and freezing cold at the contest?" He had obviously read my blog which really caught me off guard. Michael and our waitress Kate (sorry for the bad quality picture) talked to us for while before we left and we found them to be extremely warm and friendly. Friendly, and good food. Score!

Thank you Cafe Ba Ba Reeba for hosting this contest and for the free trip to Vegas. I'll definitely be back this summer with my tasty tomatoes!