Deck Veggies – Part One

This weekend, we got all of the veggies into soil. Not all in the permanent homes since we ran out of potting soil (we still need enough to fill four seven-gallon pots), but we’ve got them all in some kind of dirt at least.

That’s our brand new rosemary and the window box. Oregano is in the center, flanked by thyme, cucumbers and chard. I know typically that cucumbers and chard need a lot more space to grow, but I’m going to give it a try here – after working at the rooftop garden last summer I’m amazed by what can grow in very little soil. So we’ll see what happens. The biggest challenge will be keeping it watered and fertilized.

An alternate shot of the deck railing, with the hanging baskets visible. Sweet peppers in one, hot peppers in the other. They’re super crowded with four plants each – when we get more soil, only one will be in each pot, with the remaining three getting transferred to larger quarters.

The spot below our deck railing on the patio houses the tomatoes on the left and cabbages on the right. I’ve got four plants per container right now due to the soil shortage, but I’ve got another four of these pots, so they’ll end up being two to a container. All six pots will be lined up here, in the sunniest spot. Still slightly tighter space than is ideal, but I’ve successfully grown produce in much smaller pots totally indoors in an east-facing window for many years, so to me this is like the Garden of Eden. I think I can make it work.

This is our one planter of non-edibles – a false spiria in between two creeping junipers. It provides a nice flash of color in front of our bedroom window. And you can see the spare pots just waiting eagerly for soil just off to the side.

Stay tuned for Deck Veggies – Part Two when we get our next batch of potting soil and get everything into its proper space.  We still need to hang our white summer lanterns (in between the hanging planters) and maybe get a few pots of flowers for our etagere (which lives to the left of the white planter above and is currently mostly empty) and then the deck will be “complete” for this season.

Spring Cleaning

At long last – a gorgeous spring day in Chicago! It’s supposed to get up to 80 today. Nevermind that we’re supposed to have severe thunderstorms starting this evening, there’s plenty of beautiful day ahead between now and then. We started the morning by taking the patio furniture back outside and having breakfast on the deck. Scrambled eggs and bacon never tasted so good.

After breakfast, I tackled the winter clean up. First, I swept the deck and stairs. Then I pulled the dead plants out of both window boxes and cultivated the soil. We lost two of the dwarf firs over the winter in the free-standing window box. The two junipers on the end survived and I just had to clip one dead branch of one of them. Now we have a giant space in the middle of the planter that needs to be filled. I have no idea what will go there, except that it won’t be dwarf firs again.

I also cleaned up the etagere and swept the patio – the landscape rock we have back there freely migrated during the winter storms so that had to be put back into it’s rightful place. I also pulled out some weeds and dead plants from the inch-wide strip of soil on our side of the back fence, and cultivated the soil there. I’m going to plant morning glories on our side in a few weeks when we’re past the frost free date (about April 20th here).

The only things left to do are to hang some brackets for hanging planters, hang the lanterns and actually get things planted in all the pots and boxes. I know the chilly weather probably isn’t completely done yet since this is Chicago, after all – but it’s closer than ever and outdoor space is that much closer for a long summer season of tons of use. Finally!

Sunday Seed Starting

The day has finally arrived! We’re eight weeks away from our frost-free date here in Chicago, so seed starting time has officially arrived. I thought I had an abundance of potting soil left over from last season, but apparently I only had about two gallons left. I stretched it with a little perlite I had leftover, so I had enough to get started.

I’m reusing the green windowsill greenhouses I’ve had for a few years now, so I started by rinsing one of them out and wetting down my potting soil. The seeds that got their lucky start today were Martino’s Roma tomatoes, Alpine strawberries, and red bunching onions. I started six tomatoes, six strawberries and eighteen onions, to fill one of the greenhouses. It’s got a plastic lid to keep the moisture in, and I made some makeshift labels by writing the names on some balsa wood strips I pirated from husband’s miniature modeling supplies.

The rest of what I plan to grow this season doesn’t need to be started for another few weeks, and I have enough potting soil yet to fill the second windowsill greenhouse. Time to make a list though, because I am going to need quite a lot of soil to fill the Ikea box planters I plan to use. I’m thinking when we get out to Ikea (I’m hoping we can go in a few weeks) we can load up on potting soil and whatnot since we’ll have to get a car for that jaunt anyway.

The seeds are currently sitting on the kitchen counter next to the sink under a cabinet. I’m going to keep my eye out for a small under-cabinet light fixture to pick up and rig up a makeshift growlight so I don’t get leggy, lethargic seedlings. Hopefully I can find one that will work and isn’t too pricey in the next few days, before the seeds begin to sprout. Guess I should measure that cabinet tonight then…

At any rate, gardening season is officially underway here at Apartment Farm! I’m excited about the prospect about having a deck and patio full of plants this year – and the first bites from the garden are going to taste soooo good!