Gardening, In Between Rain Storms

It’s really starting to feel like we have a monsoon season  now in northern Illinois; it rains nearly every day. The day started cloudy and overcast, so much so that I packed our rain jackets and umbrella in the wagon for our weekly walk over to the farmer’s market. Today was the first day that the abundance of early summer made itself known. Prior to today, the farmer’s market has mostly been scallions, spinach, overwintered potatoes and onions, and vegetable starts. Today – every kind of green you could want, fresh herbs, leeks, young onions, rhubarb and tons of other things I can hardly remember. It was a good market day – we came home with cider, kale, scallions, bread, a parsley plant and two basil plants.

After we came home for the afternoon, the clouds cleared and the sun actually came out, so we seized the opportunity to get out into the garden and attend to the plants. The third raised bed we finally topped up with soil, so we today we planted out cabbage, squash, watermelons, and two varieties of pumpkins. The tomatoes, pepper and beans we already planted are also doing well. And we planted the parsley and basil in a planter up on the deck.

And it’s a good thing we did – the rain is back in full force. As I type, I hear the pitter-patter of a steady rainfall, punctuated periodically by terrific crashes of thunder. But at least now this means that tomorrow I won’t have to water!

Sunday Market Score

For once, we remembered when the Glenwood Sunday Market was holding a winter market – the last one of the year. Though with temps nearing 80 today, saying we were going to a winter market was a little weird. And it certainly wasn’t austere – the place was jam-packed and we came home with a nice haul – a pint of field-ripened strawberries (it’s true!) from Hardin Farm, fresh garlic from Montalbano, an entire bag of red potatoes from King’s Hill, and mushrooms from River Valley Mushrooms.We also picked up a breakfast treat from Bennison’s – two chocolate croissants for me and two chocolate doughnuts for husband. And last but not least, we got some lettuce and plant starts from our favorite market vendor, Midnight Sun – a Patio Star summer squash, a couple of Italian parsley and four miniature sunflowers.

It was great to dig in the dirt this morning planting. I put the four sunflowers in our window box on the deck railing, and they look gorgeous. Once the three morning glories get a bit bigger, I’ll plant them in front so they can cascade down to the patio. It’ll look great. The parsley went into our blue glazed planter, and the squash went into one of the mid-sized planters on the patio so it can get plenty of sun. I didn’t go hog wild at the market today with plants because Becky let me know that their seedling list is up on their website and that she’d be happy to put together an order for me to pick up the first outdoor market in a few weeks. So of course the first thing I did when I got home was email over my order –

1 dill
1 lavender
4 Improved Rainbow Swiss chard
2 Lacinato kale
1 Roma tomato
1 Sungold tomato
3 of the container tomatoes we asked you to grow (I am having a brain freeze on the name at the moment)
2 Jimmy Nardello sweet peppers
Other than forgetting the name of the tomato I specifically asked for last fall and that they obligingly agreed to grow out this season, I think I’m pretty well set on plants now. We’ve got our four types of hot peppers that are doing fairly well along with a few basil starts that are looking good. We need to restart our edamame and peas – I know it’s kind of late for peas since it’s getting hot already, but I’m going to try a couple anyway and see what we get.
And of course, despite my best laid plans for what I planned to grow, my list is always a bit different once I start to get things in the dirt. But that’s what I like about gardening – you can always mix it up and see get a lot of good stuff! It’s too bad we don’t have any batteries for the camera today (need to put that on my next shopping list) or I’d take a picture and show it all off. Good thing we’ve got the whole season ahead of – you’ll be able to see the garden in it’s full glory soon enough.

Spring Stockpiling

Seeds are germinating, so it’s the time of year when I start getting really anxious about pots. I never seem to have enough. If you recall, last season I was really excited to acquire six 14-inch planters (we only used four) at the dollar store for $7.00 a piece. We definitely plan to use all six of them this season, and then some. I’ve been watching the dollar store for a few weeks now for this season’s gardening supplies, and today I finally hit gold. I popped in to check out the situation on my way to the grocer for the week’s meat and veg and lo and behold – two aisles of garden supplies. After grocery shopping, I returned to purchase what I’m estimating we’ll need for this season. I know from experience that the dollar store is going to sell out of the planters fast – they went like hotcakes last year.

I thought about getting two more of the largest planters so we’d have a total of eight, but the real estate on the common patio is getting kind of tight. There’s a communal table and chairs (that no one uses ever, so it’s kind of annoying that it’s taking up space) out there, and I know a couple more grills in addition to ours are going to make an appearance as the weather gets warmer. And that’s okay, it is a shared space. So instead of the largest planters, I decided to expand our growing space with a collection of smaller pots, that can be easily moved around and tucked into small spots.

I purchased four 12-inch pots at $5.00 each, four 10-inch pots at $2.00 each and two 6-inch pots for $1.00 each. I also picked up two 3-packs of plastic drainage pans for the smaller pots at $1.00 each. I figure the 10- and 6-inch pots will be good for the assortment of herbs we’re growing this year, and will be much easier to bring indoors in the fall for overwintering. So for $32.00 I think I got a pretty good deal. We also acquired a blue glazed pot (I think it’s around 12 inches) last fall when we received some planted mums as a gift.

So the total inventory of plant pots currently is –

6 14-inch pots

4 12-inch pots (new)

4 12-inch hanging baskets

4 10-inch pots (new)

2 6-inch pots (new)

1 12-inch glazed pot (new)

1 10-inch (I think) glazed pot (permanent home for the hops)

1 8-inch glazed pot

1 6-inch glazed pot (permanent home for the bamboo)

2 square glazed pots (permanent homes for the bay tree and oregano)

1 strawberry pot

1 window box

1 freestanding window box shelf with Earthbox “insert” (permanent home for the dwarf junipers)


Think it will be enough? Likely not, but at least we’re closer! And it’s a good thing, because we have dichondra, jalapeno and cayenne peppers sprouted, as well as some herbs. Which herbs, we don’t know yet. The mini greenhouse had a little accident on the patio on a windy day recently, so things got a bit mixed up. I think basil and thyme, but we’ll find out for sure once the seedlings get a little bigger and put out more true leaves. And this weekend we’re going to do some more planting – more peppers (the germination rate wasn’t too great – I got the seeds in trade, so you can never be sure of the quality), peas, chard, more herbs – lots of other stuff. My planting list and schedule have gone out the window… but that’s okay. My husband is really involved this year so I’m excited about that. So if he says he wants to plant something, we just do it. So we may need to go buy more pots yet!

Plan C: The Transplants Have Arrived

Yesterday my husband surprised me with two new plants – a false spiria (the one with the lovely pale pink flowers) and a new rosemary for my first Mother’s Day. Excited by the new greenery, we decided to head over to Gethsemane, despite the rain and chill, to get the rest of the plants we wanted for the garden. Needing copious amounts of dirt, my husband also muscled home over 60 pounds of potting soil on a hand cart – a walk of over a mile and a half!

Our plant haul included –

1 Italian oregano

2 French thymes

4 ‘Red Express’ cabbage

4 ‘Bush Pickle’ cucumbers

4 ‘Rhubarb’ chard

4 ‘Gypsy’ sweet peppers

4 ‘Anaheim hot peppers

4 ‘La Roma’ tomatoes

1 purple mini African violet (for my desk at work – we finally moved into a room with a window)

If the weather ever warms up today, we hope to have at least half of it planted into containers this afternoon – we’re probably going to need another 40-60 pounds of potting soil, and after yesterday’s tiring jaunt, a return trip is likely going to have to wait until next weekend. But at long last, we’ve got some real live plants at Apartment Farm this season.

Gearing Up For Seed Starting

I’m not the only one with a wicked case of spring fever. A few of my fellow bloggers are laying in plans for spring planting in this cold and blustery month too –

My Suburban Homestead is reviewing an LED indoor growlight for seed starting.

Not Dabbling in Normal is giving advice on ordering seeds.

Tiny Gardener is setting up a seed starting shelf.

Cottage Days & Journeys is showcasing some vintage seed catalog graphics.

Chickens in the Road is planning the garden from the first catalog of the season.

Homestead Revival is talking about 2011 garden goals.

So, I’m not the only one making grandiose plans in the depths of winter. The only problem is, I got another catalog today – Seed Savers Exchange! I am going to do my best to resist placing another order… but maybe just one or two packets wouldn’t hurt?

Tis the Season – For Spring Planting?

In the ultimate spirit of holiday/season jumping,  I was pretty shocked yesterday to find the first 2011 seed catalog in the mail. I don’t ever remember seeing one before late January at the earliest. However, it just happens to be my favorite seed purveyor, Pinetree Garden Seeds so shock quickly made way for excitement. Christmas wish list updates? Yes, please!