Category Archives: gardening

Tomato Time 2018

red tomatoes, plot 6, forest park community garden, big boyThe tomatoes are coming! The tomatoes are coming! So far, we’ve picked Big Boys, Black Krims, a Mortgage Lifer, and tons of Juliets. We’ve been eating plenty of tomato sandwiches, BLTs, and caprese salads and we added this caprese pasta salad into our menu. Our goal for the summer is to try five new tomato recipes, so one down, four to go. Once we get a good harvest of big tomatoes, it will be easier to experiment. Juliets aren’t slicing tomatoes, so right now we’re limited to salads. They are particularly delicious this year, so no complaints! red tomatoes, plot 6, forest park community garden, big boyWe haven’t had any red Brandywines yet, so…I’m waiting patiently. But I have to say, the Mortgage Lifter and Black Krims are really fantastic…we’ll be planting more of those for sure next year!

Anything ripe in your neck of the woods?

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Plot 6, Where Are My Tomatoes?

plot 6, tomato jungle, forest park community garden, community garden, raised bedHere’s a look at our garden yesterday. I’ve resigned myself that we will never have a tidy garden. We’ll just call Plot 6 a free spirit and let it be.

Our tomato plants are growing tall and going strong but we’ve hardly had any red tomatoes yet! The green ones are there, but I’m ready for a big, juicy red garden tomato! (Ok, I just went back to the archives of the blog…usually the big tomatoes don’t start coming until August so I guess I should relax. Sometimes it’s nice to have a blog to jog your memory about things.) plot 6 first tomato 2018, Juliet tomatoWe picked our first Juliet on July 9th and then we didn’t have any red tomatoes again until yesterday. tiny tomato harvest, plot 6, forest park community garden, juliet tomatoesWe’ve been cutting a ton of basil and parsley each week, so I’m going to make a tiny caprese salad with these guys later today. Naoto has been making pesto like a champ. And we harvested a big batch of garlic, too. We’re pretty set for any upcoming Italian recipes. edamame, forest park community garden, plot 6, soybeans And most exciting of all is our edamame has ALL SURVIVED this year! Not a single bunny nibble in sight! Now we regret not planting more! I’ll try to get a better picture of the edamame patch. The plants are really tall, tucked in between overgrown walking onions and some tomatoes. In fact, I believe it was the walking onions that have kept the bunnies away. Last year, I cut back the walking onions and the bunnies ate the edamame. Lesson learned.

In the meantime, I’m collecting tomato recipes in hopes that big tomato season is just around the corner. I started a Pinterest board over here to collect ideas. After this summer, maybe I can make a little tomato cookbook! If you have any fresh tomato recipes, I’d love to hear about them!

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Our Fourth

July 4th dinner, patriotic, independence dayJuly 4th seems like weeks ago. I remember when I was a kid, it felt like July 4th was the end of summer…like it had this power to make the rest of summertime rush by. As an adult, I still kind of believe this, especially since school supplies are already out at Target. (Really…it’s ridiculous.) But really, there’s so much summer left! plot 6, forest park community garden, community gardening, raised bed gardeningIt was soooo hot and humid on the 4th. It rained a teeny bit, but not enough to really impact the garden, or the heat. I gave our plot a good soak during the community garden BBQ. Our tomato jungle is coming along nicely…no tomatoes yet…but our edamame is growing like crazy and the rabbits haven’t eaten it yet! cherry manhattans, vintage glasses, july 4th, hasegawa happy hourNaoto and I had a mini Hasegawa Happy Hour and made Cherry Manhattans (recipe from Leopold Bros.) Cherry Manhattans have become our lazy summer drink.  Despite what this picture shows, we drank them inside because it was too sweaty to be outside. We had Chicago-style hot dogs, corn on the cob, and baked beans for supper. It was the epitome of America. fireworks over 290, circle bridge, forest park fireworksWe ended up watching fireworks from the Circle Bridge over the Eisenhower (Interstate 290 for you non-Chicagoans.) I love fireworks, but I hate crowds, so it was kind of the perfect spot. It was still so hot, but there was a decent breeze (from the traffic?) and the were no mosquitos, plus it was only a few blocks from home. (What can I say? I’m a lazy reveler!) vintage postage, patriotic postage, galaxie safari, red, white, and blue

Oh! And here are those vintage patriotic stamps in action!

I’d love to hear about your Fourth/last Wednesday!

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Cocktail: The Garden Party

garden party cocktail, snow and graham notecard, vintage cocktail glass, cocktail hourThis spring has been such a mix of weather. We’ve had everything from melt-your-make-up-off hot and humid to almost fall-like, crisp and cool. Today for Summer Solstice, it’s chilly with a deluge. Last week, we had a couple perfect nights and I was able to sit outside and write letters while the sun was setting. It was a dream evening alone.

Earlier in the day, we harvested our first lavender of the summer, so I decided to celebrate by making up a cocktail. I used some of my dried lavender from last summer to make a lavender simple syrup and mixed it with lemon, Cocchi Americano, and prosecco to make a refreshing, not-too-boozy drink. Cocchi Americano is a little bit bitter, thanks to the quinine, so the cocktail isn’t super sweet. It’s also low in alcohol, so this is the perfect drink for the afternoon (or if you need to keep your head about you while you write thank you notes!)

Lavender Simple Syrup

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

2 Tablespoons dried lavender

In a pan on the stove, dissolve the sugar in the water. Remove from heat and add dried lavender. Steep for 30 minutes and strain into a container. Refrigerate until chilled.

The Garden Party 

2 oz Cocchi Americano Bianco (the white version)

1 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 oz lavender syrup

prosecco, to taste

Add the Cocchi, lemon juice, and simple syrup into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until fully chilled. Strain into a coupe and top off with a bit of prosecco (or another sparkling wine.) Top with a sprig of fresh lavender. Enjoy on your lanai while writing letters, or at an actual garden party with friends.

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Out on the Lanai

blue hawaii on the lanaiIt’s been really perfect spring weather the past few days. We had a bad hot streak, but since the beginning of June, the weather has been mild, even chilly! blue hawaii on the lanai, kimberly and naotoLast Monday, after the gym and the garden, we enjoyed our annual anniversary Blue Hawaiis before dinner. It was just warm enough to feel like summer. first lanai dinner 2018We also had our first dinner on the lanai last week. (Naoto made this from Smitten Kitchen.) Last year I don’t feel like we enjoyed our balcony enough so I’m determined to get out there as much as possible this summer. We have a new furniture arrangement and have cleared off some other unnecessary things, so hopefully it will be more enticing.

I had the brilliant idea to plant our pots in rainbow order this summer. (You know how I love my ROY G BIV-ing!) It ended up being way more work than I bargained for…mostly finding the right kinds of plants to work with our sun situation…our balcony is pretty shady. But every summer I feel like I don’t have enough yellows and oranges out there, so this was a nice way to force myself to branch out. Of course, I love it, but I’m already deciding on color combinations for each pot for next summer!

Anyway, behold the rainbow…pink impatiens, container garden, lanai garden, balcony gardenmixed pot, pink flamingoes, garden gnomesred petuniasred geraniumorange petunias, orange geraniumyellow petunias, yellow marigoldsmixed greenslobeliapurple flowers, impatiens, story night petunias, fairy flowers starry night petunias, night sky petuniasThe “greens” are a bit of a mess right now because my wooden window box is falling apart and because I’m waiting for my climbers to grow. Hopefully it will fill out as summer rolls along. 

Do you have any favorite flower color combinations? I’m really into yellow and hot pink right now.

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Plot 6 in 2018

plot 6, forest park community garden, raised bed gardening, square foot garden, community garden, #plot6I can’t believe I haven’t posted about the garden yet this spring! We are all planted in our little plot 6 and happily waiting for things to grow. As usual, I swore I would only plant tomatoes and I would not experiment at alllll this summer…and then we planted a bunch of tomatoes and some other things…but no vining plants this year. No sireee. plot 6, forest park community garden, raised bed gardening, square foot garden, community garden, #plot6I’m very excited to have a full-time partner in crime at the garden this year. Since Naoto isn’t working a million hours a week anymore, he has time to visit the garden with me. plot 6, forest park community garden, raised bed gardening, square foot garden, community garden, #plot6So far, we planted Juliet, Brandywine, Mortgage Lifter, and Black Krim tomatoes, rosemary, lavender, thyme, basil, and parsley, and lima beans and edamame. Our garlic is going strong from last fall’s planting, and in spite of the fact that I pulled it all last fall, the walking onions have returned. I need to at least thin them again. They are growing into my tomatoes. plot 6, forest park community garden, raised bed gardening, square foot garden, community garden, #plot6We still have kaiware (Japanese radish sprouts) that we’d like to plant, but that’s it! We already have a Juliet on one of our plants, so I’m hoping this year we aren’t plagued by white flies and that we have a crazy bumper crop again…Naoto is already planning tomato-centric menus for later this summer!

I can’t wait.

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Forest Park St. Patrick’s Day Parade

forest park st patricks day parade, rainbow flag, pride flag, diversity, forest park diversity commissionLast weekend, Naoto and I walked in the Forest Park St. Patrick’s Day parade with our respective groups, the Diversity Commission for him and the Community Garden for me. forst park community garden, forest park st patricks day parade, community garden parade floatThe Diversity Commission had a banner and handed out stickers and the garden had our usual float and we handed out seeds. Anise hyssop was the seed of choice this year. People were really excited to get the seeds. Some people were a little too excited, like the drunk lady who grabbed my bucket and demanded seeds. Apparently all parade swag is good swag. forst park community garden, forest park st patricks day parade, community garden parade float, parade dog It was a really beautiful day. I’ve walked in the parade three times now and have been very lucky with the weather. Oh and I got to meet this sweet dog.

If you’re local, you can find the extra seeds we didn’t hand out at the Forest Park Public Library. Or you could come to the Seed Swap Sunday afternoon!

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The Last Plot 6 Post of 2017

plot 6, forest park community garden, community gardening, hunter boots, herb garden, raised bedThere’s a blanket of snow on the ground this morning, so what better time to talk about…gardening!

We put Plot 6 to bed right after Thanksgiving. It was kind of a sad year in the garden. Our tomato plants became infested with white flies so we barely had a harvest. To say I was devastated is an understatement since really, the only reason to garden is so you can enjoy deliciously ripe, home-grown tomatoes. Our kabocha squash, however, grew like gangbusters and delivered a dozen kabocha by fall. It was crazy and we’ll never grow one in our plot again, but it was a fun experiment and I’m glad we tried it. (Besides tomatoes, experiments are my other favorite part of the garden.) Our basil, parsley, lavender, and rosemary did really well, too and made great additions to cocktails and dinners over the summer. I’m 100% growing more herbs next summer. Herbs and tomatoes. That’s it. Except maybe some carrots at the beginning and end of the season. (Clearly I need to ponder on this all winter.)

morning glories, balcony garden, vining flowers morning glories, balcony garden, vining flowers morning glories, balcony garden, vining flowersOn the balcony, I was able to save lots of seeds from my various morning glories so I’m excited to plant those next spring. Sometimes I feel like such a dummy about seed saving. It never occurred to me to save them from my morning glories until my dad mentioned how easy it is. Hopefully these flowers will be making a comeback next summer! Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening

I got this book at the library this fall and I am looking forward to experimenting with micro-greens this winter (probably after Christmas when the doldrums of winter set in.) I promised myself I’d get through the holidays before making a mess of the kitchen with more plants. (The kitchen window is the only place safe from Presley’s teeth.)

Do you have any winter gardening plans?

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Gnome-Body Paints Like We Do

naoto and his gnome, creativita forest park, ceramics painting, forest park community gardenLast weekend, Naoto and I went to a local Forest Park spot, Creativita, to paint garden gnomes with our Forest Park Community Garden friends. When I was little, I would often go to a little shop in my hometown to paint ceramics. I painted flocks of geese and ducks, spoon rests and teabag holders for my mom. I painted a cow for myself…I still have him on my dresser. So I knew I was excited to paint a garden gnome, but I didn’t think Naoto would be. To my surprise, on Saturday afternoon he told me he was really looking forward to painting. As you can tell from the picture above, he was verrrry serious about his gnome. He was also full of gnome puns. “I don’t gnome-ally do this, but it’s fun.” “Gnome one told me it would be this difficult.”

Our group sat at a table together and we all brought wine and snacks to share. It was so much fun choosing colors, deciding on designs, and laughing at our own painting skills (or -ahem- lack thereof.)
norm the gnome 1, creativita forest park, ceramics painting, forest park community gardenNaoto painted “Norm the Gnome” and I painted “Norma the Gnome.” We decided to make them kind of coordinate so they could live in the big pot on our balcony together. norma the gnome 2, creativita forest park, ceramics painting, forest park community gardenI went the traditional route, mostly because I love blue and red. I didn’t paint her face because I was afraid to screw it up with too much detail. norm the gnome 2, creativita forest park, ceramics painting, forest park community gardenNaoto gave Norm a blueish green outfit and painted his eyes black. finished gnomes, creativita forest park, ceramics painting, forest park community gardenWe went back yesterday to pick up our gnomes. I think they turned out pretty well! I just love Norm’s white beard! And I admit Norm’s black eyes look better than my faceless Norma. In spite of her lack of lips and eyelashes, I think they make a cute pair for our balcony garden.

There are tons of things to paint at Creativita and I’m looking forward to going back and painting again. They have a really cute cat dish that would be perfect for Presley. And maybe I can add to my mom’s ceramic collection. (Just kidding, Mom!)

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Plot 6…Good Lord What Was I Thinking?

plot 6, forest park community garden, forest park grows, community gardeningThe kabocha has taken over the plot. I’ve tried to control the growth but it’s impossible. It’s taking over half of the plot now. Every time I go to the garden, I have to rescue a few tomatoes from it’s strangling tendrils. I’ve tried to bring the long arms back around to the south side of the plot and to weave them in and out of the fences I bought (too late in the growing season to be very effective.) Ooof. kabocha plant, plot 6, forest park community garden, forest park grows, community gardeningSo far, there are at least a dozen tiny kabocha and this one that’s grown really quickly at the base of the plant. Hopefully there will be a bumper kabocha crop this year…and a bumper tomato crop in spite of the encroachment. I have quite a few green tomatoes on the vines, but nothing red yet. And I’ve had to transplant my precious Juliet twice because of the kabocha. Every year we try a little experiment in the garden and this is the first time I’ve really felt like it’s not working. Sigh…it’ll all be okay. I hope. garlic harvest, plot 6, forest park community garden, forest park grows, community gardeningIn happier news, I’ve been harvesting basil, rosemary, parsley, and lavender like an herbalist. And I picked our garlic this week–aren’t the purple ones great? I’m looking forward to trying them and sharing a bulb with my dad.

That’s the Plot #6 update for this week…how’s your garden coming along?

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