Category Archives: summer manifesto

Plot #6: I Picked A Loofah

growing a loofah from seed, Presley and the LoofahI finally picked a loofah! I’m not sure it’s really ready, but this particular one kept falling out of our plot and I was nervous it would get stepped on. Plus, when I picked it, it had a giant slug on it (which I touched by accident and that is not a feeling my memory will be erasing anytime soon.) It was the lightest-colored*, most hollow sounding, biggest loofah on the vines, so I figured I would sacrifice it to see how “ready” the others might be.

So the next step is to cut into the experimental loofah to see if it’s “sponge-worthy.” (Sorry, I couldn’t resist a tiny Seinfeld shout-out. Also, totally different “sponge-worthy.”)

I will report back soon, along with some fall garden shots. Our tomatoes are really slowing down, but with the crazy gorgeous weather we’re having this week, I’m thinking maybe a few more Juliets will emerge. Cheers to a perfect early fall!


*I should note that the loofah looks really green in this picture but it’s significantly lighter than that in real life…maybe Presley’s eyes are bringing out the greenness?

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Plot #6: The Loofah Takeover

plot 6, loofah, end of summerThis is the south end of our plot, where the flowers and the Brandywine tomatoes reside. And yes, that’s a loofah vine growing all the way over there. (The loofahs were planted on the northeast corner of our four-by-eight plot.) I’m not so worried, since our tomatoes are almost done, but man, next year we really do need to plan our plot better! plot 6, loofahBack in the north end of the plot, you can see the loofahs are overflowing outside of our raised bed…I’ve been tucking them back into the border, but some of the loofahs are cozily making themselves at home. They sound a tiny bit more hollow than they did last week, and their color is lightening ever so slightly, so hopefully, we can pick them soon. (I know I keep saying this, but really…I have no idea when the perfect time for picking is!) plot 6It has been really cold here the past few days–sweater weather, sock weather, jacket weather cold. I’m personally loving it, but I’m hoping it means long fall and not early winter. Yikes!

How is your garden growing? Are things slowing down?

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Plot #6: Is That A Loofah In My Garden?

plot 6, community gardenIt isn’t that I didn’t believe the articles I read about loofah vines’ ferocious growth, it’s that I underestimated what that really meant. I’m afraid that our loofah vine is creeping into our neighbor’s plot, and could overtake the entire community garden. I think, now that summer is in full swing (finally!), I might have to go to the garden daily to reign those crazy vines in and retrain them back into our plot. plot 6, community gardenBut it’s totally worth it if we can actually bring the five giant loofah home. Yes, five!! I’m hoping they all make it–safely from bugs and nibbling rodents–to the stage when we can harvest them and dry them out as sponges. I’ve been using this resource as guidance. I’ve never been so excited about a gardening experiment. If all goes well, do you think it would be weird if I gave sponges to everyone for Christmas? (I guess I shouldn’t be getting ahead of myself here.) plot 6, community gardenIn addition to the five gallon bucket-full of tomatoes we harvested last week, I picked a few limas. I think there are probably more to be picked, but it’s hard to find them amongst the overgrown tomatoes and the loofah vines. I guess garden planning is not my strong suit. plot 6, community gardenMy tomato harvesting was cut a bit short the other day by this cat-sized grasshopper (small exaggeration). He was protecting a large patch of ripe tomatoes, which I left untouched because I kept picturing him leaping into my face. Thankfully the grasshopper found a new home when we went back to harvest more tomatoes yesterday. (Oh and yesterday I touched a slug…gardening is gross!!) plot 6, community garden

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Flowers, Flooding & Failures

cypress vine flowerI had another post planned for today, but it’s as dark as a cave here and I couldn’t get a proper picture. It rained several inches around here last night. I was rudely shocked out of a good sleep at 2AM by my phone and its stupid loud weather alert. It took 2.5 episodes of Roseanne to fall back asleep, mainly because my heart had to start beating again after the surprise of the alarm.

I went outside this morning to check on the flowers–everything is completely soaked out there–and I found this teeny, tiny flower on my Cypress Vine. Isn’t it the sweetest little thing? There are supposed to be pink, white and red flowers eventually. I cannot wait!

portulaca, kimberly AH balconyThe huge rain made my portulaca explode. I’ve decided that next year (yes, I’m already planning my flowers for next year) I will be planting more portulaca in all the colors of the rainbow.

As far as failure goes…well, have you looked at the calendar lately? Summer is almost over. I’m failing my Summer Manifesto. I still haven’t tried three new cocktails with herbs from our gardens or three new tomato recipes. I haven’t taken more walks or really rediscovered Chicago. And, while we have had a few special guests for Hasegawa Happy Hours, we haven’t had enough of them. I know the US thinks of Labor Day as the end of summer, but as long as we have tomatoes and a garden, it’s still summer to me. Before I start planning fall cocktails and soups and balcony parties, I’m determined to at least mix up a few herbal gin drinks and soak up these long days while I can.

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Plot #6: Brandywines are Back!

brandywines and yellow pear harvest, plot 6And the tomatoes are coming!! Last night in our latest check of our neglected community garden plot #6, we found a bounty of tomatoes! Three nice Brandywines, a couple more Juliets and a couple dozen Yellow Pears all made it safely into the harvesting bucket and ready for Hasegawa Happy Hour tomorrow night. I found a new salad recipe that I’d like to try with the yellow guys and I think panzanella will be the perfect plan for the Brandywines. Most of today will be spent searching for a cocktail recipe that will complement the tomato feast. plot 6, community gardenLook at our loofah! We have several of these little guys running along the mess of vines. Thanks to Mr. Brownthumb for helping us spot them and for hand modeling. Now we just need to hope that they don’t get eaten by mice before they are big enough to eat or dry out for bath time. (I’m still not sure I’m brave enough to eat one!)plot 6, cosmos, buttonsEven though my careless flower plantings took up way more space than I had anticipated, seeing those crazy orange and blue blooms in our plot makes me ridiculously happy. I promise there are plenty of tomatoes behind that mess of flowers!sunflower, forest park community gardenAnd speaking of flowers, I can’t resist sharing this way-taller-than-me sunflower in a neighboring community garden plot. I feel like I should do a community garden tour for you in the coming weeks. So many plots are overgrown and overflowing with amazing produce. It’s fun to be learning and sharing this hobby with so many others.

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Plot #6: The Season’s First Tomatoes

plot 6, juliet tomatoesWe discovered three really ripe Juliet tomatoes in the garden yesterday!! They probably could have been picked a little sooner, but I didn’t get over there much last week.

Now’s the time though…now’s the time for going to the garden every day or so to check for little red gems on the vines.

plot 6, juliet tomatoesOur four Juliet plants are all dripping with green tomatoes. It’s going to be another bumper crop this year. What you see above is just one branch of one part of a plant! It seems so weird that three random tomatoes were red and all the others look so very green…but that’s the way it was last year, too. All of the Brandywines and yellow pear tomatoes are still green, too. We are going to have to wait a little longer for those. plot 6, yellowed leaves plot 6, juliet tomato plantJust like last year, we have some blight happening. We’ve tried to cut off most of the yellowed leaves, but I need to go again this week and do a deeper cleaning of everything. Have you had this problem with  your tomatoes? Peggy suggested adding eggshells to our soil when we plant our tomatoes next year. Thankfully, the fruits are undamaged so far and most of the plants are still looking healthy otherwise. plot 6, flower gardenRemember how I randomly planted a few flowers from the seed bank in our community garden shed? Well, the flowers–cosmos and bachelor buttons–have grown as tall as the tomatoes and have taken over their little corner of the garden. I’ve been cutting a few for our kitchen counter and leaving some of the floppy ones for the butterflies. balcony flowersAnd speaking of flowers, my first Morning Glory appeared yesterday morning! I planted five types of climbers in June and they are all finally starting to vine. The Morning Glories and Moonflowers are the furthest along and the Cardinal Climbers and Cypress Vines are close behind. I’m nursing the single Black-Eyed Susan vine along. It’s struggling. balcony flowersAnd, I’m finally getting more blooms on my Trader Joe’s hibiscus. It’s so cheerful, isn’t it? balcony flowers, hibiscus

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Plot #6: The Garden is a Forest (Again)

plot 6, garden jungleI’ve been sick and Naoto has been working like a dog (every day since he’s returned home from Japan) so the garden has been a bit neglected. I finally went yesterday afternoon. Boy, was it a perfect day for gardening! Our weather has been unseasonably cool, getting down to the 50s at night and into the 70s during the day. It’s the perfect weather to me.

When I saw our little Plot #6, I couldn’t believe how overgrown it had gotten in just over a week! Even the smallest tomatoes were huge, growing into their neighboring tomatoes. And, as you can maybe see from the top picture, the tomatoes are again spilling out into the walkway. I’m going to have to fix that this weekend to make sure none of my tomatoes get stepped on. plot 6, garden jungleBoth Brandywines have some fruit on them. And all of the Juliets and the Yellow Pear are producing too…no red (or yellow) ones yet though…I can hardly wait! plot 6, garden jungleI harvested almost all of the peas, which is a good thing because that will open some space for this guy. The loofah is growing out of control. (This is not a surprise…yet it was still surprising.) I had to unwind it from a tomato and from some of the peas. I think we *may* have waited too long to lasso that crazy grower!

Now that I’m feeling better and Naoto (hopefully) is going back to working normal hours, I’m hoping we can spend time fixing up the garden together this weekend.

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Plot #6: Peas & Tomatoes

tiny pea harvest, plot 6This is our first tiny harvest of sugar snap peas for 2014. It may not look like much, but there are plenty more in the garden almost ready to be picked! I’m thinking stir fry this weekend! peas, plot 6Once these are all harvested, I will plant some more for another harvest later in the season. juliets, plot 6 brandywines, plot 6Only one of our Juliets and one of our Brandywines have tomatoes on them so far. But every plant has blossoms, so I’m still hopeful for a tomato explosion. We’ve been pretty diligent about picking off the yellowed leaves. And we’ve been trying to keep up with staking and tying wayward branches…a difficult task with the wild Juliets!

This week was rough because I was sick and Naoto was busy. These pictures are from Sunday and Naoto made a watering run at dusk on Wednesday night. He said everything is looking good and I’m looking forward to seeing for myself later this afternoon.

Cheers to a good weekend!

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Our Blooming Balcony

kimberly ah balconyOur balcony is open for relaxing! And honestly, that’s all I’ve been doing lately because the weather has been gorgeous! I bought some throw pillows at Target for the couch and the chairs. They make it cozier than ever to read a book or take a nap outside.

I finally finished all of my planting and re-potting. Once the seeds grow, hopefully there will be more flowers and vines. kimberly ah balconyI have a tiny herb garden growing behind the couch. We have two kinds of mint, basil, thyme and lavender growing along with the only two annuals that made it through the polar vortex last winter. And, in a rebellious move that is probably breaking some sort of condo ordinance, I have several pots of seedlings situated outside of the railing for maximum sun and rain exposure. I’ve planted parsley, zinnias, lettuce and four types of vining flowers. (I may be in over my head with the amount of vining flowers I’ve planted…if the building falls down under the weight of morning glories, I take full responsibility.) kimberly ah balconyWhile I’ve planted a lot of seeds this year, I took a big shortcut with my hanging pots. I usually put together my own pots, but this year I put together two and bought four: the portulaca above, two ivy geraniums, and another fuchsia. I repotted my old geraniums with some new in one pot…I’m hoping it fills out a bit. Last year, I stuck with geraniums because I knew I could make them work. This year, I’m branching out so the pressure is on to keep everything alive! kimberly ah balconyThe fuchsia is bright pink with purple centers…I know I said I hate purple, but I really love this plant! kimberly ah balconyThis is my original fuchsia. I filled out the pot with a vinca vine that is really taking off. Fuchsias are sun/shade plants so I’m really hoping the north side of the balcony is just right for them. So far they seem to be doing well, growing tons of buds and blooms. kimberly ah balconyI wasn’t going to plant petunias this year because I tend to kill them by August, but I fell in love with these two varieties and decided to plop them together in one pot. The deep purple ones are Queen Bees and they are supposed to have yellow centers, though I haven’t seen any yellow yet. And the tiny peach ones are Mochaccinos. I love the tiny peach flowers. kimberly ah balconyI also bought a little wicker cube to contain all of my gardening supplies. It’s nice to have them out of sight and the top of the cube can act as a little side table during dinners outside. kimberly ah balconyOn the black table in between the “living” and “dining” areas, I have a hibiscus and my clover (the clover lives in the kitchen during the winter). Some of my seedlings will move over here eventually.

So that’s the balcony. It’s not perfect but it really does feel like an extension of the living room these days. I’m just hoping I can squeeze in every moment possible outside before the heat and humidity takes over!

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Summer Manifesto 2014

Kimberly & Naoto: gardeners Naoto and I wrote up our summer manifesto during our anniversary dinner. It looks a lot like last year’s manifesto. What can I say? We are creatures of habit around here.

This summer we will:

* tend to our garden and balcony garden

* create three new cocktails using herbs from our garden

* invite special guests to Hasegawa Happy Hour

* hang out on the balcony whenever possible

* rediscover Chicago

* try three new tomato recipes

* take more walks

* visit some new Farmers Markets

* wear sunscreen & sun hats

* enjoy live music…somewhere

And that’s our summer in a nutshell. What’s on your list this summer?

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