Tag Archives: garden

Plot 6 in 2017 

forest park community garden, plot 6, community gardening, forest parkWe’re back in the garden again!

I’m a little late in my gardening season posts…a little behind on posting in general. But here’s what is going on in Plot 6 so far this season:forest park community garden, plot 6, community gardening, forest parkLast year when we closed the garden, a woman who lives in the neighborhood gave a bunch of us garlic from her garden. I’ve never planted garlic before so I was excited to plant a few bulbs and even more delighted to be welcomed this spring with several garlic plants! It’s always fun to come back to something growing instead of just plain dirt, right? And unlike my chive and walking onions, they aren’t taking up too much space…that chive plant gets bigger and bigger every year. forest park community garden, plot 6, community gardening, forest parkUgh, and I really like the walking onions because they are tasty and grow into crazy alien-like beasts, but man…they are shading a whole corner of my plot! forest park community garden, plot 6, community gardening, forest park forest park community garden, plot 6, community gardening, forest park, lavender plantSo far we’ve planted a few herbs (lavender and rosemary from seedlings and thyme and basil from seed,) edamame, beets, daikon, kabocha, kale, and four types of tomatoes: Brandywine, Rutgers, Better Boy, and Green Zebra. I have at least two more tomatoes on my wishlist…which just goes to show I haven’t learned from my tomato jungle disasters of the past. #YOLO forest park community garden, plot 6, community gardening, forest parkHere’s the plot so far. It’s in its neat and tidy stage before things start growing out of control and the rabbits eat the tops of my edamame again. The joys of gardening!

 

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Plot #6 for 2016 

plot 6, 2016 first planting, community garden, forest park community gardenIn between jet lag naps and unwrapping all of my stationery from Japan, I started our garden for the summer! I planted almost everything mid-May and then added a couple of things last week. So far, so good, but I really do need to cut back my chive plant before it takes over! plot 6, 2016 first planting, community garden, forest park community garden, Juliet tomatoI clearly didn’t learn my tomato jungle lesson from last year…I planted six tomato plants! I just kept seeing new varieties I wanted to try! I planted both pink and red Brandywines, a Juliet, a Golden Girl, a Cherokee Purple, and a Mr. Stripey. The Juliet already has a couple of tomatoes growing! plot 6, 2016 first planting, community garden, forest park community garden, Brandwine tomato, sweet banana pepper, rosemaryIn between the tomatoes, I planted peas, lima beans, edamame, bush beans, Japanese scallions, lettuce, parsley, thyme, and basil all from seed. And then on impulse, I added a rosemary plant and a sweet banana pepper plant. I wanted to try a couple of cutting flowers from seed, but I haven’t gotten my act together, so those might have to wait until next year. As it is, things are looking pretty full. All of the seeds are coming up and it really is just a matter of time before the tomatoes are taking over.

I love this time of year when everything is all tidy in its place. (At least in the garden it is…my apartment is a whole different story!)

How is your garden growing?

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Itoya & Cafe Stylo

Itoya big red paperclip signOn our first full day in Japan, we went to Itoya, one of my favorite shops in the ritzy Ginza district of Tokyo. (I’ve blogged about Itoya a little bit before, here and here.) Itoya has been building a new store since 2011 or 2012, so for the past few years, we’ve been visiting the temporary location. On this trip, I was most looking forward to seeing their shiny new store. Itoya buildingThe new twelve floor building is very sleek and it sits between Tiffany’s and Bvlgari (just to give you an idea of what kind of neighborhood we are talking about.) The lower floors are all devoted to retail space selling stationery, pens, paper, craft supplies, and high-end travel and home goods. On the seventh floor, there is a “paper bar” filled with hundreds of papers that you can use for personalized stationery, business cards, or wedding invitations. (I didn’t take any pictures inside the store, but you can see part of the wall of paper at the bottom of this page.) What I’ve always loved about Itoya is that you can find very expensive things there, you can also find plenty of special gifts at reasonable prices. And they’ve always had a huge selection, especially of the things I love: origami paper, stamps, stationery, pens…I used to spend hours in the store narrowing down my choices. Itoya spring windows, flower pensThe new Itoya, though, is much more pared down. They still sell amazing things, but they just don’t carry the same wide-ranging selection that they used to. Truthfully, I hardly bought anything during my visit. And we didn’t stay all day like I thought we would. It was kind of a bummer at first, but honestly, I had more money to spend at the other stationery shops all over Tokyo. (There was no shortage of things to buy!) It was just an unexpected change. Cafe Stylo lettuce, ItoyaBut, one really cool thing about New Itoya is that they have a full-service restaurant, Cafe Stylo, on the top floor. (The old cafe had a very limited snack menu.) And in Cafe Stylo, they serve Itoya-grown lettuce grown in a hydroponic farm on the twelfth floor! We visited the farm and got a peek at the lettuces growing at various stages. Cafe Stylo smoked salmon, ItoyaCafe Stylo chef salad, ItoyaNaoto had the Smoked Salmon Sandwich, which he loved. Because I wanted to try the Itoya lettuces, I ordered the “Cobber Salad” (Cobb salad). It was crisp and fresh and delicious! And we both enjoyed Campari cocktails with our lunch.Cafe Stylo floor sign I highly recommend checking out the restaurant if you go! It’s the perfect spot to write postcards and enjoy your new stationery!

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Swapping Seeds 2016

seed swap, Forest Park Community Garden Seed SwapOn Sunday, I spent the afternoon with fellow gardeners at the Forest Park Community Garden Seed Swap. It was my second seed swap and I think I walked away with some fun options for Plot 6 this spring.

I’ve been thinking a lot about our garden plot and trying to convince myself to be a better planner and to not allow things to get jungle-y this year…but let’s face it…if I can’t stop myself from wanting to plant everything, what hope do I have?

I decided to plant some lettuces on the balcony this summer to see how they do. The past couple of summers, I’ve missed out on some of our planted lettuces because the bunnies “harvested” it before I did. Having the lettuces on the balcony will solve that problem. (Though I do have a rogue squirrel visitor on the balcony now…) I picked out some Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce (not pictured because it didn’t come in a beautiful envelope), Komatsuna, and some Wasabi Arugula at the swap.

I also grabbed some thyme and oregano, which will probably get planted in both balcony pots and in our garden plot. And, since I’m a glutton for punishment, I grabbed some golden beets, which are so delicious and impossible for me to grow…Sigh…

In the flower department, I picked out some nasturtiums since they are supposedly easy to grow and I love the bright orange-red. And, because I love a good climber, I decided to try the Passion Flower climbers, mostly because they looked so interesting! Mike Nowak, Forest Park Community Garden Seed SwapIn addition to swapping seeds, we listened as Mike Nowak presented about his own backyard garden and about the community garden he and his Logan Square neighbors built together in an empty lot formerly known as a drug dealing corner. Not only did they rid their neighborhood of drug deals, but he also met his neighbors and introduced gardening to kids nearby. It was a really great speech that made me think of the kind of impact a community garden can have.

It was a great way to spend a rainy Sunday. It’s been a warm spring, so I’m hopeful that gardening is just around the corner!

P.S. I posted the giveaway winner yesterday!

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Plot #6: The End of the Season

plot 6, Forest Park Community Garden, Naoto picking parsleyOn Saturday, we spent the morning clearing out our little garden plot for the season. We pulled out all of the tomato plants, the sad, underdeveloped loofah (sniff, sniff), and a few last herbs. I was at the garden a couple of weeks ago and I thought I’d harvested the end of the parsley (pictured above with Naoto), but it turns out, there was a ton left. We gave some away to our fellow community gardeners and ended up bringing home another half-pound of our own. forest park community garden, pumpkin patch, green pumpkinThere was one last pumpkin in the pumpkin patch. Laura had left it there longer to see if it would turn orange, but it never did. I was charmed by its coloring so I got to bring it home. It’s on the lanai now, but I’m going to bring it in for the Thanksgiving table in a couple of weeks. walking onions, planting in the fall We added a little bit of fresh compost to our plot and then I planted a few walking onions from Laura’s plot. I’m already looking forward to that harvest in the spring!

As I mentioned way back in this post, I have been weighing my harvests all summer. I totaled up all of the records that have been sitting on the corner of my desk and I was quite surprised. We picked over 38 pounds of produce from our plot this summer! Not bad, right? And we didn’t even make the most of our plot by planting fall crops or using the space the best possible way. (One of these years, we are going to learn how to stop the tomato takeover! But I guess there are worse problems than loads of tomatoes, right?!)

So that’s the end of Plot #6 for 2015. I still have some work to do on the lanai before I can put my gardening gloves away for the season and dream of the Seed Swap coming up again next March!

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Plot #6: PUMPKINS!

Pumpkins, Forest Park Community Garden, plot 6Things are slowing down in our garden plot. On Saturday, I spent some time cutting down our broccoli “tree” (seriously, that thing was so tall and its root was enormous!), tearing out a tomato plant (the Cherry 1000 was not producing anything), and harvesting more than a pound of Brandywines and Juliets. I still have five more tomato plants that are flowering and producing, so I’m hoping to have a few more tiny crops before it frosts. And our loofah plant has two babies, but I don’t think they’re going to grow enough before the winter. I’m also swimming in parsley and thyme, but I’ll share more about that soon!

In the spring, Laura and I planted pumpkin and loofah seeds on the hill in the community garden. Sadly, no loofahs made it (I think the dirt was too heavy for them) but the pumpkins grew like gangbusters! Naoto and I picked our pumpkins last week, a tall one and a tiny one. They are on the lanai now with the mums and the waning summer plants. I need to get out there and take down the party lights and get rid of the sad summer annuals, but every time I think about it, the weather warms back up and we are able to sit outside and eat dinner!

Is your garden done for the year? Are you already making plans for next year? (I am!)

 

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Kyoto Part 3: Golden Pavilion + Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

IMG_3372 Our last day in Kyoto was a perfect weather day–clear blue skies, gentle breeze, perfect temperatures… We had spent the previous day hitting all of the shops in the city, so we decided that our last day should be spent enjoying nature. A trip to Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavillion and Sagano Bamboo Grove was the perfect way to pass the day. This area of Kyoto was a bit farther away from most of the other things we did in Kyoto, almost an hour on bus and train. IMG_3384 The Golden Pavilion is a Zen Buddhist Temple founded in 1397, though the structure was rebuilt in 1955 after the original was burned down by an arsonist in 1950. The top two floors are adorned with gold leaf and my pictures do not do justice to the building’s golden brilliance, especially in the sun. It is one of the most popular things to see in Kyoto and trust me…it was selfie stick mayhem when we visited. As you walk to the viewing area (you can’t go inside the pavilion and can only see it from across the water), the area is pretty calm, but the viewing area is a crazy frenzy of picture taking and shoving and chatter in every language imaginable. You have to be super-patient and a little aggressive to get a good shot. IMG_3391Naoto and I were feeling very zen and didn’t want to fight the crowds so we decided to take a selfie on one of the paths leading away from the pavilion. This was the best picture we could take without a selfie stick…you can barely see the pavilion beyond Naoto’s shoulder. IMG_3388 IMG_3393We spent a little bit of time in the area surrounding the pavilion, enjoying the tiny waterfalls and the extremely blue skies.  IMG_3394Before we moved on to the bamboo forest, we enjoyed some green tea soft serve (Naoto got golden sprinkles on his) to cool off and get ready for another walk. train to Arashiyama Bamboo ForestTo get to the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, you have to take a charming, old-fashioned train. Once you get off, there are tons of little souvenir and snack shops in the station area before you venture out to the forest. It’s very bustling and touristy, but retains some of the charm of old Japan. Arashima Bamboo Grove, Kyoto, JapanArashima Bamboo Grove, Kyoto, JapanThe bamboo forest was heavenly. The first time I went in December of 2008, I don’t remember it feeling so relaxing. But the tall bamboo blocked out the sun and provided a little respite in the warm afternoon. Arashima Bamboo Grove, Kyoto, JapanIt was neat to see the new bamboo poking through the ground. IMG_3413

And because there was a gentle breeze, we were lulled into relaxation by the sounds of the bamboo swaying in the wind. The video above will give you a little taste of the sounds (until the railroad crossing gates interrupt our zen moment at the end!)  IMG_3428 IMG_3443After the bamboo forest, we walked around the little shops and ended up going to Tenryuji Temple to walk around the surrounding gardens. There was a small zen garden, but we mostly enjoyed the stroll up the hill through all of the flowers and the views of the treetops.

It really was the perfect way to end our trip to Kyoto. After this we hopped back on a shinkansen and went back to Tokyo. But I’m not finished blogging about Kyoto! I still need to share a couple of great shops and restaurants we visited! Soon! The weather has been so nice around here lately that it’s hard to be inside blogging when I could be outside enjoying the last days of summer!

 

 

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The Lanai 2015

balcony looking south, lanaiSummer is almost over and I haven’t shared photos from the lanai! It actually looks really different now because I spent some time out there yesterday giving up on some plants (RIP, little guys) and repotting my newly purchased mums*. balcony looking south, lanai, sitting areaI changed up the seating area from last year, moving the wicker love seat along the windows to give it some extra protection from the elements. I liked it a lot better this way, even though at only 4 feet deep, it’s a tight squeeze out there. balcony looking north, lanaiThe “dining area” is pretty much the same. I have six hanging planters of various flowers. I bought a portulaca and a mixed planter and I built my own of begonias, petunias, vinca vines, Creeping Jenny, Mexican Heather, allyssum, various coleus, and some other greens and blooms. (It feels like I did all of this a lifetime ago…it was before Japan!) I really enjoyed building my own planters but this winter I want to do some reading about pot designs. Some of the pots filled out nicely, but others never really filled out, even now at the end of the summer. large pot on the lanaiMy parents gave me this giant pot after Japan and I was so excited to fill it. I bought some cheap impatiens, petunias, and coleus and added in perennial sedum that I’ve had for years. Next year I would like to fill the giant pot with all perennials to keep costs and maintenance down. But I have to say, this pot still looks amazing and full and lush, while most of the others have suffered a bit in our heat lately. old geraniumMy old geranium is still going strong. I really weeded through my geraniums this winter and kept the strongest ones. I didn’t know which colors I would end up with since nothing was blooming in March, but I have one bright pink, one coral, and one white one left. I’ll bring them in when it gets cold. The geraniums hang out on a little cart with some perennials I planted this winter. None of them really thrived in the light on my balcony, so I need to replant them at my parents or give them to someone else who gets more sun. Most are still alive, just not blooming…kind of a bummer. Split Second Morning GloryNext to the big pot, I planted seven types of climbing vines. So far, only three have bloomed. (Womp, womp.) But, I love going out there every morning and tending to the blooms I have, so…I’m making the most of them! The one above is a Split Second Morning Glory, obtained through a “seed swap” on Instagram. (Thanks, Lauren!) They’re double flowers and are very peony-like. Now that I know how successful they are, I’m going to plant lots more of these beauties next year! President Tyler Morning Glory President Tyler Morning GloryThen there are the gorgeous blue President Tylers, obtained at the actual seed swap. The deep purplish blue is so striking on the railings. Heavenly Blue Morning GloryAnd last but not least, the Heavenly Blues…which really, how gorgeous is that color? I took this photo yesterday right before a huge downpour that completely battered the bloom. I’m so glad I captured its perfection!

Next week, I’ll do a community garden update which shall be called All About the Tomatoes. Have a good weekend!

*The Mum Disclaimer: Yes, I feel like it’s too soon to usher in fall, quite frankly, but it is after Labor Day and they were so cheap at Menards! I had to snag a few while I was there! It’s going to cool off today, so maybe fall is really right around the corner? As much as I love fall, I’m all for soaking up the season we are in. I’m not ready to pull out my boots and scarves (and pumpkin spice lattes!). I’m still enjoying the last bits of summer while I can!

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Plot #6: Back to the Jungle

plot 6 from the north endI failed again this year to make my garden neat and tidy. It’s a jungle again. I feel like the tomatoes are more disorderly than ever and the cucumbers…well, let’s just say not thinning them out early on has created a tangle of rebellious vines that will not take the hint to stay in the plot. tiny edamame, plot 6But, growing in the jungle are teeny, tiny edamame…tiny green bean, plot 6…and the beginnings of a strong crop of green beans. huge daikon, plot 6 The daikon are almost done, but I pulled this huge guy last week and Naoto enjoyed it on Sunday night. first tomato of 2015, plot 6And I picked our first red tomato! It was a Sweet 100 and I shared it with Naoto. It was so sweet and juicy! I hope there are hundreds more in our future!

So far, we’ve harvested almost 15 ounces in radishes, peas, tomatoes, and lettuces. It’s just the beginning!

I hope to have some balcony* garden pictures next week. Some of my vining plants are finally starting to bloom and I think it’s my best summer out there yet!

How is your garden growing?

*I’ve begun calling the balcony the lanai as a nod to the Golden Girls.

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Plot #6: The Growing I’ve Missed

plot 6 looking north, june 2015We came home from Japan and it was more than a week before we made it to see the garden! I know that sounds crazy, but I was deep in the fog of jet lag and any time I was awake, it seemed to be raining. When we finally made it over, we were amazed at how big our plants had grown. We even had a few things to harvest! Pictured above is the plot (looking north). You can see that I never did fill those four square feet I had left. But the good news is, I have two tomato seedlings on my balcony that have grown like gangbusters and will be transplanted this weekend. daikon, plot 6We finally thinned our daikon enough for them to grow into respectably-sized vegetables! I was only able to harvest two, but the others are growing nicely in their square. None of the beets were ready though, much to my disappointment. first tomatoes, plot 6 first tomatoes, plot 6Our Juliet has some nice green tomatoes and the Sweet 100 has some, too! plot 6 looking south, june 2015On the north end of the garden, the peas are going crazy and I have four edamame plants, a crazy square of cucumber plants (too many for one square!), and two volunteer tomatoes (to be transplanted soon). I reserved one square for a loofah plant that I started on the balcony. It’s looking good, but I’ve read that loofah aren’t good as transplants. I’m going to try it anyway and hope for the best. first harvest 2015, plot 6

One of my goals this growing season is to weigh our harvests so at the end of the season we can get an idea of how many pounds of produce we are eating from our garden. This was our first harvest: lots of komatsuna lettuce and some radishes.

It feels good to be back in the garden again!

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