Thursday, May 23, 2013

Cold Roof Garden: 45 Degrees F in Chicago May 23

90+ degrees on May 20. And three days later today's late-morning temp was 45. The winds made the feel-like temp 34, according to a local weather site. Chilly!

Time to make stock.

The swift 45-degree shift in actual temperature upends any idea of a normal Chicago spring, where coolish air gradually leads us into summer. Up on the roof, the tomatoes, planted weeks early in the heat, strained at their stakes in the cold wet wind.
The cool-loving arugula was perky.
Standing strong: eggplant and peppers, planted a couple days ago.
I went up in shorts, undaunted, to plant these seedlings, left to the wayside during our early tomato frenzy.
 Got the tatsoi and mustard into these SIPs from Menards in record time (too cold to make a pic).

Came back down with a load of rooftop cholorphyll to toss for lunch. Big bowls of it every day.

And bashed some fermented veggies with Bruce, Art, and Carl, Carl enjoying stock tailings and cabbage leaves for lunch.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Roof Peppers and Eggplant

Walked to Bruce's today to retrieve the peppers and eggplant he's been hardening off. His allium were in magnificent bloom against the artful wood pile.

Carl was eager to connect, blocked by his new doggy gate from bounding downstairs.

Bruce looks blurry, but he's pretty sharp. The vegetables are robust and healthy, ready for planting in SIPs.

Peppers Jimmy Nardello, Little Bells, and Rooster Spur
Eggplant Green Thai and Little Fingers
Up on the roof, Art assisted with potting mix removal (from last season's SIPs) so I could get down to scooping it out again and planting.

My idea of a good day.

Monday, May 20, 2013

90 Degrees F in Chicago May 20

That's about 20 degrees above normal and it feels like a hot-air furnace. I'm documenting the temps because they're still swinging wildly and because we could be in the process of producing the earliest tomato evah.

Now, there's an upside.

Tomatoes are growing like it's August.

Cool-weather greens are surging and going quickly to seed.  This is komatsuna from Hudson Valley Seed Library.

Most greens don't like 90 degrees. And they absolutely taste sweeter when grown in the 40-60 degree range. No problem: three days from now our high is predicted to be 55 degrees.

We can't get enough of these green leafies, growing also in the nicely shaded on-the-ground raised bed.

Greens grab-bag 

Joker lettuce from Wild Garden Seed

In a flurry of planting, we didn't label this lovely ruffled kale. It's mighty tender.

Send one up for the folks in the path of the Oklahoma tornadoes...

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Using Curling Ribbon To Tie Up Tomatoes

After years of trying every conceivable twine, string, and other modern tomato-securing convenience (what?) I finally stumbled on gift ribbon. For tomatoes in our bucket SIPs it's ideal, especially now when plants are tender and easily broken on gusty days.

Curling ribbon is waterproof, unlike twine, which absorbs moisture and holds it against vulnerable stems and leaves. It's also easy to tie into bows, allowing frequent adjustments as plants mature. Plus it's ubiquitous and tres inexpensive.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

EWG's Superbug Report

Most drugs go to livestock...
If you're a Chicago carnivore, Butcher & Larder offers beautiful meats raised responsibly on nearby farms.

Friday, May 10, 2013

More Dramatic Weather Swings for Chicago

Are you thinking I'm weather-obsessed? I actually never followed the weather until the last few years brought temperature strangeness. Check out the forecast for two upcoming days: record lows in the 30s on Sunday and approaching 90 degrees F on Tuesday, a 50 degree-plus swing.

What's a grower to do?

(Mothers Day): Early April-level temperatures 13-degrees below normal with a near record or record low likely and the threat of frost late Sunday night.
Mixed sun as the Sunday gets underway is likely to fades as extensive cloudiness develops. Northwest winds 8 to 18 mph and occasionally gusty. The nighttime frost threat targets portions of the metro area late Sunday night as winds ease beneath partly cloudy skies. Nighttime lows are likely to range from the low 30s coldest inland locations to the near 40 near Lake Michigan.
2013's warmest day yet likely to generate Chicago area's highest temperatures since the 90-degree high which occurred 8.5 months ago on September 4.
Mostly sunny and quite windy with wind gusts topping 30 mph. Strong southwest winds are to average 14 to 28 mph Dew points, a measure of atmospheric moisture, are to surge into the mid 60s Tuesday afternoon producing a markedly more humid " feel" to the day. A 90-degree high is not entirely out of the realm of possibility. Daytime highs approaching levels 20-degrees above normal!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Gardening: Return on Investment

Average food garden ROI is $530 (click for larger image).
Not counting all the hours of pure joy.
Off to the roof...

Monday, May 6, 2013

Planting Tomatoes Early

Sunday I used Art's sturdy cart, garbage-picked from under the El tracks (pause for low bow)... bring back the tomatoes Bruce and Blake took last week to put under the lights. Here they are, with some burgeoning basil.

The master plan: plant tomatoes about two weeks early for our region (at least this has been the case for the last 50 years). With the weather changing dramatically and my work schedule tight, I either plant today or in two weeks. So I'm going for it.

The forecast looks promising, a nice period of temps in the 70s and 60s with lows in the 50s and high 40s. OK, so there's a high in the 30s in there too. Since all weather bets are off, I'm willing to try it and hopeful the plants will be hardend off if temperatures drop.

We've got the low tunnel on the roof to shelter these babies during the hardening off period. I took the tomatoes up yesterday as I prepped their SIPs and they did fine last night (I planted six today).

By the way, I'm planting all our tomatoes this year in 5-gal food-grade buckets, using fabric tapes to wick water from the reservoir. With automatic watering on the roof, the need for buckets with a larger volume (and reservoir) seems limited:

I wonder if we're starting the tomatoes too early. They're more than ready to be transplanted.
 Some are even setting flowers.
The plants themselves look terrific. Thanks, Bruce, for tending and befriending. Happy growing, everyone.

Thursday, May 2, 2013