Sunday, August 17, 2014

Urban Gardening / Farming - Tour of Rick Bayless Property, Chicago

In August I toured the Chicago urban farm and garden owned by Rick Bayless - chef and restaurateur. The garden features a mix of traditional beds, raised beds, containers and vertical garden space.  It hosts annuals (Tropical), herbs, vegetables, Citrus, fruit, succulents, and "farm" animals.

The garden was started over 15 years ago - as a hobby, but also as a demonstration of urban agriculture and to support organic greens and vegetables for his culinary needs. Since then it's grown to cover three city lots.  The vegetable growing space is over 1,000 square feet and includes indoor and "alternative growing spaces."  By alternative I'm referencing porch grow-box, vertical gardens, as well as indoor space utilizing grow lights.

Chicago Urban Garden (see the beehive)
At the start of the tour the guide and full-time gardener stated "don't try this at home" indicating that the garden has evolved overtime and is a business with nearly 6-8 part time

Carnivorous Plants - Fun "interactive" display

The Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago currently has a plant bog full of carnivorous plants. It was very fun to not only see the plants - but to really watch them at work. It only takes a few moments to see flies swarm and crawl into these beautiful flowers - never to return. 
Carnivorous plants in Chicago

Carnivorous plants derive some or most of their nutrients from trapping and consuming insects. Carnivorous plants grow in places where the soil is thin or poor in nutrients, especially nitrogen, such as acidic bogs and rock outcroppings. Thus their adaptation to consume insects for nutrients.  Charles Darwin wrote the first comprehensive book on carnivorous plants in 1875 - Insectivorous Plants, the first well-known treatise on carnivorous plants, in 1875! This is about the same time that plans for the park, gardens, and first conservatory in now Garfield Park in Chicago were forming. 

The conservatory recreated a bog in a shady area in a nice elevated bed. The display does a nice job of sharing different trapping mechanisms - and placement makes it so easy to see.  There is also a nice range of various "fly catching" techniques."

I did see a sign that said do not touch, but I didn't see a sign that said "no feeding the plants!"

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Urban Children's Garden Revisited - Harvest time

In spring I had the pleasure of touring an after-school programs urban garden - which was growing along the fence between two buildings. The photo at the right shows you the location of the garden along the fence.

The kids were so excited to be growing their own vegetables and herbs when I was here in the spring. I was skeptical that there would be produce at the end of the journey - I'm pleased to say they were so successful!

Take a look back at where they started in this blog in May 2014 - and see the results in August in the photos below. This is a wonderful example of maximizing small urban spaces as productive growing areas. I would have never thought that some of the vegetables would grow under these low light and small container conditions.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Lily and Daylily Flower Show

Daylily Flower Arrangement
This past weekend I attended the Day Lily and Lily show at the Chicago Botanic Garden sponsored by Sponsored by the Northshore Iris and Daylily Society and Wisconsin-Illinois Lily Society respectively

At Chicago Botanic garden flower shows - there is placement of only one stem with one flower each submitted by member of the sponsoring society. In the lily show they had also purchased some for display. The layout gets you close to each flower to see the differences up.

I have been jaded by the overwhelming plantings of tawny daylily plants which are considered invasive in my area and many surrounding states. This is 
Ditch Lilies in Illinois
Hemerocallis fulva here is a shot of them in my garden.  Included in this are the Stella De Oro variety. They are pretty but, for me,  no longer pack a "WOW" in the garden.  They even varry the name "ditch lilies" because they can be seen by roadsides. It seems every year there are dozens of people giving them away for free - which is exactly where I pickup up most of mine. I was super pleased to see the potential and so many different varieties of both Hemerocallis and true lily (Lilium) . 

Please  enjoy the photos.  I'm not sure the colors are 100% true, but here are the shots of my favorites :)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Invasive Plant: Buckthorn identification and control

Common Buckthorn Hedge  
Buckthorn trees are taking over the woodlands and hedges around my neighborhood, my town, my state and the country. Darn invasive species are so good at that. 

While some people love what a robust hedge Buckthorn can make. I hate them and enjoy ripping them out. Many states and towns have designated Buckthorn as a restricted, noxious weed. My town has an active free removal process and will haul away any Buckthorn cut down.  For me clearing out buckthorn is an effort worth undertaking. I love seeing a nice forest with Oaks and other native plants. 

Why remove Buckthorn trees?  I'm taking them out to restore a woodland area.  I've posted a few blogs on my woodland restoration.  Some of the pictures here are from that process. But long before I started that restoration effort I had challenges removing Buckthorn from my yard. They were creeping in at the corners, under the phone lines, along the house line all the places that nothing else wanted to grow - these little beasts were thriving! I never liked how they looked as trees. So many other great options. 
Buckthorn crowding the woodland

Here are some reasons why you might consider removing buckthorn too:
  1. Buckthorn squeezes out native plants for nutrients, sunlight, and moisture. These invasive trees choke out surrounding vegetation including other trees and makes it impossible for any new growth to take root under its cancerous canopy of dense vegetation. They leaf out earlier in the spring that anything else and they hold onto their leaves longer in the fall. That means less light and water for everything around it.