Tuesday, January 31, 2012

One Year Blogiversary

Suddenly I Seed is exactly one year old! It's been so much fun sharing my thoughts and gardening information with you. I've even met some pretty great people and have had some awesome opportunities come up as a result of starting this blog. I'm so flattered that anyone actually visits my blog and takes the time to read what I have to say. THANK YOU!!!

I came across this passage from a novel I'm reading, Diana Gabaldon's The Fiery Cross from the Outlander series, and thought it might resonate with a few of us garden-obsessed folks. Hang in there, spring is almost here...

"He stretched his long toes out against the weight of the quilts, his leg just touching his wife's, and felt in memory the chunk of the spade, hard edge beneath his foot, and the satisfying feeling of cracking earth and snapping roots as another spadeful yeilded, the black earth moist and veined with the blind white rhizomes of wild grass and the fugitive gleam of earthworms writhing frantically out of sight."

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I Vote for Chamomile!

Have you heard about One Seed Chicago? It is the Year of the Herbs, you know. Just go to One Seed Chicago's website and vote for your favorite herb seed, and a packet of the winning seed will be sent to you for free! The 2012 candidates are basil, chamomile, and cilantro.

I have voted for chamomile, because I have never grown it before and I love chamomile tea. I can't wait to use my dehydrator to dry chamomile leaves for a winter full of hot, calming, chamomile tea. I've already grown lots of basil, and I'm not a fan of cilantro, so chamomile got my vote.

Last year, I voted for Swiss chard, which won. I eventually became a Swiss chard fanatic, all due to One Seed Chicago!

Which will you vote for? Voting ends on April 1, 2012. Let your voice be heard!

Origins of One Seed Chicago (from their press release)
One Seed Chicago is a project of NeighborSpace, Chicago’s land trust for community gardens. Entering its fourth year One Seed Chicago aims to introduce more Chicagoans to the joys and benefits of gardening. Previous winners: Sunflower 2008. Blue Lake Pole bean 2009. Beebalm 2010. Swiss chard 2011. Since 2008 One Seed Chicago has distributed over one million seeds to Chicago residents.

Heirloom Vegetable Seeds - What's in a Name?

My head is spinning. I just received the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog and I am floored by the sheer number of varieties of heirloom vegetable seeds available, originating from all over the world. Some of the varieties sound so exotic and/or intriguing, that I have to give a few a try next year. Maybe a Cannibal Tomato Eggplant, or a Metki Painted Serpent Melon. And the tomatoes! There are hundreds listed - Mortgage Lifter, Millionaire, Missouri Pink Apple, Royal Hillbilly, Tigerella. And the pictures in this catalog are amazing, displaying vegetables in shapes, textures, and colors of which I've never seen.
photo credit

Isn't it interesting, hundreds of tomato varieties are available, yet we only see a handful of hybrids represented on grocery store shelves. The varieties available in heirloom seed catalogs are another great reason to grow your own food. Heirloom vegetables are those that people prized so much, they saved the seeds over generations. They are also open-pollinated, meaning that you can save the seeds and get a true to type plant. If you try to save and plant seeds from a hybrid vegetable, you won't get a good result. I grew a few hybrid tomatoes (Yellow Taxi, Cherokee Purple, Gypsy) in the potager last year and had excellent results in taste and quantity.

Now is the perfect time to get your hands on a few seed catalogs, snuggle up in your favorite chair, cover yourself in a warm blanket, and dream of growing lots of fresh, healthy, pure, clean vegetables from your own yard.

For more reasons to grow heirloom vegetables, read Heirloom Vegetables: 6 Advantages Compared to Hybrids from Mother Earth News.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Considering a DIY Landscaping Project This Year? Know When to Call Professional

In an effort to save money on home improvement projects, many area homeowners are opting to take on their own landscaping work. While some projects are perfect for the do-it-yourselfer, there are some that are better left to the professionals.

Landscape Design

You see your landscape every day and know that there is something wrong, but may not know how to address it. Certain landscape challenges, like privacy screening, correcting drainage issues, and tree selection can be costly to fix if done incorrectly. That’s where a landscape designer comes in. A designer will look at your property as a whole, not only addressing problem areas, but also coming up with a plan for enhancing your entire space to be functional and beautiful. A designer can meet with you to discuss the goals for your property (do you need more room for entertaining? A vegetable garden? More privacy?), your likes and dislikes, and any other concerns. There are often many different elements and factors that come into play when creating a new landscape, and designers can help facilitate all the planning effectively. Once you have a landscape plan, you can have it built in stages as your time and budget allow.
Bottom line: Call a professional

Many homeowners start a hardscaping job thinking it will be a simple weekend project and quickly learn it is more than they can handle. Most hardscaping jobs (like patios, walks, and retaining walls) require steps that will help the project withstand our area’s freeze and thaw cycle, and equipment that a typical homeowner might not have available or the training to use. A landscape designer works directly with a professional installation crew to make sure that all of the elements from the design plan are carried out. The designer is available throughout the entire process to answer questions from the homeowner and installation crew to avoid costly errors and second guessing.
Bottom line: Call a professional

Planting Now here is a project, that with a little research, you can do yourself and save money. Learn the best methods for planting your perennials, shrubs and trees and you won’t have to pay someone else to do it.  Your designer can plan where each plant will go, order the plants to be delivered to your home, and even place them in your landscape and offer planting advice. All you need is the time and muscles to get the plants in the ground. A word of caution – call a professional landscape company if you have plant material that is too big for you to move safely.
Bottom line: Do it yourself

Maintenance You can save money on landscaping by performing routine maintenance tasks yourself, such as mowing, watering, weeding, and pruning. Again, it requires a little research to learn the proper method for caring for different types of plants. Your landscape designer can provide you with a maintenance plan for the plants in your landscape. Just leave the big jobs, like pruning tall trees, to the professionals.
Bottom line: Do it yourself

There are ways to save money when it comes to your landscape. You just need to know when to drop your tools and call a professional.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Ayn Rand for a Cold Day

"Roark and Wynand stood on the top of a hill, looking over a spread of land that sloped away in a long gradual curve. Bare trees rose on the hilltop and descended to the shore of a lake, their branches geometrical compositions cut through the air. The color of the sky, a clear, fragile blue-green, made the air colder. The cold washed away the colors of the earth, revealing that they were not colors but only the elements from which color was to come, the dead brown not a full brown but a future green, the tired purple an overture to flame, the gray a prelude to gold. The earth was like the outline of a great story, like the steel frame of a building - to be filled and finished, holding all the splendor of the future in naked simplification."

-Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Birdhaven Greenhouse & Conservatory, Joliet, IL - A Kid's-Eye View

On a recent chilly day, I had to get my plant fix, so I bundled up the kids and took them to Birdhaven Greenhouse and Conservatory, 225 N. Gouger Road, Joliet, IL. The world-famous architectural firm of Lord and Burnham designed and built the Conservatory in 1929, the only of it's kind in the area.

I let my four-year-old daughter loose with my iphone to get a look at this new-to-us place from her perspective. Here's what was interesting to her:

I think I might have a little photographer on my hands!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Garden Resolutions I Might Actually Keep

About five years ago, I learned about a new website called 43things.com, a site where you can list life goals, resolutions, those sorts of things. You can also connect with other people who like your goal, or have completed it and can give you tips. At that time, I had listed 24 things I wanted to work on, then promptly forgot about the website and list completely. Since then, I've had two kids, started a business, completed another academic degree, and had just a lot of life to enjoy. While moving files over to a new computer recently, I found the bookmark for 43things.com and took a look. Back then, I aspired to:
  • Learn guitar. I took lessons this fall and can play Tom Petty's Free Fallin' pretty well.
  • Write a book about my life. I actually did that!
  • Run a 5K without stopping. I ran the Shamrock Shuffle in Chicago, an 8K!
  • Own a convertible. Nope, and frankly, not interested anymore.
  • Eat sushi in Japan. Not yet. But I WILL do this!
  • Meet Lance Armstrong. Would love to, but a long shot.
  • Hike the Appelachian Trail. Still a goal, but I don't see myself doing this while the kids are small.
  • Read Anna Karenina. I'll do this in 2012. Promise.
So, I won't bore you with life resolutions that I may or may not keep. But I can tell you my garden resolutions for 2012, which I fully intend to keep.

Eregrostis spectabilis and Calamintha nepeta, two
plants I'll include in my front yard "prairie."
1. Remove grass in front yard and plant a stylized prairie. This is a big one, involving lots of planning, labor, and money. I wrote about this goal already here and here. I still have to figure out the best method for removing the grass (I'll post about that soon) and calculate how many plants I will need and what that will cost.

2. Create a bird friendly garden off back deck. I'll include fruit-producing shrubs and native perennials in this garden that we will be able to enjoy while on the deck, and through the back windows of the house. So much habitat is taken away from birds, I'm happy to give some back.

3. Find the perfect native tree to plant next to back deck in the bird habitat. I'll need a small ornamental tree or intermediate but narrow tree for this spot. I am considering a Viburnum prunifolium (Blackhaw Viburnum), Chionanthus virginicus (Fringe Tree), or Cornus alternifolia (Pagoda Dogwood). I can plant something with no more than a 15' spread. If you have any suggestions, let me know.

4. Add asparagus and rhubarb to the potager garden. I'm eager to add more perennial vegetables to the garden this year.

So, while I might not meet Lance Armstrong this year, I will definitely be able to make you a rhubarb and strawberry pie if you come to visit.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

100th Post! 10 Most Popular Posts of 2011


A milestone for me, as most blogs peter out after about three months. I am approaching the end of my first year as a garden blogger, and have loved sharing my gardening adventures with you!

Readers were interested in my trip
to Lurie Gardens with Roy Diblik
Below are my top 10 posts in terms of readership numbers this past year. Happy New Year and happy gardening to you all!

1. Potager Inspiration for Your Garden
2. Meeting Shawna Coronado
3. My Day with Roy Diblik
4. How to Make Organic Fruit Leather
5. How to Prepare for Your First Meeting with a Garden Designer
6. Positively Pretty Purple Plants
7. Cheers! A Reason to Drink More Wine
8. No Bees, No Veggies
9. An Ornamental Hideout
10. Photography Contest Entry - Seed Heads