Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Ornamentals and pretty flowers on edible things

On Saturday the 22nd we got a much needed donation of ornamental plants from a friendly neighbor.  The Hostas, Sedum, and Black Eyed Susans are being used to beautify our front garden.  Our front sitting area has lost some of its luster.  The benches need to be spruced up, many of the stone structures have been knocked out of place and the beds on the sidewalk have become a tall tangle of well-intentioned plants that need some love.  Many of the plants in the front beds are beneficial natives, but there is no appearance of design in this very public place and, without management, the mass of foliage and sporadic flower has become unsightly.

In addition to this, the city has become more aggressive about issuing $600 fines for plants deemed overgrown "weeds" (often arbitrarily-- Weed law in Chicago sends native plant gardeners to court) and we want to make it clear to neighbors and ticket writers that there is intentional gardening taking place, rather than neglect.  Ginkgo hasn't encountered this and we'd prefer not to.  We still have work to do, but this donation got us off to a great start!

Not all pretty plants are strictly ornamental.  The aesthetics of chive flowers add a secondary benefit to a tasty herb.   We generally treat the walking onion as an ornamental, but the tops make a great substitute for shallots. And potato flowers are absolutely gorgeous!

The garden is a wonderful place for pollinators...

and other interesting characters.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Aphid Invasion

Aphids.  Aphids Aphids Aphids.  Aphids everywhere.  Plum Tree Aphids.  Blue Shirt Aphids.  You know what... Let's not even talk about aphids today.  Here are some pretty pictures of things that are not covered in aphids.

Note our Lettuce, radishes, lonely red raspberry, and minute potato.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

here's to opening and upward,to leaf and to sap

Pictures from June 15.


A wandering trail of pole bean seedlings

Seed and cotyledon

Lacinato kale


landbound lily pads of nasturtium

The green sprig is a corn seedling--the oldest of Three Ssters. After years of discussion, we are finally trying to grow a milpa.

Potatoes in flower

Wando snap peas

2013 will be the Annus Borecolus, or the Year of Kale, at Ginkgo

At the pantry

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Work Night Cancelled

Tonight's work night will be cancelled due to the severe weather forecast.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

This was the quick wrist of early summer, when everything was alive.

This is the time between the last frost and the first sunburn, when all is planting and waiting. The skies are colored like a Sirk film. Bindweed and mosquitoes have yet to appear, and the branchtips of fruit trees sway with promise in the light breeze.

Our seedlings of kale and broccoli are still settling in, and many of our young peppers and tomatoes are still being coddled on the West side. We are still delivering mainly herbs and radishes at this point. We even had time to put together a couple of wildflower bunches, which I forgot to deliver to the pantry. Late in the workday, we were visited by a couple that was soon to marry, so we still managed to give away our bouquets.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

June 1: Raphanus sativus

Radishes are some of the earliest vegetables that we can harvest in our garden. Cool weather plants that require little water, they give us something to fuss over while we wait for the weather to warm enough for beans or tomatoes. Our main challenge has been that no one really likes radishes, and a number of us considered the greens to be unpalatable.

I recently discovered the error in my estimation of radishes after I harvested a crop from my personal garden. Faced with a shopping bag's worth of radish greens, I wondered whether there wasn't something that I could do with them besides relegate them to the compost bin. So I Googled, and found a recipe for a Radish Green Vichyssoise that I tried. After that surprisingly good soup, I was prepared to grow radishes for the greens alone. Then I sauteed a handful of peeled and sliced radishes in olive oil until they were crispy and used them as a garnish on another meal. I am now prepared to be a radish evangelist at the pantry.

We harvested a number of radishes on June 1--both Crimson Giants and daikon. We added herbs, bundles of chives, and flowers to build our second delivery of the year to the pantry.  We finished the day by planting chard, lettuce, beans, and wildflowers.

It is not from ourselves that we will learn to be better than we are.

After the close of last year's growing season, NeighborSpace invited Ginkgo to an awards ceremony at the Garfield Conservatory for other groups who act as stewards for NeighborSpace properties. Those of us who attended were surprised to learn that Ginkgo was one of the larger gardens in the group.

When struggling with the flea beetles and blossom end rot of summer, it is easy to forget that there are other gardens all over Chicago, tucked away on city lots and along streets, tended by members of a community that "no longer look[s] upon rain as an impediment of traffic, or upon the sun as a holiday decoration," as Wendell Berry described in "Think Little." It was heartening to meet other gardeners, and encouraging to note that many gardeners grow food specifically to donate to others.

When Advocates for Urban Agriculture invited Ginkgo, again to the Garfield Conservatory, to participate in a panel discussion with a special focus on donation programs, I was concerned that we might be the largest garden again, and would be expected to provide recommendations for other gardens who were just starting. I prepared remarks.

I was pleasantly surprised (and--I will admit--necessarily humbled) to learn that, among the gardens who were represented on the panel, Ginkgo was actually in the middle of the range in size and production. The other gardens were serious enterprises, donating thousands of pounds a year to pantries and meal programs. It was a balm to the spirit to be surrounded by such fundamentally decent people.

--title: from "A Native Hill", Wendell Berry