Trials and tales of a not-so-advanced gardener--both in the dirt and beyond.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Photos from Chicago Botanic Gardens

Here's a brief collection of pictures from the Chicago Botanic Garden visit:
The rose garden was in full bloom during our visit. What I appreciated about the CBG is that there were signs describing the when these specific types of flowers bloom, where they thrive and when historically they were popular.

There were a few greenhouses. This orchid is in the tropical greenhouse. Orchids were growing on the limbs of a tree.
A picture of the Walled English Garden. The wisteria was blooming. It was very lush and green. I really liked this one.
A collection of cone flowers in the English Walled Garden.

There I am in the bulb garden enjoying a view of the aquatic garden.

I will definitely plan on returning when I am in Evanston again. It was a great place to enjoy the outdoors. It was free (sometimes a charge if you have a car) and you can even bring in your own cooler of drinks and food. You have to appreciate a garden that encourages you touch everything (in the sensory garden), that provides useful tips (and a free pepper plant!--in the veggie and fruit garden), and has a 3-island Japanese style garden.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Raspberries and the Battle de la thistle, Part Un...

When I was watering the veggies last night, I noticed bright red spots---RASPBERRIES! Let the feast begin. I am so excited. I picked a few and almost finished the bowl before I got inside to share them.

Tonight I'm bringing out the thick leather gloves and a long sleeved tee to get as many as possible before the birds and rabbits figure it out.

The thistle behind the raspberries are officially taller than me. It's time to say "Au revoir!" to this monstrosity.

UPDATE: Battle de la Thistle, Part Un:

The enemy was taller than me. He was prickly and irreverent to my pleas to leave the raspberry patch. His roots were ingrained deep into the earth. He wasn't leaving without a fight.

I approached, took a deep breath and charged at the thistle. My leather gloves as my weapon, I uprooted them one by one. There were some injuries on my side: a few of the brambles were blindsided by my hand and got tied up in the duel.

Hours later, my brow was furled it was over and the heap of no-good weeds lies by the vegetable bed to prove my success. Soon they will be laid to rest in the compost pile or the fire pit.

I was pleased that we'd won the first battle and was kindly rewarded with a bowl of berries. But know this is one of many battles I'll have with the thistle. Ne'er will I let them grow as tall or strong as they had during "The Great Weeding Lapse of '08."

Monday, June 23, 2008

Cycling to the Chicago Botanic Gardens

We took a mini-vacay Thursday - Sunday up to Evanston to visit Pentzer this weekend and brought the bikes along for the trip. I decided that I needed to visit the Chicago Botanic Garden and with plenty of bike trails leading up there according to their website(, it made sense to bike there.

path we took consists of taking the North Branch Trail, which leads through the Skokie Lagoon, to the north and came back south via the Greenbay Trail (excellent Chicago-land trail map site). We "mapped our ride" using, a very cool website that allows you to draw your route on a Google map (so you can include trails, parking lots, parks, etc. All in all the trip was just about 19 miles and the best thing was the garden in the middle (pictures coming to a new post soon!).

Along the same vein, Whitney and I are truly considering the brand-spanking-new
downtown sprint triathlon. The best (and perhaps grossest) part: swimming in the canal!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Literally in the Weeds

So at the new place, I literally have more weeds than plants. It's incredible! How in the world did the thistle get taller than me? I got a small section done over the weekend, but it took over an hour.

It's going to take me forever to get out of the weeds.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Making a Compost Tumbler -- I'll tumble for ya!

I can take absolutely no credit for the creation of this idea, only for making a post of step-by-step instructions. Anthony at The Compost Bin has a couple of posts about it and that's where I read about the Compost Tumbler; but, I wanted to post about how I did it.

So, I made a compost tumbler for less than $20--instead of paying $200 for a fancy one.
What you need:
A plastic garbage can with a lid
2 bungee cords
a drill
about a foot of screen typically used for windows
hot glue gun and glue
a hole-making drill bit

This is the one I used--2.5".
It was less than $10.

Step One: Cut a hole in that box! (People who get that SNL reference are LOLing now...)

So I drilled several holes in garbage can. These are necesary for aeration. (Optional: Take a utility knife and "clean-up" the edges of the circles.) These don't have to be circles, I just thought this was the easiest since they have a circle-making drill bit.

Step Two: Cut the screen in large enough pieces to cover the holes.
I just used a pair of my rusty garden shears and made the square large enough to overlap about 1/2 an inch.
*If you have a great hardware guy like my Vince at Ace, see if they will sell you just a foot from the screen they use to repair window screens. I got mine for about $1.25--much less than the $10 I would have paid for several feet of screen in the roll (that I will never use.)
Step Three: Cover the holes.

I used my hot glue gun with normal glue. I found the best way was to place the screen on the hole on the inside, then to glue around the circle.

Step Four: Put in your favorite goodies that are ready to composted!

Important to note--be sure you buy bungee cords that fit over the top of the trash don't want you compost to spill out when you tumble it.
I tumble (read: kick around) mine every 3 days or so. I'll update you on when I have wonderful "black gold."

Here is the finished product before going outside (Yes, I did this project inside. It was raining so I just put down a sheet in the kitchen.)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Bloom Day and I'm back!

Lots of things happening in the weeds and in the house these are a few things that are blooming around these parts...

Geranium--this is one of the perennial looks a bit beaten from all of the rain, but the flowers are hanging on.

Primrose--again looking very beaten from so much rain, but this is a big bunch of yellow brightening my day. They are right outside of the kitchen window.

Various roses--big bushes, tall climbers and this guy. He appeared from the thistle a week ago or so.

More roses--this one is a huge bush by the patio.

I know I should know what this is...but I forget. I'm still learning what everything is in my new yard.
Other things are blooming--the strawberries, the zucchini, a cone flower or two, the hostas, a few peonies are still left, too.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Gone for a long time...

I've been MIA because the big move happened over the weekend. I'll be taking pictures of the new yard soon.

Here's the best thing about my new place: RASPBERRIES!