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Article ThumbnailGarden Tool Maintenance

A Clean Tool is a Safe Tool

In the garden, everything has its season. Fall is the season for cleaning and preparing tools for spring. Dirt and rust are harmful to just about everything, but especially to garden tools that are often wet and dirty. We depend on our tools to be safe and effective. Dirt and rust make our tools less safe and make us work harder. Water may be great for the garden, but it is the enemy of our tools.


Article ThumbnailWalk this Way

Need a little inspiration or just a break from weeding? Garden walks abound this time of year, and there’s plenty to see. Here are a few you won’t want to miss.


Article ThumbnailAll Together Now

What is it about starting a community garden that makes people react as if you just pulled a cocker spaniel puppy out of a top hat? “We just started a community garden at the end of our block!” “Awwww.”

“We just planted seven hundred cucumber plants and one radish!” “Awwww.”

“We just harvested another dog vomit fungus patty!” “Awwww. We mean, eewwww!”

You know how much I hate writing facts. But it’s true that I’ve ...


Article ThumbnailArk de Disaster

The ultimate definition of an optimist may very well be a person who looks out at a mass of brown, smushed foliage; twisted, broken, defoliated branches; and lumpy, gray-green lawn and says,

“Yup. Looks like it’s going to be a good gardening season.” Who are these people? They’ve certainly never seen my yard in March.


Article ThumbnailBirds and Beans

All the snow we’ve had recently brought many more birds to the feeders outside our kitchen window. A lone starling was joined by sparrows, house finches, downy woodpeckers, seven cardinals, goldfinches (which are beginning to show faint yellow feathers as they lose their winter plumage), mourning doves and the occasional Cooper’s hawk (which sends the small birds scattering). It’s a good time to be indoors cooking and sowing seeds of tomato and pepper plants. As soon as the snow melts, I’ll get my soil thermometer and when the top inch of soil reaches to 52 F or so, I’ll begin sowing kale seeds.


Article ThumbnailScent and Non-Scents

“Stand back! I’m about to have a Proustian moment.

Wait…wait. Whew! It went away. For a second I thought I was going to become sick and depressed and this column would suddenly expand to about four hundred thousand pages that none of you would ever read except if you were in a hospital recuperating from two broken legs and I would start writing sentences that ran on and on and people would call me a genius but it wouldn’t matter because fewer than one person in a thousand would actually read this column but that wouldn’t matter either because the mere act of writing a four hundred thousand page gardening column would cause me to go insane and…and…

What’s that smell? As Marcel Proust once wrote, or perhaps he didn’t and should have written somewhere in Remembrance of Things Past, is a few thousand words about the sense of smell and the average garden.


Article ThumbnailTreasures of the Woodlands

Tulips come from Turkey, but woodland wildflowers come from Chicagoland. Why not have some of both in your springtime garden?

I knew it would be a goner as soon as it was proffered. “I don’t have the right conditions for it,” I said. “Yes, I have shade in my backyard, but the soil is clay and besides, there’s no water.” But my hostess insisted, and so I went home with a marsh marigold (Caltha palustris), even though I had no marsh. The plant died within a year, my sighs of regret tempered by some inner I-told-you-so satisfaction.


Article ThumbnailGeums Are Gems

I once had a friend tell me, “I am adding more geums to my garden – they are so lovely and delicate. And now they come in more colors than ever.” So I nodded and smiled and kept my mouth shut because I realized that I actually didn’t know what a geum was.

After searching the Internet I found that I knew these flowers well – I had seen geums a thousand times. The native Geum trifolium is what I knew as prairie smoke. But I still didn’t know much about cultivated geums, which are also called avens.


Article ThumbnailMy Greenhouse Beauty

There are a few cyclical events in my life that I look forward to: the first lazy snowflakes, the emergence of a small spring bulb, the fulsome green of spring, my July birthday, and the sudden shocking pink of Aechmea fasciata leaping out of its silver urn.


Article ThumbnailFailure to Communicate

“Do you have geraniums?” “Pelargonium or cranesbill?” “Sorry?” “Er, Pelargonium or cranesbill.” “No, I’m not interested in birds. I want a geranium. Got any red ones?” “Exactly. I was just explaining that what you call a geranium is actually a Pelargonium.” “Then why don’t they call it that?” “Well, it’s sometimes called a storksbill.” “Like I said, I don’t wanna bird.” “No, I’m just saying that cranesbills and storksbills are two different things.” “Especially to their mamas.”


Article ThumbnailTough Questions for the Pros

Here we are again, folks, recovering from yet another catastrophic (pick one or more):

Election.

New Year’s Eve celebration.

Christmas, when you hinted and hinted that all you needed to make you truly happy was a cherry red Tesla Model S under your Christmas Tree. But did Santa come through for you? Ha! Only in those annoying car commercials does that ever happen.

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Columns
Lawn Gone

My neighbor just paved over his front yard. For those of you who are already doubled over in laughter, saying, “That wacky ...


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Columns
Mike’s Holiday Hort Sing-Along

If it weren’t for the holiday season, we probably would have legislated the month of December out of existence long ago.


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Columns
They Died with Their Roots On

There is no better part of the year for a gardener than right now, assuming you’re reading this around March or April and ...


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Blog
Don’t Believe Everything You Read

Wouldn’t life be just about perfect if roses could grow in shade? It so happens that once in a while you come across one ...


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Features
10 Simple Ideas to Improve Your Garden Photography

The first time I taught an adult photography class, I asked the participants to list what they hoped to gain …


questions

I received a beautiful flowering azalea plant during the holidays. I would like to continue growing it over winter. Will I be able to bring it into bloom next year?

Besides mums, what are a few other plants you would recommend for containers for fall color?

I keep seeing photos of interesting plants I’d like to grow, but they’re labeled zone 6 and I’m in zone 5. What can I do to successfully overwinter these marginal plants? I’d like to try them, but I don’t want to waste my money.

calendar of events

See these and more events in our calendar of gardening events.

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