Osmocote Advertisement
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 ThumbnailNaming Rights

Brace yourself. I’m going to smack you across the kisser with a cold, wet herring of truth: Gardening ain’t easy.

There. I said it. You may now wipe that fish oil from your cheek.

One of the reasons that gardening is harder than it looks is that the people who make the rules keep changing them. I’m talking about the keepers of the binomial nomenclature. (Note: If you enjoy reading this column because it’s fact-free, just close your eyes for the next couple of sentences, while I get the serious stuff out of the way.)

Binomial nomenclature is the rule that every living thing – like a plant – has an unpronounceable scientific name that was created to confuse the bejesus out of people who are not scientists. For instance, you think you’re growing a pansy but it might really be a Viola × wittrockiana Gams ex Nauenb. & Buttler. I’m not making this up! As Randy Shakespeare always said, before he was unceremoniously expunged from the history books, “Google it!”


Article ThumbnailWaiting for Gardot

“Hey, Gerry.” “ Morning, Al.” “ Where’s Carey?” “ They moved him to the front this morning.” “ No kidding. Think we’re next? “ You never know.” “ Well, I’m gettin’ tired of sittin’ around here. Use me or lose me, I say. Did you hear about Cal?” “ Yeah, poor guy. I thought he was doing well.” “ Well, he was always kind of stiff. You know?” “ Yeah.” “ Now he’s real stiff. Know what I mean?” “ Yeah.” “ Real stiff.” “ I get it.”


Article ThumbnailBales of Fun

For vegetable gardeners, straw bale gardening may be the best innovation since sliced bread.

Straw bale gardening essentially turns a bale of straw into a raised bed. It requires no digging or soil preparation. Because you’re not planting in the ground, you don’t have to worry about soil-borne diseases, and weeding is minimal. It doesn’t even matter if your soil is crummy or if the sunniest place in your yard is covered in concrete. You can achieve optimal growing conditions for a vegetable garden in a humble bale of straw.


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 ThumbnailDear Ms. and/or Mr. MacArthur Genius Grant Person

My name is Mike Nowak and, as you can see, I write a column for this very, very, very esteemed magazine. It’s full color and it’s glossy! As you can also see, my column is in a place of honor, on the very, very, very back page, just in front of a big fertilizer ad or something else of great importance to the horticultural community (they change it up every issue, just to keep me guessing).


Article ThumbnailThe Flavor of Autumn

Snow showers hit the area this week, but the Swiss chard that’s growing under my frost cloths and in a small unheated greenhouse in our backyard just shrugs off the chilly temperatures. I grow several varieties and all of them seem to taste just a little better with the onset of cold weather.


Article ThumbnailFrom the Editor - Mar/Apr2015

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning,” wrote the author of Psalms 30. Something to keep in mind as we slog through winter every year.

Now it’s March, and our time of weeping is approaching its end. Oh, we may still get a blizzard, or even two, but rest assured, we’ve survived the worst of it. March blizzards melt
quickly.

One of the great benefits of gardening is that it gives us so many moments of joy. We could also call them God’s-in-his-heaven-all’s-right-with-the-world moments.


Article ThumbnailSaturday Surprise

It helps to go out and look at your garden every day. After a Saturday morning spent hacking out purple violets with the dandelion weeder because 1) there doesn’t appear to be an organic herbicide on the market that deals with violets and 2) I worry about the after-effects of whatever strong chemical a licensed professional might apply, I decided to catch my breath with a leisurely stroll through the front yard. And there I discovered a treasure — a lovely pendulous apricot-colored brugmansia.


Article ThumbnailIt’s Spring, Already

Where does the time go? Seems like nano-seconds since I gave up on my overgrown, drought and heat-ravaged mess of a garden in the fall, planted a white flag in the shriveled remains of a tomato plant in a dried up container and screamed to anyone who would listen (mostly squirrels and birds), “It’s yours! You own it! Do your worst. Dig up some bulbs. Go ahead, leave some foxhole-sized divots in the lawn. Knock yourselves out! Go on, sparrows, poop all over everything. Here, I’m putting out an extra lawn chair for just that purpose! Should I leave my bicycle out here, too? You want that, too? Huh? I don’t care! I quit. I resign. I abdicate. I bifurcate. I conjugate! I’ll be back in the spring. Or summer. Or in 2017. Maybe. Don’t hold your breath because… because… there’s nothing weirder than a blue squirrel.”

And with that, I walked into the house and rather animatedly rearranged all of my ties by date of purchase. Flash forward five months or so. Here we are. Spring. Yup. Spring.


Article ThumbnailGardener’s Guilt

I’m feeling guilty. Perhaps that’s because my column was due last week and I’ve now written, let’s see, 18 words.

But I’m feeling guilty also because I’m a gardener. Many people mistakenly believe that guilt has to do with the kind of religion you practice—you know, Jewish guilt or Catholic guilt. (I read once that people who suffer from Buddhist guilt come back in the next life as dung beetles. I’ll get back to you with that weblink as soon as I track it down.)

popular

Article Thumbnail
Columns
Tough Questions for the Pros

Here we are again, folks, recovering from yet another catastrophic (pick one or more): Election. New Year’s Eve celebration …


Article Thumbnail
Columns
Garden Tool Maintenance

In the garden, everything has its season. Fall is the season for cleaning and preparing tools for ...


Article Thumbnail
Features
Bursting Forth

Ted Nyquist’s rhododendrons light up his woodland wonderland.


Article Thumbnail
Blog
A Bulb Like No Other

A few days ago it was cool enough to go outside and see the red needles calling me. It was my fully open haemanthus, a ...


Article Thumbnail
Departments
From the Editor - MarApr 2016

In the Merry Hall trilogy, a series that ranks high among the world’s great garden classics, the English journalist Beverley …


questions

What ratio and amounts of fertilizer would you use for a perennial bed and a vegetable garden? For growing annuals in a greenhouse, should the fertilizer be fast or slow-release, organic or inorganic?

I start ‘Dragon Wing’ begonia from seed under grow lights. What other begonias can I use to cross-pollinate with the ‘Dragon Wing’ so I can collect my own seeds?

Can you tell me if the African daisy Osteospermum ‘Springstar Aurora’ can be winterized here? It is a healthy plant?

calendar of events

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

ChicagolandGardening Advertisement