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Rain, Rain Go Away!


Our official National Weather Service rain gauge clocked in with 3.60 inches of rain at 7 a.m. this morning. And more is falling. The daffodil flowers are nodding down toward the mud. The vegetable garden is a pond. There’s nary a robin in sight to feast on the hordes of worms migrating across the driveway in search of dry ground. And it continues to rain. What a difference from this time last year when gardeners were bemoaning the hot weather and how quickly all the spring bulbs flowered and dried up. But that’s ok. This is a good time to sow seeds indoors.

This year, I’m test driving several varieties of nasturtium. Their leaves and flowers are edible, but I’m growing them because they’re disease resistant, the deer don’t seem to bother them and I’m hoping they’ll feed the hummingbirds that are here from May through October.

There’s ‘Empress of India’ with its orange-red flowers. And ‘Dwarf Cherry Rose’ with wavy edged petals folded into semi-double blossoms. There’s Burpee’s ‘Jewel Mix’ and Thompson & Morgan’s ‘Orange Troika’, ‘Whirlybird’ and ‘Climbing Mixed’, which the seed packet touts as “ideas for walls and fences.” But I’m going to try something new — growing them in hanging baskets.

Although you can “nick” the hard seeds with a file or sandpaper, I’ve found it’s much easier to soak the seeds in an inch of water for 6 to 8 hours and then plant them in potting mix. Once they get their second set of leaves, I’ll move them into pots and hanging baskets but they won’t go outdoors until mid-May. Stay tuned for a bloom update.

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questions

I’d like to start composting. Do you have any advice on what kind of bin to purchase/build so that it is successful in the Chicago climate?

Is it possible to plant and grow Italian cypress in the Chicago area? Are our winters too severe for it? If they are, is there an alternative conifer that will provide a similar look?

What plants do you predict will be best sellers this year? Why?

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