Deb's Big Backyard

  Deb's Big Backyard

It's cool to Grow Veggies in Containers Now

by Deb Quantock Mccarey


In March I spent a couple of weekends flieding edible gardening quesitons at two major   gardening events, the Chicago Flower and Garden Show and the Macy's Flower Show "America the Beautiful, which runs through April 3rd if you haven''t caught t it yet.

The most FAQ was regarding the fesibility of  edible container gardening in a small backyard, or on a patio or deck.

Of course, my response was a resounding yes, yes and yes, as that is mostly hat I do now..


Year after year, e, the veggetables that work well for this gardening practice require less space to grow, e.g. particularly the dward or determinate varieties that bear fruits or other harvestable parts over a longer period of time, and require more than six hours a day -- tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, and eggplant ,

Leafy vegetables such as lettuce, cabbage, collards, mustard greens, spinach, and parsley can tolerate more shady location or partial shade, chich means three to six hours of morning or early afternoon sunlight a day.


As an experiment, this year I amplanning to grow all cool-weather root crops -- turnips, beets, radishes, carrots, and onions -- in grow bags,  as well as my re-purposed wash basin.












Digging Into Urban Nature At Columbus Park


video/photos by Kevin J. McCarey


by Deb Quantock McCarey


In the early AMs, for several months now,  Kevin and I have been heading into the natural beauty that is our nearby touch of urban nature:  Columbus Park in Chicago. 


With virtually no reruns, It's our own  Nat Geo station, unplugged,  AND  a  compilation of beauty shots that is  our latest DBB nature short, "Digging into Urban Nature at Columbus Park."


Behind the Scenes: 5 Cool Things You May Not Know About Lurie Garden.

video by Kevin J. McCarey

by Deb Quantock McCarey


When I took an end-of-the-season inventory of my native specimen garden, it was a trip down memory lane, as most of the plant materials I have installed there were inspired by little road trips to my favorite public gardens for strategic look-sees at who is planting what, when and where.


Walking through Morton Arboretum's Schulenberg Prairie got me growing everything from oxeye sunflowers and joe pye weed to stiff golden rod, and compass plants in my front and backyard wildlife gardens.


I was first introduced to the winsome sway of grey-bearded cone flowers and swamp milkweed as we strolled the Nature Boardwalk of Lincoln Park Zoo, and get this:  A host of my Illinois wild flowers selections trace back to the countless trips I have made to the educational Butterfly Garden at Brookfield Zoo.


But, probably my biggest what-to-plant-now-and-next influencer has been the four season landscaping of Millennium Park's Lurie Garden. That is where I became bedazzled by bluestar in the Spring, passionate over purple prairie clover one Summer, pleased with pale coneflower that Fall, plus bound to beautiful browns every Winter.


In late September when Lurie Garden's Director Scott Stewart (the former manager of the Oak Park Conservatory and a current resident of Oak Park) agreed to take me on a behind-the-scenes tour of what most people do not see as they stroll the  walkways, we did not hesitate to dig right in to get all the dirt behind what makes this gorgeous garden go ...including finding out where Head Horticulturist Laura Ekasetya helps tend to Lurie's bees.


What?  Who knew they kept hives here, too?  Well, belated spoiler alert:  Now you do. 







Growing Roses Made Easier

Double Knockout Rose, courtesy Susan Fox

Video by Kevin J. McCarey

by Deb Quantock McCarey


Growing up, my Dad grew roses along the side of the house.


White, yellow, red and pink.


As I write this now, I can still smell those roses and remember how my Dad cared for them.


Some 50 years later, now in my edible garden I grow a climbing rose vine up a trellis on the side of my garage for its beauty, fragrance, and, of course, to attract pollinators. 


A local birding naturalist told me that the vine's rose hips attract Northern Cardinals in winter.


And, they do.


From the American Rose Society, here is more.


Over the weekend, I did a stint as a University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener volunteer, where I sat at an Information booth and answered all sorts of gardening questions.



Directly behind me was the show's gorgeous rose garden installation.  Hanging around in it were two rose enthusiasts, Tony Abruscato, Director, Chicago Flower and Garden Show and Susan Fox, a consulting Rosarian (a person with expertise or a special interest in the cultivation of roses).

Susan told me that "85 percent of people say roses are their favorite flower and they want them in their garden.  But there is this idea they might be a little more difficult to take care of.  But that is just a wives tale."  Susan said.  "They are easy care and these roses are more disease free, and are prolific bloomers.  Gardeners can put these roses in their gardens and have great success."


Happily, Tony plucked some time out of his busy Show schedule to talk about the trends in rose growing with me.


The Chicago flower and Garden show runs through Sunday, March 20, so there is still time to establish your rite of Spring... as I do year after year.


I always thought I could not grow roses in my small, urban backyard.  Now I know that absolutely everyone can.

Everything is coming up roses for Deb at Chicago Flower and Garden Show at Navy Pier through March 20, 2016.



Luring Beneficial Bugs to your Garden w/Pretty Pollen & Nectar Producing Plants




video/photos by Kevin J. McCarey

by Deb Quantock McCarey


Well, in a public education setting I do like handling snakes, but in my garden I still get a little jumpy when I encounter a spider of any size.


Actually, I usually let out an eek.


Just do.


I am working on my so-called "fear factor" because those predatory, eight legged arachnids, plus a slew of other creepy crawlies, including millipedes, centipedes, earthworms, hover flies, ladybugs and yes, parasitic mini- wasps, are known as beneficials.


Because, in the garden, and other natural habitats everywhere beneficials are doing their job.


Hornworm caterpillar may look comfy resting on your tomato vine.



But if you have lured in its natural enemy, the parasitic mini wasp, it will become dinner for that beneficials babies, as they hatch eggs inside the caterpillar and eventually eat their way out. 



When one decides to discard the use of pesticides, to pursue the option of attracting beneficial insects to the garden with specific families of pollen and nectar-producing flowers and herbs to manage pest problems, some call the gardening practice organic pest control.


Growing the populations of this community of "good guys", in my recent experience, will naturally stave off the pests (e.g. mites, hornworms and cabbage worms, aphids and so on) whose dining habits tend to destroy crops, and most likely a gardening season.


Bugs in the garden can be pretty big, and really small, but recently, thanks to the Friends of the Oak Park Conservatory's (FOPCON) annual KidFest event at the Oak Park Conservatory, I learned a lot more about some REALLY BIG ones that compose the University of Illinois Extension's Master Gardener traveling Insect Petting Zoo.


It is available for events such as this one, and visits to schools.  The next stop for The Rose Hair Tarantula, PRETTY BIG Centipede and Millipede, plus THE Bess Beetle, Madagascar Hissing Cockroach and vermicomposting red wiggler worms will be at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show, March 12-20 in the Kid's Pavilion, says Sarah Batka, Program Coordinator, Horticulture, University of Illinois Extension.  As always it will be manned by Master Gardener volunteers who won't skimp on the bug "feels" and factoid,.


But back to KidsFest, on a break from the bug fun, Patti Staley, Director of Horticulture and Conservatory  Operations, told me that in the Elsie Jacobsen Discovery Garden, and especially in our own gardens, "We have a lot of beneficials here.  Really, it's free entertainment in your own backyard.  From the Aphids that are eating our plants to the Lady Beetles that come along and are eating the Aphids, to the birds that are swooping in and eating that Ladybug.  We have that going on in our yards.  People just don't stop to smell the flowers and look at the bugs and see what's happening."


Here's another resource with info, through the lens of permaculture.


BTW, Patti added that many of those plants could be purchased at FOPCON's annual plant sale, at the end of April.


Full disclosure time:  I did handle every critter I was handed.  Did I let out an eek?  Go ahead, watch our latest video, Deb's Big Backyard:  Insect Petting Zoo at KidsFest 2016 and find out.




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