For the past couple of years I've been following Joe Baldwin's dream of installing a flatbed garden on a CTA train that would traverse the city for a month. His idea is rather simple. Build a raised bed that's attached to a Chicago Transit Authority train and plant it with native plants and let the train carry the garden throughout various Chicago neighborhoods. You'd think such an idea would be either really easy to implement or impossible to given the bureaucracy of a big government agency. The truth is that his dream is almost on track and the only thing holding him back is money. The CTA and the USDA have given the idea their blessing, all he needs is a big corporate sponsor to underwrite it. But for five hours in August of 2010 he gave Chicago a glimpse of what a mobile garden would look like during Art on Track.
Over the winter Colleen from In the Garden Online offered me OSU Blue tomato seeds. Having never heard of this tomato variety and seeing how cool the fruits looked I figured I’d give them a try. Yes, there is a blue tomato and it is as unusual a tomato as you imagine and will see below. My first experience with these tomatoes was trying to get the seeds to germinate, a task that seemed so daunting I was about to throw them away before I noticed the seeds had sprouted. This blue tomato was developed by Jim Myers, OSU's Baggett Frazier professor of vegetable breeding and graduate students Carl M. Jones and Peter Mes. The first thing you should understand about the OSU Blue tomato is that it wasn't developed using genetic engineering, but using traditional plant breeding techniques.
|Garden helper holding OSU Blue Tomatoes.|
If you read some gardening blogs you may come away with the impression that the biggest gardening trend is vertical gardening or removing lawns and creating garden designs that are more sustainable. Open a newspaper and you’ll read about how vegetable gardening continues to rise in popularity in 2011 due in large part to a fallow economy and our feelings of uncertainty. Stories of cities like Chicago, Detroit, and Decatur, Ga., embracing the trend of urban agriculture and rewriting laws to encourage and protect community gardens and urban farming are as common as orange daylilies. People want to grow their own food and they want to grow it close to home; in their front yards and their backyards, side-by-side with their neighbors. Yet there’s this segment of the population that sees this progress and is deciding to double-down and fight back against the tide by legislating away expressions of urban agriculture.
The most famous example this year is that of Julie Bass of Michigan whose plight was made popular after Colleen Vanderlinden wrote about it for TreeHugger and the internet descended on the story forcing lawmakers to backdown. For this trailer park homesteader the possibility of the property manager ending up on the six o’clock news was enough to allow her to keep her garden going.
|Photos Adam Guerrero's Facebook page.|
Like with most other plants I like my sunflowers to be on the usual side. The ones I've previously grown have been either sunflowers with dark petals like 'Cinnamon Sun' or they're giant sunflowers like 'Titan' and 'Mammoth.' This year I was offered 'Coconut Ice' seeds by Burpee and really liked the pictures I saw of this sunflower on the Internet, even if it wasn't so weird, so I decided to give it a try. The petals start off a creamy yellow fading to a nice white with a black center. In the promotional picture for this annual the effect of the dark center and white petals is quite striking.
When selecting vegetables to grow in my container garden the first thing I always consider is the color. While flavor and productivity should be the most important I can't help but to be drawn to the unusual, be it color or shape and texture, fruits and vegetables. That's how I came to grow Burpee Seeds' 'White Wonder' cucumber this year. In the 2011 seed catalog there was an offer for a free pack of these seeds with an order. 'Long White' and 'Albino' are synonyms for 'White Wonder' which Burpee introduced in 1893 after receiving the seeds from a customer in western New York.