Posts Tagged ‘ Y axis ’

I *heart* growing

lone pansy

Was it Anne of Green Gables who talked about the pansy having a cheery face?

As of one week ago, this is about all you can grow for real in Chicago still. Though it has been the warmest April in 30-some years.

Wait! Greens grow this early, too. Here’s some future spinach of America.
spinach seedlings

I spent all of last Saturday futzing. Bleaching pots. Sweeping up leaves. Re-painting some planters. Enjoying the backyard’s trees.
backyard trees

I got a ton of seeds started though, in pots wrapped in clear plastic bags on the front porch.
impromptu greenhouse

These tomatoes seeded themselves, I repeat SEEDED THEMSELVES in the pot we grew them in last year. This will forever change how I put the pots away at the end of the season.
tomatoes seeded themselves

Here’s how we protect them when the nighttime temps plunge. Though probably that’s coddling.
tomatoes seeded themselves

I try harder every year to better use the Y-axis. Like by nailing a giant tomato can to the top of a railpost. Jammed some moonflower and morning glory seeds inside.
can planter atop post

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Crafty Mister II (or how to… build a plant tower)

My Mister and I came up with an idea to maximize our small gardening space we share with neighbors in our apartment building in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village: We’d grow goodies along the Y-plane, utilizing endless airspace overhead.

finished terra cotta tower using broken pot on top

But instead of buying these fancy Y-plane kits (expensive), or building raised beds from scratch (too cumbersome and permanent), we’d make some plant towers ourselves using the giant plastic pots we already have, and some basic plumbing pipes and flanges.

See what you think.

Then try it yourself. Check out your pots. Terra cotta with a giant hole are all ready. Plastic pots usually need drilling. We used 4 pots each, a 1/2-inch by 60-inch length of metal pipe (Home Depot), a 1/2 flange (ditto, in the plumbing aisle).

1/2″ flange bought in plumbing aisle

The bottom pot has to be the biggest, then 2 medium and a small one, or three medium ones. Make sure with terra cotta that the pole will fit through the drainage holes.
plastic and terra cotta towers plastic tower on left; terra cotta on right

So you put the flange, flat side down, under the bottom pot, drilling a hole in plastic if necessary. If you drill, you need the kind of bit that bores a big hole.
initial hole drilling start the hole gently, then increase it

set flange in bottom pot, flat side down set the flange into the hole, flat side facing out

Screw the pipe into the flange.
screw pipe into flange screw the pipe all the way into the flange

Weight the bottom pot with bricks or rocks or something heavy that doesn’t take up all the pot space.
weight bottom pot before filling use bricks or rocks to weight the bottom of the tower

Fill with dirt, tamp down really well, and add more dirt if necessary. This is your foundation for the tower.
bottom pot all set tamp the dirt down really well so your foundation is solid

Thread a medium pot onto the pipe, and tilt it as far to one side as you can. Fill it with dirt, tamp, etc. Thread another pot, tilt it to the other side as far as you can, fill with dirt. Repeat until you’re out of pots or out of room.
plastic tower finished plastic tower to be planted with tomatoes and peppers

That’s it. We’re now growing on four Y planes.

It’s five if you count the wooden tower I experimented with for little herbs — nothing anchoring the wooden dowel in the center except for dirt.
bury pole in bottom pot anchor the wooden dowel as best you can
thread pots one at a time, tilting them as far as they’ll go

herby little tower finished terra cotta tower of small herb pots

Cross your fingers…

sprouts!

Who knew squash would be the belle of the ball?

These baby pepper sprouts make me feel unsettled, as if I were looking at maggots or something equally icky.

And heirloom tomatoes – a present from my Mister’s beermaking buddy – also are coming up in an old terrarium.

My chamomile is popping up in the papaya pot, so tiny I almost missed it. Too tiny to photograph at this point — the seedlings all come out way too fuzzy.

We’re going to garden on the Y axis this year, trying to plant up and down instead of covering all our shared yard with our pots. My Mister’s dad gave us a planter last year — a pole with a flat anchor that we placed in the bottom of a large terra cotta pot, weighted with a stone and filled with dirt to the top. Then threaded two smaller pots through their holes onto the pole, tilting one all the way right, and the next one all the way left. did the same for a small pot on the top, filling all with dirt. It looks something like this.

I think we can buy a few more poles and some kind of anchor from plumbing supply, and string up more of our pots this way. Vertical gardening types believe the air circulation is better than planting flat on the X plane, and yields better, healthier plants. I’m more concerned with avoiding the irrational wrath of our sometime landlord. Plus, I want to grow as many edibles as we can in Chicago’s short growing season.

Will post photos of the planting structure when the next one’s done. Will post tutorial, also. Will do all this and more once it stops threatening snow.

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