Don’t be afraid to be different! Stop standing on the sidelines and jump in the game of change!



Neighbors on our block use pesticides which means our food growing is in our backyard buffered by native + non native bushes for privacy + to add an extra layer of protection from chemical sprays

I am starting to see a society that is becoming too afraid to be different. If you want change, you have to stand up and make a statement. Yep, you may not find a lot of people following but eventually they will see that your ideas are not so far-fetched. For the good of nature + our health, we need to look at our urban areas and make changes that may not be the norm today. I believe they will eventually be the norm because there is no other way.


I use native ninebark throughout our landscapes. I have 3 different cultivars. This is Coppertina which has this lovely orange-copper in the spring.

Why do we all have to follow a certain rule as to what is normal?? When normal is not working, well, we need to look for a different way.We need to think for ourselves.


This is ninebark ( physocarpus opulifolius) Diablo

I grew up at a time in the 70’s when people thought for themselves. They were not afraid to think outside the box. It was good to find a new path or way to solve a problem. But lately, I am feeling like our society is too caught up depending on social media. We are becoming a society that is comparing all that we do in our life, for example, I need this or that because THIS is what so and so SAYS works, or I need. Aww… come on, think for yourself. Read and try some ideas. If they don’t work then try something different. Experiment, ponder and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.


The leaves are a deep purple color with a great shape. The bark provides winter interest.

I know I often talk about “making mistakes” because I believe it is how we learn. Don’t sit on the sidelines, just jump in and take a chance. Get in the game of change!You will never grow if you are too afraid of making mistakes in life. When did we ALL become afraid to make a mistake? The greatest contributions to our society were people willing to take a risk and see what might be a possibility.


I added Cercis canadensis cultivar-Forest Pansy to our yard this spring. It was but a small stick and I did not know if it would make a show. But it did! It has these lovely  purple leaves that fade to a burgundy green as summer progresses. It is only about 3 feet tall right now!

I have been looking at the street I live on and my landscape. We need to make some changes.


Our native blueberry bushes turn a lovely red in the fall. I just have to keep the bunnies from chewing mine to the ground. Fingers crossed we made it through last winter and they are starting to come back.

There are plants that are not tolerating our weather extremes, and they are not doing much for nature. I am spending more time pulling non-natives out and replacing them with native plants.


When adding natives to your landscape you have to plan for times they may not look their best. I love cone flowers but these have seen better times in mid summer

I ordered more native prairie grass, Midwest USA types, yesterday to put in my landscape. I dove off the pier head first and will figure out how it will work on our city lot. Yep, I am daring to be different. No one has it on our street. I must admit, I am a bit nervous. It will be an adventure. I have no doubt, I will make mistakes, but through my mistakes I will learn. I searched on the internet for others doing the same; integrating native grasses on their city lot. I did not find too much and what I did find were a bit varied in their advice.


As coneflower are fading out and providing food for the birds golden rod is emerging.


As one plant fades another is ready to take its place

I have no idea if my “ideas” will work. I have to do something droughts are becoming more common each season. I need to find ways to limit the amount of grass in our landscape. I can’t keep the water guzzling lawn as the main ground cover. I will keep some, but I need to find other alternatives for the future. Shoot, California is taking out their lawns and the cities are giving them help to change theirs from grass to more drought tolerant green spaces. We need to start doing the same.


Let me introduce you to my new “baby” edible  native American Cranberry bush that arrived here about a month ago

Natives seem the most logical approach since they have a deep root and can survive during long droughts. I  “dare to be different” and will continue making some changes this fall and in 2016.


Viburnum trilobum is “knee high” and growing with some bush squash right now, but some day it will be between  6 to 12 feet wide and tall. It will provide berries for us and nature!

There will be some I have never tried before, but I am confident that through my “daring to be different” I will find a better way to landscape for the health of us and nature! Creating diversity on our city lot is an experiment, and some may need to be tamed to make sure they don’t take over my lot, but I am willing to take the chance. DON’T be afraid to be different! Stop standing on the sidelines and jump in the game of change!



Why not put Raspberries on your city lot, do you need ALL that GRASS?



Our summer is slowing down, and we are having a lot of cool weather which I don’t mind this year! Our raspberries have been emerging the last few weeks.


I have been busy  getting all our fall crops into our garden beds. Fall planting and raspberry harvest occur every year around the same time.


After my poison ivy adventure this summer.I am not too eager to head into my raspberry patch without my long sleeves and pants this summer. I love raspberries so, I “gear-up” for the adventure each day.


I am finding that raspberries are not always making it to the house! I do get quite a bit out of our 15 ft long by 5 ft wide raspberry patch that is at the back of our yard. If you have a city lot, and space  in full sun/partial sun raspberries need to be what you grow.I know, I sound like a broken record, but it is a must for city dwellers that want to have an edible landscape. You might think, well, I can buy raspberries at the market in season. You can’t guarantee they are organic unless they are certified and usually if they are USDA certified you won’t’ get many raspberries for your money. If you create some space at the back of your yard, you can grow some to eat and freeze. They will be organic, and research shows that there is a significant difference between organic and non-organic raspberries.



“Recent research on organic raspberries has now shown organic raspberries to be significantly higher in total antioxidant capacity than non-organic raspberries. Raspberries in the study were grown on farms in Maryland that had been previously certified as organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A series of tests involving free radical scavenging all provided the same results: organic raspberries outperformed their non-organic counterparts in terms of their antioxidant activity. This greater antioxidant capacity was associated with the greater levels of total phenols and total anthocyanins found in organic versus non-organic raspberries. While there are many good reasons to purchase organic versus non-organic foods of all kinds, this study makes it clear that these reasons specifically hold true for raspberries in a profound way”


The only suggestion I have about growing raspberries on city lots is to put them someplace they can take over for they do wander later in the season. I feel they look lovely in the landscape until the berries ripen and weigh down the vines.


I try to make work in the garden as easy for myself as I can, so I let my canes over winter. I cut them all down in the spring to the ground. I miss the early summer crop that usually is not considered quality fruit by some experts. I have found this works best for our city lot. The Canes only get messy about this time of year when they are loaded with fruit.I just tie them up and work around them until I can trim some of the canes back near the path. Cornell University provides a more detailed practice of cutting all the canes to the ground in spring. (here)


I can’t imagine my city lot without raspberries. I freeze the extra for winter eating.


They keep us happy until spring strawberries make their appearance. Who needs ALL THAT GRASS when you can have berries. Right??



Did you know Milkweed plants have matching insects same color scheme as the Monarch Butterfly?


I am an insect “wannabe” geek! I would love to be an entomologist in my other life, as well as a  few other careers. An “entomologist” is not something that was taught in school as a possible career choice.When I was growing up, no one ever said, ” HEY, You like bugs why not become an entomologist”. Wish they did!


I was wandering through our Urban Potager a few weeks ago and found these interesting bugs on one of my milkweed plants. My first reaction was ” Wow, they are beautiful!” Yep, I am weird like that but then I started to think, are they hurting my plant? Are they like Japanese beetles?Do I need to drown them in soapy water? What should I do???


Creating habitat on city lots has taught me to be patient and observe. Don’t over react. Be quiet, still and ponder. Try to figure out what is going on before you do anything. Research the intruder and find out what they are doing in your new habitat. I don’t use chemicals in Palm Rae Potager. I am trying to create, a balanced ecosystem that can take care of itself. It is part of the process; I have found.



Since I have been implementing Doug Tallamy’s , author of Bring Nature Home principles in our Urban Potager I am finding more diversity in my garden. I don’t panic anymore when I find some new “visitor” to my garden.



These bugs only attack the milkweed plant and  are not bothering anyone else. Look what I found at an educational site.

Impact on the Ecosystem

Milkweed bugs are one of a small group of insects that have the ability to tolerate the toxic compounds in the milkweed plant. They are therefore important in regulating populations of this plant.


None, unless you are trying to raise milkweed plants!


Well, My Urban Potager is a small city lot, and I don’t need to raise milkweed, so I am going to let them be in our habitat. My milkweed bugs will be staying and shoot, they did not eat ALL the milkweed seeds. If you put away the chemicals, Mother Nature knows how to take care of herself! You can read more here about these interesting insects on the milkweed plant. (read more)


I believe the greatest artist of all is God. When you get up close to nature is when you see all the patterns and colors perfectly orchestrated. I found it interesting that all the insects associated with the milkweed plant have the same color scheme as the monarch butterfly.


Intriguing, don’t you think?







Have you found when adding native plants to your garden you need to be careful?

This past week, I was in the garden clearing out an area to create more space for perennial edible foods and more pollinator friendly plants. I was not paying attention to where I was working and not wearing appropriate weeding clothes. I got poison ivy! Yep, I let my garden area run a bit wild since I was busy with our front yard native pollinator habitats I was trying to create this summer.

“Poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac plants are becoming larger and stronger, a trend that’s been developing over recent years, according to researchers. That may be a combination of the plant’s nature to cause more severe reactions over time and the increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as a result of global warming.” ( read more here)


I have found that creating habitat in city gardens means attracting birds and inviting nature to your back door. I believe in incorporating native pollinators to our landscape but also need to be reminded we need to keep our beds a bit free of certain “natives” that may cause us issues, for example, rashes! Poison ivy is a native plant. Did you know?

‘Poison ivy is a valuable species in natural communities providing cover and food for wildlife. Though abhorred by most humans, poison ivy can be quite attractive, especially when the glossy green of the foliage yields to yellow, bright orange, and scarlet in the autumn.Poison ivy is native to the eastern United States and Canada growing in open woods and disturbed sites from Nova Scotia to Florida and west to Minnesota and Texas.”( read more here)

Years ago, before I incorporated native plants into our landscape. Our dogs would meander through the back of our city lot and get the “oils” on their skin when they brushed up against it in the garden. I use to cuddle with them as we watched tv and found myself getting it too often. I finally decided to tear out some bushes along the fence, and that was the start of our backyard habitat.


I had to go to our Hospital Express Care and be put on 60mg of Prednisone and antibiotics for a week and a half! Usually, I would just put a drying cream on, and that would be the end of my poison ivy encounter. Well, not anymore. I will never wander in the Garden and not be covered when I see a weed or want to clear out an overgrown bed. NO WAY!!! My arm is all scabbed over right now, and when I went for my daily bike ride, I wore long sleeves. Thank goodness we have had some wonderful cool weather. When people see it, their faces just cringe in all sort of contortions and exclaim-Yuck! I felt like I had leprosy!

I love to attract nature to my yard, and I know birds love the berries produced by the “native rash plants”, my coined term! When we build our native infused gardens; the birds visit. They drop the seeds, and the rest is history.


That’s why, I have been seeing more poison ivy in my garden this year. I usually am very careful but one day you forget to wear your protective clothing when weeding, you pay the price.


I will not give up on native plants or attracting wildlife to my city lot, but I will never be without long sleeves, long pants and gloves when I weed through my garden.The other day when my husband and I weeded, by noon it was unbearable to be in long sleeves and pants out in a garden. Thank goodness the humidity was not 90 percent that morning! It can be a sauna out there in our Illinois humid weather.


Gear up folks when you weed or maybe you are one of the lucky ones that never had it. Trust me you don’t want to get it!



Have you ever noticed a garlic bulb is like life?

My garden helps me with changes in my life. I find when I go out there and weed, sow, harvest or just enjoy the beauty it helps me “understand” the changes I encounter in my life…..


I had a lot of weeds in my garlic bed this week. I usually try to keep it weed free but the past month I have been busy helping our youngest get ready to move out East. He graduated in May from College and was hired by a young company in Boston. It is exciting for him but for a month it was a busy place around here trying to help him get all the things he needed to make this big change in his life


He is gone now, and things have calmed down. I found myself back in the garden, and it sure needed my attention! I found my garlic bulbs ready to be harvested yesterday, but I needed to weed my way to find the bulbs! As I was weeding my garlic bed and harvesting the bulbs, I thought about how the area was all clear in the fall as I put a “single” clove in the soil.


I looked at my youngest child as he stood in front of his ” packed” car and thought, He is on an adventure + I have had those in my life. I hope to have some more, but that first one, when you leave home is like no other. You leave your family behind for a new career in a city far away, not knowing a soul and excited to do what you studied and worked hard for in college.Yep, I remember driving down the road to the town we live in now, after my husband, and I graduated from college. It was an adventure. We did not know a person in this town. We started our first jobs here and raised a family…it seems like yesterday, but it also feels like a lifetime ago…it went by too quickly.


Growing garlic is one of the easiest things to grow, and I have no idea why more people don’t grow their garlic.


As I was starting to write my post this week, I thought, our life is like a garlic bulb. Silly as it may sound it does demonstrate our life.From one small clove that is planted in the fall and goes through the seasons, a bulb is created. A cluster of cloves that become a “bulb” of many….an interesting miracle in the garden. It starts as “one” just as our children do as they go out into the world. They are planted in the soil of life and what happens is an adventure that grows over a lifetime.

For more detailed information or resources for growing garlic check out Immunity Gardens-Garlic at the end of the blog post. I have more sites for resources to help you plant perfect garlic next summer!

Happy Gardening!







Will be back soon

Will be back to share + catch-up with everyone on what you are growing and doing…busy past few weeks + a lot of changes, so need time to ponder in the garden….+ weed a bit too!!! AND getting all the fall /winter crops started inside under lights!



Spring without strawberries can you imagine?


I can’t! We are now into summer, and our strawberries are starting to wane.They are one of the first plants in spring to leaf out and fill their bed. I can hardly wait when I see the strawberry plants spreading across the ground. Here, is my first strawberry patch that was inspired by others in my community growing strawberries. I would listen to their stories about their strawberry eating and drool with envy. Not anymore for I have my little patch running through my Urban Potager.

IMG_8363I have to admit by late spring or early summer; I am overwhelmed with strawberries. I don’t mind for I usually freeze them for winter eating. Nothing beats fresh strawberries from the freezer that were picked fresh and put away the same day!

IMG_8379I use to purchase frozen “organic” USDA certified strawberries from our local grocery store and they were pricey. You hardly got any in a bag which cost about 5.00 and lasted for two servings.I then would try to purchase some fresh ones when they were in season, but they were expensive. I looked at my lawn one day and thought, I have some sun in this area, and I do not need all this grass. The rest is history. I have strawberries now in my garden, and they are amazing picked fresh from the garden.

IMG_8506This year will be the Year of the Strawberries for I have put in two new patches and decided strawberry plants make great ground cover. It is a  simple plant that provides an abundance of nutrients. A variety of studies “show 2 days as the maximal time for strawberry storage without major loss of vitamin C and polyphenol antioxidants. It’s not that strawberries become dangerous to eat or invaluable after 2 days. It’s just that more storage time brings along with it substantially more nutrient loss” which means when we grow our own we are getting the most nutrient dense strawberry possible to help heal our bodies. (read more about strawberries and how they help you stay healthy).IMG_8504I will be spreading some fresh compost in the strawberry bed and usually they will start blooming when the weather cools off a bit in the fall.IMG_8497I decided to squeeze another bed of strawberries in as a ground cover. I have found they are easy to grow for they don’t require much attention. The perfect plant for city lot food growing.

IMG_8530So, If you have a patch of grass that could be taken out and replaced with some strawberries.  I HIGHLY recommend putting in about 50 plants. Trust me once you make room for that first patch and taste fresh picked strawberries you will be searching for other places to add more. They are addictive.  Maybe we should start making strawberry plants the new GREEN lawn!