Saturday, April 25, 2015

Opening Day 2015 Celebration

Welcome sign!
(Katje is learning calligraphy, can you tell?)
The 2015 growing season of the Howard Area Community Garden officially opened today! The weather report gave a dreary forecast of rain, though, which would have made things like handing out papers and seed swapping difficult. Fortunately, the Jewel at Howard and Clark has a FREE public meeting room that was open, and they let us use it on very short notice (thank you, Jewel!).

Katje, the garden coordinator, got there early to set up, and was met by new gardener Arianna, who jumped right in to help out. Once the seeds and snacks were ready, we started getting more members joining us.

Thirteen gardeners in all came to celebrate our opening day… a wonderful turnout considering the weather! It was great to catch up with friends, hear about garden plans, meet some of our newest gardeners, discuss HACG history… four hours flew by.

Of course, we did have a little business to attend to. The new plot maps with a list of all our gardeners and phone numbers was distributed (if you didn't get one, email Katje at to have one mailed or emailed to you). The 2015 plot fees were collected, along with the gardener contracts (you'll only have to sign this once; it signifies that you've read our rules and agree to abide by them).

If you haven't yet paid your plot fee, please either pay using the PayPal button to the right of this post (and then turn in your contract when you see Katje or Gina), OR mail it in with your contract (the address is to the right, as well). Your fee MUST be paid by May 1 to keep your plot! However, nobody will be turned away due to lack of funds… if you can't pay right now, please contact Katje and let her know your situation.

New gardener Arianna helped sort the seed display.
Most of the seeds were taken home by the attendees, but don't worry if you still need some: we have another generous donor who is sending a few hundred more packets to us in the next few days. If you took seeds and do not use all of them, PLEASE reseal the packet and pass them on to other gardeners!

We talked a bit about the new raised beds along the north edge of the garden. Last month, Bob Fuller from the Howard Theater Community Garden told Katje that their garden was going to be shut down due to development, and that the gardeners were understandably upset at the prospect of their garden beds being thrown into dumpsters. We hatched a plan to bring some of those beds to our garden. A college student program that sends volunteers to work for a day of service provided us with about 15 young, eager helpers, and we had two trucks to help with the hauling. After a full day of labor by the volunteers, gardeners from both gardens, friends and family, and a contingent from LEEDA services, we had seven new boxes installed and filled (a few extra boards were available to our gardeners as well, and some folks built more raised beds in their plots).
Snacks, seeds, and socializing.

The current plan is to fill the new boxes with flowers, herbs, and vegetables that are bite-sized and easy to sample, for all of the North of Howard community to enjoy. Remember those delicious little Mexican cucumber-melons that Lupe brought to one of our meetings last year? We'll be growing those up some sunflower stalks. Cherry tomatoes, peppers, potatoes… lots of fun veggies are going in! If you're interested in helping out with this project, please contact Katje.

We also discussed priorities and how to spend some gift cards that have been kindly donated to the garden (from Gethsemane, Chalet, and Home Depot). The biggest need was some kind of tool shed or storage unit, so we can keep garden tools in an accessible but safe space (we also need some garden tools!). Another idea was to install a splitter on the hydrant, so that we can have two hoses available at the same time. And it is clear that we need a source of good compost, so gardeners can build up their soil… since we are an organic garden, we need to constantly replenish the minerals we deplete. The very best way to do that is to mix in good compost and dirt into our plots on a yearly basis, but most of us don't have trucks to haul it in. We will find some and get it delivered to the garden, so we all can beef up our plots. Stay tuned for more info!

Other ideas included adding a fire pit to the seating area on the south side of the garden, building a lending library, adding a Little Free Library, adding another water source, figuring out ways to keep track of tools with a checkout system, doing soil testing, and finding a volunteer Spanish interpreter.

Gina Carpenter answers questions about organic gardening.
Gina gave a presentation on organic gardening, and fielded questions about synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Remember: our garden is organic, which means you cannot use chemicals in your garden! It kills the vital bacteria and organisms that keep our garden and the food we grow healthy and clean. While those chemicals can kill weeds you don't want or make your tomatoes grow faster, the soil pays by being depleted and sterilized… you might get good results now, but years down the road, the garden will be in much worse shape. If you are unclear on how to garden organically, PLEASE reach out to the garden coordinator or Gina, and we will hook you up with some great resources on how to do it!

Neighbor Space, the organization that owns our property, will be adding its 100th garden to their group this year. In order to celebrate this milestone, Neighbor Space is doing a photo documentary on six of their gardens, sending out a photographer to visit these gardens in the spring, summer, and fall. Guess what? Howard Area Community Garden was selected as one of these six gardens! We're not sure why, but we are honored that Neighbor Space chose us, and are looking forward to seeing what comes of this project.

Katje has been busy with some other things, too. She writes thank-you notes to all our kind donors, attends Neighbor Space and Chicago Community Garden Association meetings, and is working with Anthony Boatman of the Genesis Project at A Just Harvest to create the Howard Urban Garden Group (so local gardens can band together to share resources, purchasing power, volunteers, seeds, etc.).

At this point, we are not 100% certain if we will be doing rototilling this weekend. Stay tuned to the Facebook page, or send an email, to stay in the loop.

Thank you to everyone who showed up today! It's too bad that we couldn't play in our gardens today, but mild weather is coming soon. It looks like we'll be up in the 70s next weekend… see you at the garden!

No comments:

Post a Comment