Garden News

Cross-posted from LetsGoChicago.orgThe Eye of the Storm

With the end of the summer coming into view, our seedlings are long gone and the harvest is nearly here. The garden is full of life, and this week we’ll be completing this summer’s planned gardens. We’re currently tearing up the grass on a front lawn on the 6700 block of Ashland, so if anybody has seen the construction, yep, that’s us.

Biodiversity is crucial to a healthy garden, and we’re happy to see all manner of bugs and beetles all over the place, fighting it out to make sure nobody gets to sit around and eat the produce. We haven’t yet figured out how to keep yellow finches off of the rainbow chard, and we certainly didn’t expect to find this:

Bunny City

At least three baby bunnies have been sighted in our ‘home base’ Bosworth backyard garden, and they’re almost too cute to consider them a pest.

We’re also learning how to put new things together outside of the garden, and in the last couple of weeks we’ve built sub-irrigated planters, swales, cold frames, A-frame levels, worm compost set-ups, and reclaimed lumber raised beds. We’ve learned how to save seeds, mulch with weeds, and dumpster dive both food and materials. Maybe the most spectacular, though, was last week’s paper-making workshop:

Once a Pulp, Always a Pulp

This week we’re learning about bee keeping, so stick around for the inside scoop!

Water week in Chicago

Greetings from Chicago, fellow Solutionaries! The following is cross-posted from After Middleton’s post below, it seems there is a water conscious trend happening here in the Midwest. We are glad to be a part of it! Read on to learn about our take on water awareness and water conservation.

Molly and children in the garden during water week

The week of July 9, which focused on water issues, was so busy we didn’t have time for a mid-week blog post, but we have plenty of water-themed stories to tell. We kicked off the week by watching a documentary called Flow: For Love of Water on Monday. It’s about issues of clean water scarcity, and how the privatization of clean water sources by big business is hurting our communities and forcing people to suffer. It was shocking to see such a phenomenon taking place, but it energized our discussion of global water issues, and inspired us with stories of how communities have successfully fought for their right to clean water.

Participants showing off their complete sub-irrigated planter (SIP)

We continued to work with water Tuesday by making rain barrels out of materials that we purchased at the hardware store for about thirty bucks per unit, using large plastic trash cans. It was great fun using power tools, teflon tape, and various brass doodads to make a functional and highly economical water management solution that any home owner could easily accomplish. On Wednesday, we also made sub-irrigated planters from discarded 5-gallon pickle buckets that would have ended up in the city landfill. Instead, using pieces of copper pipe and a homemade soil mixture, we created cheap, highly efficient devices for growing huge tomato plants with minimal water usage! Check out the link to learn more about SIPs and the great work of Green Roof Growers.

Aquaponics Facility at Whitney Young Magnet High School

One of our Solutionaries, Anna Greenberg, shares responsibility for maintaining a small greenhouse and aquaponics facility at Whitney Young Magnet High School, where she is entering her senior year. Our team visited her school on Thursday, where she gave us a tour of the project and put us to work on everything from rotating compost to testing the chemical concentrations in the fish tank. It was a great hands-on learning experience to work on an aquaponics system which both produces perch, a delicious edible fish, and sustains a large number of useful plants.

Volunteering at the Center for Neighborhood Technology

We took another field trip Friday to the new CNT-Energy headquarters in Chicago, where we worked on their rain garden, which is centered around a massive elm tree. It’s a beautiful sight in the middle of the city, standing starkly between the office buildings on either side, and it soaks up plenty of excess rainwater, but the downside is the multitude of tiny elm saplings that need to be pulled out by hand.

After a couple of hours working and learning about their plants, we took a tour of the facility, which is still in the earliest stages of sustainable retrofitting but already buzzing with activity. Then we enjoyed a pizza lunch and a presentation from our partner in landscape architecture, the incredible Alexia Paul, who spoke to us about stormwater management issues in Chicago (especially relevant given the downpour that shortly followed – see her video of the rain garden in action here).

Moving dirt for the construction of our French drain

Overall, we had a fantastic week of learning and getting things done. My project team, which focuses on green infrastructure, finally completed the French Drain component of our first rain garden contract! We finished right on schedule despite the unbelievable challenges we faced, and I could not be more proud of our Solutionaries. Look out for an upcoming post all about our project (with lots of pictures)!


A Cartoon of Gratitude

Cross-posted from

Greetings Family and Friends!

It’s hard for us to believe that just a few short weeks ago we were in the midst of a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise $4,000 for the Rogers Park Yard-Share Network.  With less than a week till the summer program starts, we want to stop and take some time to thank all of you for your support.

Your generosity helped us move beyond the stress of fundraising:

To the excitement of success and program launch:

And now because of your support, soon Rogers Park will look like this: Continue reading

Double your support for Neighborhood Yard Sharing!

UPDATE: As of 12:14PM today, we have raised a total of $4,079 to go toward building Chicago’s first yard sharing network! Thank you to everyone who helped us meet our goal! We cannot explain how excited we are to make this network happen and there is no way we could have done it without your support!

The fundraising window is still open through Friday at 10:42 AM CDT. All donations above the $4,000 mark will go toward making our gardens even more fun, inclusive, and community centered!  See our update about this on our Kickstarter page here. The original post continues below. Continue reading

Chicago launches Kickstarter Campaign, prepares for Yard Sharing program

Greetings from Chicago! Over the past three weeks, we have been hard at work preparing the ground for the Rogers Park Yard Sharing Network. As one of our three project areas, this network aims to connect neighbors in the highly-dense Rogers Park community with arable land and gathering spaces to get to know one another.

Today we are launching a Kickstarter Campaign to help us raise funds to build new pilot gardens and demonstrate that this is an idea whose time has come. Last year, we built and operated a 700 square foot vegetable garden on borrowed land and produced a bounty of food that benefited our community. With four new homeowners ready to go, we are looking to generate resources to construct and support four new gardens that will allow up to 10 families to grow food together this summer and fall.

Read on for more information on the program itself and be sure to watch the video and visit the Kickstarter page linked below.

Continue reading

LETS GO Chicago – Round 2!

After a successful first year, the Chicago Summer of Solutions team is back and ready for more. In fact, we have been plotting it ever since we put our gardens to bed last October!

What we learned in 2011 will help us build up 2012 into an experience you won’t want to miss. In 2012, we will engage in projects such as:

  • Expanding our urban yard share to include 3-5 additional vegetable gardens for use by low-income families
  • Growing our children’s garden program and bringing the food into the kitchen for our first ever summer cooking classes
  • Launching a worker-owned green infrastructure business to install rain gardens and other storm-water management features on public and private properties
With such big hopes ahead, we knew we had to build our team to have the right group for the job. At the beginning of January, we welcomed 3 new Program Leaders: Nell Seggerson, Gabriel Solis, and Benson Tucker to the team. All three bring new skills and vision to the group that we know will push the program beyond our wildest expectations. We are excited to be working alongside these new solutionaries and cannot wait to report on all we can accomplish!
To follow our work more closely, you can:

About our team

Molly Costello is a second year Program Leader for LETS GO Chicago. As an artist, organizer, and a lover of the outdoors, she usually has her hand dirty in one project or another.

Peter Hoy has spent the last three years honing his skills as an environmental educator in the Chicago area. When he’s not in a garden, he is usually counting down the days until the last frost so he can resume outdoor activities.

Nell Seggerson is a first year program leader with Summer of Solutions. She is in her third year at Loyola University, where she is studying to be a high school history teacher. She is also involved in Rogers Park Food Not Bombs and Loyola Anti-War Network. Nell is originally from Columbus, OH.

Ben Tucker grew up in Indianapolis, where he was involved with Keep Indianapolis Beautiful and Improving Kids’ Environment. He’s interested in music, comics, and urban history.

Gabriel Solis is a 21 yr. old History major, currently wrapping up his final semester at Loyola University Chicago.  Gabriel grew up in El Paso, Texas–a city on the US-Mexico border, which due to its desert ecology, is continually affilicted by drought and water issues.  These issues led him to become more interested in systemic-water conservation; a subject he hopes to explore through the “solutionary” method.  Gabriel is also a member of Food Not Bombs, a firm socialist and a silly human being.