If a person puts a shovel in the ground almost anywhere in the South, like as not, they will bring up red clay soil. In East Tennessee it is a bright, redish orange and it supports a thriving brick making industry in my hometown. Show it to a professional grower and you’ll get a strong negative reaction. Clay is no good, they’ll say. You’re better off digging it up and buying topsoil, whatever that might cost. Our soil is dense, easily compacted, often waterlogged and quite acidic. In the spring, it is cold and boggy. In the summer, it can bake so hard that roots have no chance to grow through it.
Transforming the native soil into something more friable takes a lot of patience, hard work and respect for natural processes. It is often worth the effort, as improved clay soil will hold nutrients and moisture far better than its sandy counterpart. I don’t mean for this blog post to be about the technical aspects of improving soil—I just want you to know more about the ground we are standing on here.
LETS GO Chicago members have been quite busy throughout the late winter and early spring and we are excited to tell you why. As Chicago thaws, the Rogers Park solutionaries are revving up for their fourth season of gardening, community building, youth empowerment and more. We have been preparing for our spring garden since early March by planting seedlings in our new greenhouse in West Rogers Park. Through a new partnership with the Westwood Manor Nursing Home, we are breathing life into the 18 by 32 foot space with the help of nursing home residents. The greenhouse is allowing us to select a wider range of crop varieties while providing a valuable learning experience for all involved.
The greenhouse at Westwood Manor
Come mid-May, we will also be adding a community garden to this open space on the nursing home grounds:
We are now accepting applications to participate in our 2013 Summer of Solutions programs! Apply here!
My name is Ethan Viets-Vanlear, I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois where I am currently a student, activist, poet, and organizer. I started Summer of Solutions in the summer of 2012 through Let’s Go Chicago.
My initial motive for joining SoS was to spend more of my time outside building tangible solutions to some of the issues I noticed around me. I was also excited to spend my time growing food. I think the biggest thing that I got from SoS was the notion that any problem has a solution that I can take part into making happen. SoS really taught me a way to help a community without being part of various systems of oppression and control that dominate most organizations and institutions in our society. My favorite memories from SoS would have to be our various trips offsite to places like a farm, or spending time with all the participants around a campfire.