Sneak Peek of HomeGrown: An Underground Harvest Feast...

Fall is time for harvest–buy your ticket now to join us for our first Underground Harvest Feast to celebrate what we’ve grown this year in our gardens and in our community! This special collaboration dinner between Chef Fresh, PGP’s Resident Chef, and Chef Alvin Yu, PGP board member and owner of Fyusion Dining, will feature four courses highlighting what “homegrown” means to them. We asked Chef Yu a few questions about his inspiration for the evening: Can you tell us a little about your culinary roots? Originally from San Francisco, California, I have spent a large portion of my life in the kitchen. Our family owned and operated several restaurants during my childhood. Growing up in a large family, I was amazed at how my aunts and uncles could produce plentiful amounts of high-quality food for 20 to 30 people in a few hours. My family believed that we work to eat, and we were always in search of the perfect meal–whether it was a dinner at home with the family or exploring the variety of cultural cuisines that San Francisco had to offer. This emphasis on food as more than daily sustenance sparked my interest to experience, learn, and eat all the things in the culinary world. How did the idea of “homegrown” or harvest season inspire the menu for this dinner? Fresh ingredients are a cornerstone to any dish and ingredients grown in your own garden are second to none. When I though about the harvest season, I thought of all the fruits, vegetables, and flowers my mother would cultivate in our backyard, from the most delicious strawberries, buttery avocados, and the most fragrant herbs. The backyard garden was  cornerstone of our daily diets. This led me to think about all the family recipes that I...

The Magic of Mulch

It’s difficult to understand the importance of mulch, or even how to properly use it, when there are so many bad examples around our city. When parkway trees have mulch volcanos piled close to the trunk, or urban farms are growing vegetables in bare soil, it’s hard to know what the best practices are for this important resource. Although tended vegetable beds are hardly part of a natural habitat, it’s good to think about the processes that contribute to healthy, self-sustaining environments and try as best as possible to mimic them. Every autumn, deciduous trees drop leaves on the soil in the forest, creating a thick layer to help with moisture and nutrient retention; provide habitat for beneficial microbes and macrobes; insulate against fluctuating temperatures and frost heaving; and gradually decompose, adding organic matter to the soil. This is exactly what you want to try to do in your own garden. Mulch material matters! Although colored shredded bark, recycled shredded rubber, gravel, and large pebbles are sold in the mulch section at the garden center, not all of these contribute the basic functions of mulch in the garden. Not only does the mulch material matter, but how it is used and the size of the material affect whether the mulch will be effective. Shredded wood chips (undyed, not bark-based) are great, while sawdust is not.     Join us tomorrow (Oct. 29th, 10-11am) for Mulch Magic at Global Garden, where we will discuss and demonstrate how to use different types of mulch available in the city, as well as the pros and cons of each material. ...

Growing to Give to Care for Real...

Grow2Give is Peterson Garden Project’s program for growing fresh, organic produce for food pantries and nutrition programs. We dedicate at least 5% of the beds at each garden to Grow2Give. Care for Real in the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago has been a long-time partner for the program, and Lyle Allen, Care for Real’s executive director, kindly shared his thoughts below. Care for Real, a 501(c)(3) not for profit, has been providing free programs and services to our neighbors in need for more than 45 years. We manage an innovative food distribution that reaches approximately 65,000 annually. Our organization offers a client choice model, essentially operating as a small grocery store, allowing clients to pick and choose the food they bring home to prepare. The majority of our clients are seniors and families with children under the age of 18. We understand the importance of not only filling bellies, but providing better food options to ensure clients are eating better and living healthier lifestyles. Care for Real is so grateful to Peterson Garden Project for their support and dedication to our mission. Their weekly donation drop offs harvested from their Grow2Give gardens make for especially exciting days at our agency, bringing bounties of fresh, locally grown, organic produce to a population that does not have the financial resources to purchase on their own. From the smile of an immigrant discovering a unique vegetable that reminds them of their own homeland, to the look on a child’s face the first time they truly taste a delicious cherry tomato, I give sincere thanks to Peterson Garden Project for bringing joy (and healthier food) into the lives of our clients. —Lyle Allen, Executive Director, Care for...

Putting the Garden to Bed...

With just a few weeks left in the Chicagoland growing season, October is the month where you’ll want to monitor the weather fairly closely, as we approach the first frost. The first frost is usually a “light frost”, where nighttime temperatures are between 32F and 28F. At this stage, tender-leaved plants like cucumber, lettuce, and basil are damaged, while hardier plants like kale and cabbage will be fine reaching temperatures as low as 26F. October is also the the time to get the garden ready for bed. This month you’ll want to: -cut back perennial herbs like mint, sage, thyme, lavender and tarragon -dig up rosemary and transplant to a pot for overwintering -remove trellises and store flat on your garden plot or indoors –condition and protect your soil -fully remove diseased plants from the soil -pull weeds, especially weeds with seed heads forming -harvest green tomatoes and basil when nighttime temperatures reach the upper 40s -collect seeds -mulch still-growing cool-weather plants, such as spinach, broccoli and kale (straw mulch and dry leaves are best) -monitor for aphids -transplant strawberries  How to condition your soil: Fall is when to add compost you’ve been making all summer. This is a great time to remove worm castings from your indoor bin or finished compost from your outdoor bin. You’ll create extra room to decompose additional plant debris generated after clearing your garden this month. Haven’t been making compost? Can’t find it at a garden center? You can still add organic matter to condition your garden soil- soak some compost tea bags and water your garden with the brew, or incorporate used coffee grounds or tea into the soil instead. Add 2-4″ of compost or organic matter (such as coffee grounds) to the top layer of soil, then scratch in with a rake to incorporate into top...

Growing Garlic

One of the biggest mistakes gardeners make is planting their garlic too early! In our climate, garlic will grow best when planted in the fall, before the ground freezes, but not so early that the garlic actually sprouts before the first frost. The goal is to have the garlic clove produce roots and prepare for winter dormancy – not grow a shoot that will die back from cold exposure within a few weeks. Generally, garlic cloves in Chicagoland should be planted around Halloween. In some years, the ground doesn’t freeze until well after Thanksgiving, giving procrastinators extra time to get the garlic in. In some years, we’re still experiencing days in the high 70’s through mid-October, making early sprouting more likely. If you forgot to plant garlic in the fall, garlic can be planted in the spring as soon as the ground thaws. This is usually around the end of March or early April. Planting later could result in the garlic not developing as large of a bulb, or just a single bulb instead of one with divided cloves. Garlic cloves should be planted from “seed garlic” – disease-free cloves from a reputable nursery, seed supply company, or local farm. Garlic planted from the grocery may or may not sprout, depending on several factors. Plus, there’s a world of different garlic varieties out there! Join us for our garlic class this Saturday (October 22) for more information on selecting garlic varieties, which garlic will produce a scape and which garlic is better for braiding, and of course – planting garlic. Each participant receives one head of seed garlic after the class....

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