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...

What We’re Planting NOW

It’s the end of April and it’s finally warming up a little in Chicago. Now that the nighttime temperatures are steadily above 40F, it’s time to plant some cool-weather crops. These plants can handle temperatures that dip into the 40s, but really prefer 60 degrees or higher like the rest of us! If you’re one of our “Grewbies” (growing newbies) and you’ve taken one of our online garden planning classes OR done your homework for Grewbie 101 then you’ll recognize the diagram associated with this post. If you don’t know what we’re talking about, visit Gardeners.com and try out their amazing Kitchen Garden Planner! What We’re Planting Now: Kale Spinach Swiss Chard Bok choy Lettuce Carrots Arugula Radishes Beets Broccoli Cauliflower Brussels Sprouts Cilantro Cabbage Parsley Borage Fennel Fava Beans Leaf lettuce, collards, kohlrabi, dill, celery, chives, leeks, onions, parsnips, oregano, sage, strawberries, thyme, and turnips are all good to plant now, too. Avoid planting squash, zucchini, basil, corn, tomatoes, peppers, chilis, and melons for a few more weeks. These are warm-weather crops and don’t do well when nighttime temperatures dip past the 60s. Although kale doesn’t appear in the Kitchen Garden Planner, it can be treated much like collard greens, so I chose that for my plan. For most of our plants, we’re planting seedlings from the PGP Plant Sale. We are also getting a few from local retailers. Carrots, arugula, beets, fava beans, peas and radishes will be directly seeded into our plot. Some squares on the plan have been left blank. This is to for our tomatoes, peppers and chilis once it is warm enough to plant them, around the third or fourth week of May. We’re expecting to harvest cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, and spinach by late June or early July, and then the really hot weather of summer will hit.  Around that time we will fill in their spots with some plants that are great for the really hot weather, like cucumber, zucchini and beans. Brussels sprouts will take a long time to form sprouts-we may not see those until September. Borage flowers and fennel fronds are great in salads and cool summer drinks. They also are great for attracting beneficial insects to our little plot. (Since there wasn’t an option for ‘borage’ in the Planner, I chose calendula – but I’ll be following directions for borage). We’ll be posting weekly about what we’re growing, issues we’re encountering and other real-time garden goodness. Stay tuned and feel free to post questions in the comments area!  ...

Thankful Thursday

              Partnerships are what make a project like ours thrive. We’ve been amazed with the support we’ve received from the North River Commission in Albany Park. Not only did they help us find and negotiate our Learning Center space, but they have introduced us to several other great organizations and programs. One program is STEP-UP. On July 19, 30 participants joined us at the Learning Center to hear LaManda’s lecture on WW2 Victory Gardens and then helped all afternoon with garden tasks, including filling the remaining empty beds at Global, watering the demo garden, removing nails from the reclaimed wood we’re using for the stage, pulling weeds and more. The help of groups like STEP-UP, and recently the customer service team from Whole Food Sauganash, make maintaining these large gardens possible. But, more importantly, mutual support between organizations makes communities stronger. About the STEP-UP program STEP-UP (Summer Teacher Education Partnership for Urban Preparation) is a four-week teacher preparation and summer residency program for pre-service teachers from Illinois State University. Students who are selected for STEP-UP live with a host family in a Chicago neighborhood during the program’s duration. This summer of 2012, 22 STEP-UP Fellows reside in two partner communities, Little Village and Auburn-Gresham, and in summer 2013 Fellows will also be living in Albany Park. These students, regardless of which community they are working in, spend the first part of their day teaching in their designated schools. Their afternoons are filled with work for their assigned Community-based Organization. In the evenings and on the weekends, they participate in course work involving Response to Intervention (RTI), Universal Design for Learning (UDL), Multiple Literacies, Restorative Justice, Conversational Spanish, Community Context, and even a Chicago Through Food cooking class. In addition to...

Holey kale by Maribeth Brewer...

Holey kale, Batman.  Great big holes, and leaves chewed down to the stem.  The Edible Treasures Garden team was pretty pleased that our gardening efforts had attracted graceful white butterflies until Dr. George Rotramel visited our raised beds. George is an entomologist, organic gardening expert and spoke at our June 7, 2012 Lunch & Learn.  He took one look at our kale and explained that the butterflies we were so proud of have been laying larvae on our brassicas, and as those little buggers changed into velvety green worms – imported cabbageworms, to be exact – they were chowing down. Oh.                     So, today at lunchtime, a couple of garden team members went out to pick the worms off the plants. We found that on the Lacinato kale, the worms were consistently resting in the depression of the light green center stem of the plant. At first they were hard to spot – green on green is good camouflage – but by the time we finished inspecting the row, we removed 6 worms as well as a web-encased pupae and a mass of new eggs. We didn’t find any worms on the Red Russian kale. I’m going to need to ask George about this, but we were wondering if it’s because they can’t hide as well on the red center stems. Fortunately, there’s enough kale in our garden for both human and worm, and we’ve been sampling it at our Lunch & Learn sessions. So far we’ve had kale smoothies, chips, wraps and pasta, which were all delicious. In addition to removing cabbageworms, we’ve been busy with daily watering, weeding and our last warm weather plantings. This week we sowed seeds for Red Burgundy Okra...

Grow2Give: Who is doing the giving? by Xan Nelson Jun11

Grow2Give: Who is doing the giving? by Xan Nelson...

We call it Grow2Give™, and the “growing” part of the name is pretty clear. We grow—tomatoes, kale, eggplants, cucumbers, beans and more—and then we give the harvest to local food pantries and nutrition programs. Defining the “giving” is trickier because the program gives us so much as well. I’ve seen it in the faces of the dozens of volunteers who show up in droves every time we have a Grow2Give (G2G) workday. Volunteers aren’t just putting plants into the ground; they work hard.  More than 60 volunteers at four gardens have collectively laid out and filled fifty 4×6-foot plots. At Global, they also hauled and leveled 2,500 square yards of mulch. The volunteers have planted 84 heirloom tomatoes,  240 corn stalks, several hundred beans and carrots, a couple dozen pumpkin and squash, plus cucumbers, melons, native pollinating plants, and more. And they feel like they are the ones who have been given the gift. Volunteers sign up to help with G2G for so many reasons. One watched a homeless man pick up the mulberries off the sidewalk to eat and was compelled to find a way to volunteer with a food security program.  A young man has volunteered as a way to fulfill service hours for a traffic violation; he figured working with G2G was a more meaningful thing to do with his time than watching a video for traffic school. So many of these volunteers have told me stories about their dismay with our toxic food culture. Several were inspired by Mayor Emanuel’s vow to eliminate food deserts in Chicago. Even if you’re not part of the G2G volunteer corps, you can “grow to give,” as well. If you’re one of our Peterson Garden Project gardeners, share the bounty with G2G by sending...

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