Grow2Give

At this time of year, we often think of what we are thankful for, and give to others in need. With many food pantries and soup kitchens relying on donations or cheaply purchased leftover or unwanted food, fresh fruits and vegetables are a rare sight among staples like canned beans, rice and day-old bread. With a short shelf life, it’s not surprising: produce may be harvested at a farm days or weeks in advance of arriving at a distributor before it is transported again to neighborhood grocery stores. If it sits on the shelf too long, it’s more likely to spoil and be unsafe to eat, which often happens before the produce can make it to a pantry. Many gardeners choose to grow their own food for different reasons: to eat more seasonally, to show their children where food comes from, or to have the fresh, healthy food for dinner. However, some gardeners grow food for others who cannot, or for people who otherwise would not have access to fresh produce. Since the beginning, Peterson Garden Project has worked with volunteers who grow food for neighborhood pantries and soup kitchens in each of their pop-up community gardens. These volunteer gardeners not only have their own plot at the garden to tend, but also prepare, plant, water, weed and harvest produce in the Grow2Give plots between April and November every year. This huge undertaking requires coordinating watering schedules, frequent garden visits, and sometimes harvesting in the rain or cold to get the produce to the pantry during a narrow drop-off time. In 2015, our Grow2Give volunteer gardeners grew over one ton (2,000+ pounds) of fruits and vegetables just for our neighborhood pantries and soup kitchens: Howard Area Community Center in Rogers Park, Inspiration Café in Uptown, Lincoln...

Time for mid-season fertilizing!...

For many fruits and vegetables, the beginning of summer is the beginning of vigorous growth and production – which takes quite a lot of nutrients to sustain. To give your plants what they need to produce those gorgeous tomatoes, zucchini and kale, they will likely need a boost. You have a few choices for adding essential nutrients to your garden: compost, granular (dry) fertilizer and liquid fertilizer. Here’s a rundown of each, and how to apply them: Compost – Not all compost is the same! You might find bagged compost at a garden supply store, maybe you make it in a worm bin in your basement, or perhaps you have a friend with a yard and a big bin full of compost to share. The best compost contains live microbes and smells fresh, like soil after a rainstorm. Unless you conduct a nutrient analysis on homemade compost, or buy compost with a guaranteed analysis, compost is best considered a soil conditioner, and not a fertilizer. Conditioners help improve the texture as well as moisture- and nutrient-holding capacities of the soil. Why is texture important? Good soil texture helps provide spaces for beneficial soil bacteria and fungi to colonize, as well as pockets of air for roots and organisms such as worms to survive. It also provides an important source of carbon. As the carbon in the compost breaks down, it is released as a gas into the atmosphere, where plants utilize it to carry out photosynthesis. Granular fertilizer – When shopping for a granular fertilizer, look for an organic all-purpose fertilizer or one formulated for growing fruits and vegetables. Look for the numbers on the package, which signal the percentage of Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium in the mix. If you can find a granular...

90% Community

The statistic in the title is a quote: “Community gardens are 10% garden and 90% community” (Pat Munts, Northwest Gardeners’ Handbook). We have some quotes of our own: “I lived and gardened in Rogers Park for 25 years and barely knew my neighbors, let alone another gardener. Now I walk into any Rogers Park event and I know ten people there.” –Hello!Howard gardener. “I talk to everyone now! I can’t believe how many people I know because of PGP!” Breanne Heath, PGP Program Manger for Gardens and Education. “We loved caring for a shared space, getting to know neighbors and talk (sic) about local issues.” – from the 2014 gardener survey. Last year’s gardener survey was full of remarks about meeting neighbors, getting and giving advice, and “confidence knowing one’s not alone and bringing food and greenery to a busy street.” Peterson Garden Project actively works to create community by working in each garden with other community organizations, through special events like movie nights, and by encouraging local volunteerism. But most of the community happens like the vegetables: organically, when people come together for a common purpose like growing their own...

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!  ...

Come Grow With Us!

What is The Peterson Garden Project? The Peterson Garden Project (PGP) is a federal 501c3 not-for-profit organization based in Chicago, Illinois. For more information: www.petersongarden.org Our mission: To recruit, educate and inspire a new generation of home and community gardeners who want to gain control of their food supply, grow their own produce organically, and make urban food gardening the norm—not the exception. How do you accomplish your goals? We provide education, support and materials to teach people to grow their own food organically in an urban setting. Part of our activity includes the creation of Pop-up Victory Gardens so urbanites have a place to learn. What is a Pop-up Victory Garden? The original Victory Gardens of WW2 were created in all available open space – including private property. When the war was over, these spaces reverted back to their intended use. A modern Pop-up Victory Garden is a similar concept – unused privately owned urban space is converted to a community-based allotment garden where families and individuals can learn to grow their own food. The gardens all use organic methods and produce food only. Since we are not in a wartime situation, and most urban open land is highly desirable, a Pop-up Victory garden lasts only as long as the property owner makes it available which can be as little as two years. To learn more about WW2 Victory Gardens, watch our founder LaManda Joy’s Library of Congress lecture HERE. Who participates in a Pop-up Victory Garden? Each Pop-up Victory Garden community is made up of families, neighbors, volunteers, Illinois Extension Master Gardeners, local groups, city organizations, students and others interested in becoming part of a garden community and growing their own food organically. These gardens are large, lovely places and participants must...

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