Sunday, August 30, 2009

Harvest Fest at Kilbourn

Hey everybody! Ginkgo is going to be representin' at the Kilbourn Harvest Fest this year. Stop by and say 'hi'!

Harvest Fest at Kilbourn Park Organic Greenhouse
Saturday, September 12th from 1 pm - 4 pm

Come join our celebration of the summer garden and its bounty at Kilbourn Park Organic Greenhouse! While visiting our gardens, you can enjoy hands-on crafts, gardening demonstrations to make the most out of fall, cooking demonstrations, and learn about endangered plants through an art installation. We also encourage you to relax those gardening muscles with yoga and listen to music by a new community theater company coming soon to our park. This is a free family friendly event.

Schedule of the Harvest Fest Events
• Gardening Demonstrations
• Constructing and Using a Cold Frame by Amy Brandolino, Master Gardener, cold frame will be built at 1:30 pm
• Raising Honey Bees and Chickens in the City with the Permaculture Meet up Group
• Planting Cover Crops with Nancy Benjamin, Master Gardener
• Composting Basics with Robert Lee, Master Gardener
• Endangered Plants… using art to raise awareness with artist Audry Deal
• Seed Saving with Ginkgo Organic Gardens

Cooking Demonstrations
• 1:00 – 2:30p.m - Garden Salsa all year long – preserving your harvest with Jeri Titus

• 3:00 pm - Seasonal Cooking Demonstration with chefs Jeff Adamek and Nicole Stemler of Julius Meinl

Family Activities
• Meet and Greet Peter Pan and friends, Music at 1:30pm, 2:30 pm, and 3:30 pm
• 1:15 and 3:15 pm. - Yoga for all! Stretch those gardening muscles with your friends or family!
• 2:15 pm - Storytelling with Nancy Roberts
• Make a corn husk doll
• Scarecrow Masks
• Decorating the fence with garden eyes
• Face Painting and more!

We hope to see you at Kilbourn Park Organic Greenhouse’s Harvest Fest!
Kilbourn Park is located at 3501 N. Kilbourn. Questions: call 773-685-3359.

Fruit Fullness

Late August in Chicago: a time of year for sweltering hot days and sleepless, sweaty nights. But, not this year. It's been abnormally cool this season and because of this, our harvests have been behind schedule. In 2008 and 2007, our largest harvests were in the middle of the August and by the end of the month the numbers had taken their inevitable downturn towards fall.

But not this year! Saturday we summed up to 130 lbs! Quite an jump from last week. What was the difference? Well, the single biggest crop was tomatoes!

Look at those lovelies:

Just as we were weighing the tomatoes, Alan ran up with an enormous last minute tom, pushing the total weight from 48 to 49 lbs. That makes a lot of BLTs.

For this gardener though, the most exciting harvest this week was fruit. For the first time we've gotten a significant harvest of apples, we also pulled in a few of our plums, and snipped bunches of grapes.

Rummaging around for grapes:

Doug handpicks the ripest plums:

Lest you think we're past our prime this summer, just you wait. We're anticipating the harvest of more plums, pears, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins. And there's still plenty of tomatoes and peppers on the plants.

Lots of thanks to the good people at Entertainment Cruises for showing up and chipping in to help. Great folks and hard workers!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Saturday, August 22 saw a large handful of volunteers enjoy perfect weather for gardening: not too hot, a little breezy, a little sunny, a little cloudy, maybe slightly too cool at times but things warmed up towards the end of the afternoon (and we did have some rather nice coffee and muffins).

And we did have some unusual visitors checking out the Rudbekia (possibly a sweat bee from the Agapostemon genus):

There have been a couple of side effects of Chicago’s unseasonably cool (some would say “comfortable”) and wet summer. One is that our harvests are smaller than usual for this time of year. This week we harvested only about 85 pounds.

We’ve got lots of tomatoes on the vine, but they just aren’t ripening as quickly as they would normally. The same goes for the pattypan squash (the ones that look a bit like yellow flying saucers). But the greens aren't bothered at all.

To be honest, there were only a few volunteers, so we didn’t harvest the potatoes, which is a big job and last week accounted for at least 10 pounds. The potatoes will be fine waiting another week to be dug up. And we are letting some of the green bell peppers stay on their plants so we’ll have red peppers to take up to Vital Bridges for a change. We talk about doing this every year, but somehow in our zeal to harvest we are impatient and pluck the peppers when they are nice-sized but still green.

The cucumbers, however, are doing surprisingly well. We harvested about 24 pounds this week. That long, pale serrated-looking cuke is colloquially called an “Armenian cucumber”. In reality, it is a type of melon. When sliced open it has very few seeds and tastes nicely of cuke, but it is a melon.

Some funny-shaped (but delicious!) heirloom tomatoes ready to go to Vital Bridges:

The other side effect of our unusual summer weather is that the leaves of the squashes and the cukes are covered in powdery mildew. This is a concern because it is affecting not only our summer crops but our winter squashes as well (we’ve got some acorn squash and some pumpkins already coming along nicely and we don’t want to lose them). We’ve had another go at spraying the affected plants with a neem oil solution to try to stop the mildew from spreading. It seems like it may be working.

And there are hints of veggies to come later in the season. Check out the three stages of the acorn squash all on one vine, all right next to one another: flower, early pale squash, later green squash.

And a happy-looking pumpkin:

The plums are looking pretty tempting and should be ripe any day now, but somehow we forgot to take a photo of them. Check back next week for that!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Saturday afternoon the Active Transportation Alliance brought a whole slew of bicyclers for their annual Veggie Bike and Dine.


Folks were effusive about how great the garden looked – which, although we appreciated the sentiment, surprised us. We thought it looked awfully defoliated since earlier that day we'd harvested another 117.2 pounds for donation! Tomatoes and peppers are definitely coming in, but the big bumper crops were cucumbers and squashes. We also harvested swiss chard, kale, collards, beets, radishes, broad beans, bush beans, potatoes, basil, and handful of daikon.

Reviewing the data:

Late August and early September is the time of year with the biggest harvests! Come by and see how we're doing!

Note: Photos are courtesy and copyright of Arline Welty (top) and Katie Schuering (bottom).

Friday, August 14, 2009

Steamy plots and torrid narratives

Ginkgo opened its gates on Sunday, August 9 for a book swap and reading by Chicago writers. We welcomed literature gourmands and the just plain curious from around the neighborhood, and laid on chilled refreshment both edible and potable. Given the muggy low-90s weather, we took things at a languorous pace, as can be seen by the popularity of the wading pool.

We were fortunate to find enough shade for three tables of books, and we had a pleasant couple of hours of thumbing through paperbacks, trying to resist taking away more than we'd brought.

Around 4pm, nature arranged enough cloud cover for us to start the reading. Thanks to John Cahill, Fred Sasaki, Jill Summers and Beau O'Reilly for sharing their animal stories. I suspect that many who heard Beau's story will no longer be able to pick up a rake without wondering about a certain over-confident rat.

Beau O'Reilly tells of good friends and times gone by:

Jill Summers reads Monkey and Birdie, and breaks everyone's hearts:

Fred Sasaki relates overheard conversations from the zoo (to hilarious effect):

John Cahill reads a contemporary classic from the world-dominated-by-human-sized-pigeons genre:

Many thanks to all the readers, to Debbie and Doug Lynch for organizing the book swap, to Miriam Pinchuk and Dave Snyder for organizing the reading (and everyone else who helped out). And thanks, too, to everyone who dropped by to spend some of their Sunday at the garden (especially whichever kind soul put $20 in the donation box). All proceeds will be turned into vegetable matter, one way or another.

Note: All photos in this post -- except for the kiddie pool shot -- are courtesy and copyright of Lindsay Schlesser.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Hundred Pound Summer

Finally Chicago has followed through on its annual promise of summer weather and along with the heat and humidity comes our favorite summertime vegetables. Tomatoes are just starting to ripen, peppers are still green, but the cucumbers, zucchini, pattipan squashes, and broad beans are at full-strength.

Looky here! Liz shows off a couple mean beans:

Of course gardening is not all sunshine and beet greens. The bad news is that we officially gave up the BATTLE OF THE SPUDS against an advancing army of aphids. As an organic garden, we can't use any non-organic pesticides and the ones we had been trying (a mild, biodegradable detergent and neem oil) hadn't been enough to temper their onslaught. C'est la vie, c'est la guerre, c'est la pomme de terre: we tore out half the bed and brought the admittedly handsome spuds up to the foodbank as well.

Digging out potatoes:

Washing potatoes for donation:

Veggies are coming in with such speed, we picked 100.5 pounds of vegetables for donation this Saturday! It's a gratifying thing to pull such a bounty and lug it up to the foodbank we donate to: Vital Bridges' Groceryland. It was a hit!

Dave and Karen at Vital Bridges:

Clients helping themselves to the harvest:

Note: All photos in this post are by Katie Schuering and used with her permission. Thanks Katie!