Wednesday, July 23, 2014

20th Anniversary

Congratulations Ginkgo Organic Gardens for making 20 years happen!  On Saturday the 12th of July we had our Anniversary Celebration in 3 parts.

We began with a light monsoon that threatened to put the kibosh on the whole event.  Unbelievably, volunteers showed up at 9 am in raincoats, carrying coffee and even carrying the most gorgeous cupcakes imaginable.  We managed to get a soggy harvest in and spent a lot of time under the shed catching up, marveling over the garden, and considering the fate of the party.  As the torrent turned to a trickle Dave Snyder, veteran volunteer, and Eric Salas, co-founder of Ginkgo, took the harvest up to the pantry.

In part two, we set up a treat-feast as the exhausted clouds hung above us. The clouds must have taken pity after seeing that we would not be stopped in our festivities and we had a dry and pleasant afternoon.  Treats included among others, homemade cupcakes with vegetable decals crafted from candy, a foraged berry lemonade spritzer, delicious baked goods from Gingersnap Sweets, and a watermelon carved in the most elegant and expert way I've ever seen!

Part two also gave us the opportunity to hear from the founders of the garden Jill Baldwin, Eric Salas, Ruth Milius as well as other volunteers, members of the steering committee and our Chicago Cares liaisons.  I can't explain how fortunate I feel to have stood in the same circle with these people.  Our founders traveled from near (Chicago) and far (Massachusetts) and the space in between to be there. Because they traveled, I have a better portrait of the garden to give when people ask how the garden has survived for 20 years.

Part three brought us to Ten Cat for beverages and Italian food. The weather cooperated and we all got to catch up.  Over and over throughout the day I heard the phrase "show up".  The garden is only possible because people show up every week.  It took a little longer for radishes to show up because we didn't have enough water.  New and old faces show up.  It should be our anthem.  Show Up.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Preview attachment ginkgo_anniversary_20.pdf

Ginkgo Organic Gardens celebrates 20 years outgrowing hunger!

Ginkgo Organic Gardens is an all-volunteer community garden in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood that grows fruits and vegetables for those in need using only organic methods.  Since 1994, Ginkgo has been out-growing hunger by donating our harvests to local hunger fighting organizations.  In recent years we have donated 1,000 – 1,500 pounds of produce annually to Vital Bridges GroceryLand, a food pantry that serves low-income persons living with HIV. 

On Saturday, July 12th, Ginkgo will raise a trowel and raise a glass to two decades of service.  Please join us for a workday in the morning, a reception at noon, and a late lunch in the afternoon.   Drop by at any time, leave at any time, but take a weed with you when you go.

9:00 - 12:00 -- Harvest and workday (at Ginkgo, 4055 N Kenmore)
12:30 - 3:00 -- Dedication, reception and light snacks (at Ginkgo, 4055 N Kenmore)
3:00 - onward -- Late lunch and carousing (at Ten Cat Tavern, 3931 N Ashland Ave)

Please RSVP at:

(Note: there is a Cubs game at Wrigley Field on the 12th.  We encourage you to take public transportation rather than driving.)

Monday, May 19, 2014

Transplants Begin!

I arrived at the garden on Saturday morning to find these beauties inside the fence.  Such a lovely treat.  These kale, collards, broccoli and tomatoes are the first transplants that Ginkgo has planted this season.

A special shout out is in order for the awesome team from the Palmer House Hilton.  These transplant gurus snapped to work by divvying up the labor.  One person to place the plants evenly on the soil, one to dig a hole, one to loosen the roots and pop the transplant in.  I've never seen such a coordinated effort at Ginkgo and I tried to assure them that we weren't task masters, but the team indicated that tight deadlines were their specialty.  Hard working, efficient, and you couldn't ask for a friendlier bunch.  Thanks and thanks!

We missed Chris on round 1 of the group photo, but his efforts shouldn't go unmentioned.  Before embarking on back to back trips around the country to split sides with his improv and responsibly celebrate, Chris added to his track record as a weed annihilation machine and helped to get those transplants in and fences up.

Bobbi-Lee cleaned out our earth machine which was full of the lightest fluffiest compost I've ever handled.  We usually just ignore the bins and focus more on our managed 3 bin systems, but this passive approach broke some high quality trimmings down into the definition of loamy.

Here we are using kale as a border crop to maximize output per bed.  There should be plenty of space to reach in and handle the tomatoes and all we need now are some marigolds to ward off flea beetles.  I can't wait to see these beds all grown up. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Salt ‘N’ Pepa put it best when they said:

Yeah, yeah (Oooo)
Uh, hey hey
All right, yeah

What a man, what a man, what a man
What a mighty good man.

Safe travels Al.  After six years of working your butt off at Ginkgo and Vital bridges we know that we've been fortunate enough and can share you with Partners in Health and the people of Haiti.  You've been an essential volunteer and it will take a lot to step up and fill this gap, but your presence is perennial in daffodils, ethic, and Persephone.  Keep us up to date and learn everything so you can share it with us.

Remember to move around during the flight to avoid clots.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Late Start

Gardens across Chicago are off to a late start because of the rough winter and cold spring.  Ginkgo is in the same boat.  By now the garden should have 5-6 inch pea sprouts, should be harvesting radishes, should be ready for transplants this weekend, and every bed should be seeded.  Instead, we have just a few rows of radishes, potato and sweet potato starts, and the start of a lettuce crop.  We will be transplanting this weekend, but our crops will be chilly.  We have some major catching up to do and we can use every hand that we can get to transplant and seed beds.

One thing that this spring has offered plenty of is water.  Unfortunately, we didn't get our rain barrels up as early as we should have because there was a constant threat of frost, so all of that rain water was inaccessible to us.  When we did get them in place, we learned that most of them couldn't hold water because they had been damaged during the winter despite our efforts to protect them.  By the time we got them all patched up, the city water had already been connected (as shown in the buffalo box above).  Without water it was hard to begin seeding.
Despite this, we seeded radishes with the little water we could get.  These gems are such a bright spot in the spring.  They really are the first proof that one can fill a plate with something toothsome by one's own hands.

The rhubarb takes care of itself although we could probably pamper it a little with some fresh compost and and a little division to let it multiply and get some better circulation. 

Right on time for the spring are the fruit blossoms.  The ornamental cherry blossoms have all dropped, succeeded by the apples, which are followed by Ginkgo's pears.  We had beautiful weather on Saturday and warm breezes carried the heady perfume of our white lilacs into the garden. 

The big show of course was the exhumation of our fig trees.  Normally, we would do this around Easter, but sudden random snow flurries through April made us nervous about taking them up too early.

The one so curiously shaped like a body, came up first.  Ginkgo's volunteers swiftly and with finesse to bring the tree back to the waking world.  The trees have new growth on them, which is a good sign, but we still have to wait and see how they coped with the stresses of our unusual procedure and the oppressive winter.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Eat For Equity

Continuing the 20th anniversary season, our friends at Eat for Equity are throwing a dinner party for us.  This Monday, May 12th, at 7:00pm we'll be cooking up a pile of tasty local food.  Proceeds go to help Ginkgo continue to outgrow hunger.  Our old pal Dave Snyder will be hosting at his place: 3530 W Fulton Blvd.  You can find out more and RSVP here:

Come by, rub elbows with gardeners, and raise a fork to help support Ginkgo!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Small but Mighty

Fellow gardeners, last Saturday I ordered Ginkgo's Volunteers to search and destroy rogue mint.

No gardener takes such action lightly.

This morning, I want to tell you what I did and why I did it.

... But seriously.  It was a big weeding and maintenance day.  A small but mighty group of volunteers, set to work pulling weeds.  Three distinct plants that we want in the rhubarb bed are rhubarb, sorrell, and  lovage.  Last year, mint completely overran this bed. This season, the mint pokes up already.  Mega-volunteer Chris carefully traced and extracted the roots of the mint growing in this bed while being careful not to disturb the rhubarb, lovage, or sorrel.

Mint typically and intentionally surrounds the north side of the garden's centerpiece, an ornamental cherry tree (pictured below).  This is mint's home.  Two time volunteer, and friend of the garden Bobby Lee, cut back last year's mint stalks and made room for this year's.  She also weeded the mint area which is super helpful because once the mint is full sized, it will be hard to get other plants out by the roots.  Unlike Chris' careful weeding, Bobby Lee was merciless because mint can take the abuse.

Evelyn organized the shed and cleaned and oiled the tools.  This task keeps our tools useful and rust free, but it also makes the shed more accessible.  There's nothing more frustrating that buying a roll of twine only to find out that there are three rolls hidden somewhere unexpected.

I went after stray garlic chives.  Garlic chives (a flat bladed, more pungent, relative of the more common round bladed chive) have overrun the raspberry bed. This bed should contain raspberries, strawberries, dill, and asparagus.  Ideally, I would live in there because it is heaven.  Unfortunately, bindweed and garlic chives also fill it. Garlic chives, similar to mint, are edible and delicious, but spread quickly and aggressively into other beds.  They make a great snack while weeding.  After the bed was cleared of all signs of garlic chives, Chris top dressed it with a layer of fresh house-made compost.

Probably the biggest step was to set up the rain barrels.  With all of the barrels set up to catch this week's rain, we will have water to plant on April 26th.  Drop by to get into radishes and lettuce!

Friday, April 18, 2014

With a Little Help from our Friends

This Earth Day (Tuesday April 22nd) the Whole Foods at 3640 N Halsted will donate 5% of their proceeds to Ginkgo Organic Gardens.

For 20 years Ginkgo has been out-growing hunger by donating our harvests to local hunger fighting organizations.  In recent years we have donated 1,000 – 1,500 pounds of produce annually to Vital Bridges GroceryLand, a food pantry that serves low-income persons living with HIV.  Donations secured through Whole Foods’ 5% Day on Tuesday, April 22nd, will go to help improve the garden through major infrastructure improvements.

Browse through the photos on the blog, so you can visualize the amazing work that you're doing simply by buying escarole, local brews, or bulk peanuts.  Share this post and spread the word like homemade peanut butter! (It's been a big peanut week at my place).

Also, if you just can't wait until Earth Day to start do-gooding for Mother Earth, drop by Ginkgo on Saturday for some beautiful weather and first of the year direct seeding!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

necessary wounds

On this unseasonably frigid morning, a small group of us gathered at the garden to prune the fruit trees. Pruning should be done when the trees are dormant, and sap is still far from the distal tips of budless branches.

I had worried that the third week of March might be past the optimal pruning date. As I my feet slowly numbed while I stood in the snow that collected last night under the trees, I understood that we probably could have waited a week or two longer.

Removing branches from a tree opens up its canopy, allowing in sunlight and oxygen and preventing injuries to the tree from the rubbing of entangled limbs. Clearing away water sprouts (or suckers) and small, non-producing branches also directs the tree's growth into the larger branches. Pruned trees often produce more fruit than their untended counterparts.

Although I understand this on an intellectual level, I always find it difficult to close the lopper blades that first time, or to saw through the base of a branch that has grown too much for its small space in the espalier. The task gets easier the more I do it.