Financial, physical, composting and watering pain

July 24, 2011

So long, Sid’s Greenhouses

When I started broadcasting at Chicago’s Progressive Talk a little more than three years ago, one of the very first companies to sign on as a sponsor was Sid’s Greenhouses in Palos Hills and Bolingbrook. I knew the company president, Phil Schaafsma, Sr., having interviewed him when I was at WGN Radio. Given that it was now 2008 and the economy was already tanking, it was not exactly a great time to start Mike Nowak LLC and my new show at WCPT 820AM.

When I asked Phil if he would advertise on my new show, he didn’t hesitate, and Sid’s became one of my major clients. It meant a lot to me because they took out 52-week contracts each year, whereas most garden centers preferred to run commercials during just the spring growing season.

Last Friday, I received a call from Sid’s Marketing Director, Scott Henderson, who told me that the company was planning to shut down. Earlier this week, it became official and, thus, one of the great garden centers in the Chicago area becomes part of history.

This is a sampling of the response I received when I posted the news on Facebook and Twitter:

  • Awww! So sad.
  • Every Spring in the seventies, my family would make regular weekend trips out to Sid’s on Southwest Highway. My parents will miss the getting gardening advice from the professionals and Schaafsma family members who worked there. Sad to see them go.
  • Wow, purchased from them all the time. Thanks for telling us.
  • Sorry Mike, you lost a good sponsor. Sorry for the Schaafsma family, sorry for all the workers. We are a sorry mess.
  • Sad news. I went into my favorite nursery the other day and discovered the place half empty. I’m sure it’s also “circling the drain.” It’s all depressing.
  • Very sad indeed. An institution.
  • Oh Noooooo! Sid’s is my favorite garden store! This is devastating.
  • Terrible shame. Wonderful stores, wonderful people. Don’t suspect we could have made a go of the magazine without their unflinching support. (from Bill Aldrich, who started Chicagoland Gardening Magazine)
  • Very sad and telling. They were one of the best.
  • A worker at the Menards garden center here told a friend of mine that her garlic mustard was a cool wildflower! Don’t go, Sid’s!!
  • Who will be left standing, Mike?

The last question is particularly pertinent, as the recession continues and more independent garden centers close. Are box stores killing the IGCs? Or is something else going on? Regardless, Phil Schaafsma is being a stand-up guy by stopping by Sunday morning’s show to answer questions about the demise of one of Chicago’s great garden centers. If you want to show your support for IGCs, log onto the Facebook page “Locally Owned Garden Centers or Nurseries (LOGON)”

Yes, Virginia, you can garden without pain

Maybe I should have done this show segment earlier in the gardening season, but I suppose that anytime is a good time to learn how to work in your garden without messing yourself up physically. Dr. Bonny Flaster, of River North Wellness, is not only my friend, she’s also a chiropractor, acupuncturist and natural healer.

Bonny has some simple tips for surviving your own garden in her post I’VE GOT A GOAL – GARDENING WITHOUT BACK PAIN. Most of them involve common sense…which is why they’re so often ignored. Another problem for a lot of gardeners is allergies and, yes, Bonny says that she has had success treating those, too, using NeuroModulation Technique (NMT). It’s a pleasure to have Bonny in the studio this morning.

Green Organics: bringing Illinois composting into the 21st Century

It’s hard to believe that less than three years ago, food scraps were pretty much categorized as toxic waste in the state of Illinois. Then, with the passage of SB99, things changed. Not only did the cost to set up a food-composting facility come down dramatically, SB99 also exempted facilities that accept food waste for composting from pollution control facility requirements. Also, it opened the door for food waste composting businesses, creating jobs for Illinois, and creating a new Illinois made product – food waste compost – that can be sold around the country.

At least that’s how it’s supposed to work. Are we there yet? You kids just sit quiet in the back of the car and play with your food scraps! Sorry, I went somewhere for a few seconds.

Anyway, Green Organics is a company that had already been composting yard waste from waste companies, garden centers and landscapers since 1999. But with the passage of SB99, their mission changed considerably, according to a Chicago Metropolitan Area for Planning (CMAP) Case Study:

Before the passage of Senate Bill 99, this facility was not allowed to accept food waste for composting. This bill helped to distinguish food scraps from “pollution” and allows them to be treated as a resource, rather than a nuisance. Made effective in January of 2010, the bill allows commercial landscape-composting facilities to accept food waste – up to 10% of their total intake, without modifying the existing siting permit. They could accept more if their permit were modified…

Green Organics has begun the process to become OMRI-listed, which allows them to sell compost to certified organic farms. Their compost is a valuable soil amendment that provides fertilizer and pest control to soil, reducing the need for toxic fertilizers and helping conserve our region’s water quality. In addition to the various environmental benefits to the land, reducing the amount of waste that we send to landfills will also reduce future municipal landfilling costs, reduce GHGs, and protect water quality.

David Gravel is Vice President of GO and he joins me in studio to talk about how Illinois has progressed in the area in food scrap composting and where it still needs to go. By the way, he will be speaking on Thursday, July 28 at 1:45 p.m. for the International Erosion Control Association Roadshow at the Bartlett Nature Center, 2054 W. Stearns Road in Bartlett, Illinois.

Beth Botts tells you how to water…and you better listen!

You know the lyrics to the song “What a difference a day makes, 24 little hours.” Well, geez Louise, those words couldn’t more appropriately describe what happened between Friday and Saturday. One day, I’m riding my bicycle in 100+ heat index weather (well hydrated, of course), and the next night, I’m wading in 8″ deep water in my basement, frantically trying to move my belongings to higher ground. Welcome to climate change, folks!

The point is that when Beth Botts, award-winning horticultural writer and occasional guest-host of The Mike Nowak Show, showed me the two fabulous blogs on her site Growing in Chicago that she had written about watering your garden, it was in the middle of a heat wave that was producing very little rain. I said, “Great! Let’s talk about it on my show on Sunday. What can possibly happen before then?”

Cue the 7 inches of rain that hit Chicago on Friday night.

Regardless of that, more heat is on the way, and you should read her two posts: How to water: a manifesto, and What to water with. Bookmark them, print them out, carve them into stone, graffiti them onto your garage door, tattoo them on your left leg. Whatever. They will come in handy. Trust me.