Mike gets an apology from the City of Chicago

August 19, 2012

The City of Chicago apologizes for tree damage on McLean Avenue

Yes, you read that correctly. This morning, live on my radio show, I will be receiving an apology from Tom LaPorte, Assistant Commissioner for the City of Chicago Department of Water Management, for damage done to trees on my block in the Logan Square Neighborhood. I will accept that apology on behalf of the good citizens of McLean Avenue.

If you’ve been listening to my show in the past few weeks or following developments on this website, you know that Water Management has been replacing water mains on my street. That’s not particularly newsworthy. After all, it’s no secret that our aging infrastructure is in desperate need of replacement.

What IS surprising, though, is the amount of damage the trees on my block sustained from the work crews. I have been posting photos of the carnage for two weeks. They are still on my home page. Now, I do understand that it’s hard to get heavy machinery down every block in the city without something being affected. But the level of damage sustained was so beyond the pale that I felt I needed to call it to the attention of the Department of Water Management and the Bureau of Forestry.

Last week, Senior Forester Joe McCarthy responded to my inquiry by saying, in part,

Everyday around ALL Cities, Towns etc, construction is ongoing.  New construction and repair/upgrades of homes and utilities (gas, water, sewer with connections from mains to each and every home) all affect tree health.  You are undergoing a main replacement.  This may cause gas mains to be relocated and all sorts of other dominoes that fall in place.  These large projects are typically reviewed as plans are developed, distributed and reviewed through a utility coordination process in Chicago’s Department of Transportation called Office of Underground Coordination ( OUC ).  Through plan review and training efforts we attempt to stem the tide (ounce of prevention worth more than a pound of cure) since enforcement can overwhelm staff and is limited to the most egregious cases.

He also sent me the text of a talk he made in Toronto a few years ago. In it, he talks about how trees are valued in Chicago:

Utility installations involve digging trenches as it is cheap and easy for installation. Trenching near a tree, especially a tree of large stature, can lead to disaster. The tree may not fall down right away or four months later, but eventually the tree will come down.

We have an office of underground communication where we coordinate digging and plan reviewing, as well as a damage prevention council where standards are set, as trees are an integral part of infrastructure in Chicago along with utilities, streets, and sidewalks.

Sidewalks and streets begin to decline as soon as they are installed and have a finite replacement period. Trees on the other hand, are the only infrastructure that increase in value after installation. Install a $500 tree and one day it could be an $80,000 tree. We start with education, teaching the importance of where the tree roots are, and how to work around them. If they cry, “oh it’s going to cost more”, you impose the value of the tree. If you’re going to have to do it the cheap way, you pay for the value of the tree if it has to come out.

I’m pleased to have Tom LaPorte from the Water Department and City of Chicago Senior City Forester John Lough on the program this morning. And may I say here that I thank Mr. LaPorte and the Department of Water Management for stepping up and accepting the responsibility for the damage. My goal–and Mr. LaPorte has made it clear that it is his goal, too–is to make sure that this doesn’t happen on other streets in other neighborhoods.

To that end, if you see damage caused by city workers or outside contracters who you think have been hired by the city, call Tom LaPorte, Assistant Commissioner, Department of Water Management at 312/742-1029, or Commssioner Thomas Powers at 312/744-7001.

Get ready to Tweet for the ICG Show

The Independent Garden Center Show comes to Chicago this week, and if that doesn’t have you jumping for joy, it’s understandable. It’s really a show for garden center professionals–whether you own one, sell your products for them, grow plants for them, or are involved in some other way…like talking about them on the radio.

So, as the more than 1,000 exhibitors hook up with thousands of IGC buyers, some of us get all goose-bumpy, just thinking about wondering the isles at the Navy Pier show. And, like last year, the folks who like to Tweet about these events are back in town. A number of them will be gathering at the Peterson Garden Project Learning Center for a live #gardenchat on Twitter from 7 to 8pm tomorrow evening (August 20).

If you’re not sure what that means, it’s basically a reason for you to log on to Twitter at that time, follow the hashtag #gardenchat, and post your comments. Other Twitter codes that you might find useful are #IGC12 and @IGCShow.

I’ll be there in person, along with LaManda Joy (@TheYarden) from the PGP, Brenda Haas (@BG_Garden), and others who show up when I tweet at @MikeNow. Unfortunately, the event is by invitation only, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t join the fun on Twitter.

D. Landreth Seed Company is still going strong

It’s been awhile since I’ve talked to Barbara Melera of D. Landreth Seed Company. You might remember that they were on the verge of insolvency at the beginning of this year, but managed to fight back, thanks to the efforts and the purchases of hundreds of people who believed that this 227 year old American company deserved a little better than it was getting. My Chicago listeners stepped up big time, and I’m proud of that.

Well, Landreth is back as an advertiser on the show, just in time for planting Wild Saffron Crocus Bulbs. Here’s what Barbara has to say about them:

In addition to peas and herbs, THE SEED OF THE DAY FOR MID-SUMMER AND FALL PLANTING is going to feature three bulbs that should be ordered in July for planting in August. If you don’t plant a single thing this summer, you should plant one of the fall blooming crocus bulbs. They are one of the nicest surprises of the fall. They can be planted in full sun or partial shade, and they can be planted in containers. YES, they do come back each year, and YES they will spread – doubling about every 12 months.

Here is the ‘hitch’. Unlike the bulbs you plant in the fall or the bulbs you plant in the spring, fall blooming crocus have to be ordered in July or early August. We receive the bulbs in late August and ship them to you in late August. You, then, need to plant the bulbs in late August or early September and they will begin blooming for you in September or early October.

If you haven’t ordered them now, you’d better get going. Meanwhile, you can follow–and Like–D. Landreth Seed Company on Facebook.

The First 100 Native Gardens Walk…

…was yesterday. I’m sorry if you missed it. But there’s a reason that I’m mentioning this terrific event, sponsored by the Wildflower Preservation and Propagation Committee (WPPC) in McHenry County. More than100 homeowners planted native gardens in their yards and yesterday twenty-two of those yards were open to the public for a self-guided tour.

Homeowners planted woodland shade gardens, savanna gardens, prairie gardens, and rain gardens ranging in size from 100 square feet to over 600 square feet on lots ranging in size from a regular city lot to 6 acres. They’re all part of the “Natural Garden in Your Yard” (NGYY) mentoring program of the WPPC. The program is based on the concept that many small native gardens, when combined as part of the bigger picture can make a big difference for a cleaner, healthier environment for all. NGYY began in 2005 with 12 mentees. In 2012, there were 16 new mentees.

And, guess what? You can still get involved for next year.   Pat Sullivan-Schroyer wrote to me that the deadline for applications for the next mentoring class is August 25, 2012.  Interested homeowners/gardeners can go to the website: thewppc.org, and click on Natural Garden in Your Yard.  That gives a detailed description of the program as well as a link to the application.  There is no charge for participating in the program.  Their only cost will be for whatever plants they choose to purchase for their yards.

Join me at Knupper Nursery and Landscape next Saturday

I’m finally going to learn how to pronounce Knupper’s!!

That’s because Laurie Gravagna (who has a difficult enough name herself) stops by today to preview the first annual Veggie Fair at Knupper’s Nursery and Landscape in Palatine. It’s a free event and it will feature seminars and demonstrations, a vegetable contest, and even a pie eating contest. I am doing a presentation at 1:00 p.m. Here’s the schedule of events:

10:00 am – Water Bath Canning Demonstration by Kirstin Larson
Do you have more fruits and vegetables than you can eat?  Let Kirstin show you how to preserve your tomatoes so you can enjoy them all winter long!  She will also be discussing making jams and jellies.

11:00 am – Decorating Gourds for Fall by Paula Farrell
Join Paula Farrell as she discusses gourds.  From selecting fun shapes and sizes, to preparing and cleaning (or not cleaning) and how to turn them into lovely decorations for your home, you’ll learn everything there is to know about this fun fall vegetable.

12:00 pm – Seasonal Cooking Demo. by Dave’s Specialty Foods
Chef and owner Dave Esau of Dave’s Specialty Foods in Mt. Prospect will amaze you with his culinary skills and wit as he prepares a tasty recipe using seasonal ingredients for all to try.  www.davesspecialtyfoods.com

1:00 pm – “Thriving in Hard Soil” by Mike Nowak (that’s me)
I will talk about my experience creating a community garden in my Logan Square neighborhood and give advice on how to start a garden in your neighborhood.

2:30 pm – Pie Eating Contest
Come out and enjoy some good old fashioned fun!  Contestants will be competing to finish their pie the fastest (without using their hands).  The Pie Eating Contest is limited to ages 15 and up.  There is no charge, but pre-registration is required and there are a limited number of spaces.  You may register by coming into the store or giving us a call.

2:45 pm – Veggie Contest Judging
Submit your homegrown vegetables in our contest. Ribbons and prizes will be awarded in each category.  Please drop off all entries on Friday, August 24 before 6:00 pm.  Judging categories are as follows:

• Most Uncommon Vegetable
• Heaviest Tomato
• Ugliest Tomato
• Heaviest Zucchini
• Prettiest Multi-colored Pepper
• Potato Pageant**

**The Potato Pageant is a costume contest for potatoes.  You don’t have to grow it, just pick one up from your favorite grocery store.  They can be superheroes, animals, cartoon characters or whatever you can imagine them to be.  It is open to all ages.

It all sounds goofy–and fun. Join me if you can. Here are directions.

And I would be remiss…

If I didn’t mention that my good friends Rich and Susan Eyre are having another of their hosta sales at Rich’s Foxwillow Pines in Woodstock, Illinois. It’s actually called the Hosta Sale and Arts & Crafts Fundraiser and you can learn more about it here.

Here’s the info:

Saturday August 25, 2012, 9am-4pm
Rich’s Foxwillow Pines Nursery, Inc
11618 McConnell Road Woodstock IL 60098

For more information, write coniflora@richsfoxwillowpines.com or call 815-338-7442.

The best part is that all proceeds benefit Heifer International and Mano a Mano International Partners. Can’t get any better than that. Thank you, Rich and Susan.