Of pride parades, shifting hardiness zones and vulnerable honey bees

June 19, 2011

Mike and Heather broadcast with Pride next week

If you like fun and you like parades, there’s no better place to be on the final Sunday in June than on Halsted, Broadway, or one of the neighboring streets in Boys Town. Of course, Chicagoans know that I’m talking about the annual Chicago Pride Parade, celebrated in the Lakeview East neighborhood. This year’s event is the 42nd edition and, for some reason, I find myself and my show in the middle of it.

Of course, that’s partly because Chicago’s Progressive Talk will be covering the parade, in a special broadcast from the Center on Halsted featuring Stephanie Miller, Hal Sparks and John Fugelsang. The Mike Nowak Show will also broadcast from the center, at its usual time of 9:00 to 11:00 am CDT. However, things get even more interesting at that point.

Producer Heather Frey and I are going to dive into the masses as on-the-street reporters for Stephanie, Hal and John during their show. We’ll be checking out the floats, interviewing parade participants and spectators and generally looking for anything interesting…and I’m sure there will be a lot. TUNE IN NEXT WEEK!

Are gardening zones changing…and how quickly?

If you’re even halfway serious about being a gardener, you’ve at least heard of the USDA Hardiness Zones. First published in 1960, they divide the country into 11 regions, based on the average minimum temperature for an area. I recently received a newsletter from Diane Blazek at the National Garden Bureau about this very subject and I thought it would be a good idea to pass along this information.

Explains NGB board member Janis Kieft:

Each zone is determined by a 10-degree Fahrenheit difference in the average minimum temperature. Zone 1 is the coldest and Zone 11 has the warmest winter temperatures.

A plant listed as hardy in Zone 4 indicates it should survive winter temperatures as low as 30 degrees below zero F. which is the average minimum winter temperature according to the USDA map. A Zone 9 plant is hardy only to 20 degrees F. Some references provide a range of zones in which the plant will grow. A plant listed as hardy in Zones 4-9 means it will grow in all of those zones. However, there are many factors that affect a plant’s ability to grow in a particular climate including exposure, altitude, moisture, soil type and even snow cover. These conditions create variations between and within zones.

If you’ve never checked your hardiness zone, you can do it at this National Gardening Association site by typing in your zip code. There’s even a U.S. Heat Zone map (pdf) that divides the U.S. into 12 heat areas. It was created in 1997 by the American Horticultural Society and it’s based on the number of days that are greater than 86 degrees F., the temperature at which plants start to suffer damage from high temperatures.

That’s the basic stuff. Where all of this gets controversial is when climate change is figured in. As the Chicago Climate Action Plan states: “Since 1980, Chicago’s average temperature has increased approximately 2.6 degrees.” How much higher will it go? Meterologist Rick DiMaio and I have talked about the issue recently, as some reports say that our climate will be like that of the deep south by the end of this century. Rick, for one, isn’t buying it.

He and Janis and I will talk about how this applies to hardiness and heat zones on Sunday’s show.

Sustainable Food Fundamentals:
Celebrate the Summer Solstice at Chicago Honey Co-op

Where, in the City of Chicago, can you find 60 chemical-free hives representing perhaps as many as three million honey bees? I must be talking about the Chicago Honey Co-op in the city’s North Lawndale community. It started in the winter of 2004, when three urban beekeepers decided that they wanted to create a job training program. That evolved into a long-term relationship with the community with emphasis on education, healthy eating and awareness of the natural environment. You can call it an apiary or you can call it a bee farm, as its organizers do.

One of the things they are trying to do is raise queen bees on site. If you saw the film documentary Queen of the Sun, you know that raising queens on “farms” results in less vigorous royalty, so to speak. Which is why Chicago Honey Co-op is trying a different model. But it takes time and money. The Co-op wants to raise $10,000 to get the program up and running. You can donate by going to their website.

Even though their honey became Certified Naturally Grown in 2010 (which is a grass roots alternative to organic certification), and you can find their products at Chicago’s Green City Market and Logan Square Farmers Market, storm clouds are brewing.

Sydney Barton and Michael Thompson point out they will probably lose their space at the end of the year. If they hope to keep their operation the same size, they will require an area no smaller than 6 city lots. Which is why their annual potluck event, sponsored by Slow Food Chicago, takes on extra urgency this year.

The event is this Friday, June 24 from 6:00-9:00 p.m. at Chicago Honey Co-op, 3740 W. Fillmore in Chicago. Rain date is Sunday, June 26th / 4:00-7:00 p.m. Cost: $10.00 for Slow Food and Honey Coop members + side dish or dessert. But don’t worry. Even if you’re not a member, it’s only $15.00 for non-members + side dish or dessert. Children are free

Meanwhile, Chicago Honey Co-op is looking for money and for a developer to help them continue on their remarkable journey. I hope that many of you can pitch in.

As always, Sustainable Food Fundamentals is sponsored by Pearl Valley Organix. They produce HEALTHY GRO™ products for your lawn and garden, as well as Pearl Valley Eggs. And they do it in a way that is sustainable, turning their chicken manure into several OMRI listed fertilizers, and even recycling their waste water on site at the Pearl Valley Farm. I’m proud to have them as a sponsor on The Mike Nowak Show.
Keeping your plants healthy

I’ve mentioned these two resources before but I want to remind you that they are out there if you have gardening questions about plant insects and diseases.

The University of Illinois Extenstion sends out a newsletter during the growing season called the Home, Yard and Garden Pest Newsletter. In it you will find information about seasonal insect and pest problems. It’s a good way to check up on problems, if you’ve spotted something and you’re wondering if anybody else has the same issue. Or you might want to see what the Extension experts are keeping their eyes on. Extension used to charge $20 a year for this excellent publication, but you can get it for free just by signing up.

Two great articles that have been in the HY&G newsletter in recent weeks both have to do with stress caused to trees not by insects or diseases but by site stress:

Another excellent resource is the Plant Health Care Report of The Morton Arboretum. A link to this report can be found on the home page of the Morton Arboretum. Like the HY&G, this report looks at current insectand disease problems. However, it also has a table of accumulated growing degree days throughout Illinois, precipitation, and plant phenology indicators to help predict pest emergence.

These are two extremely useful publications and, if you garden in Illinois, I hope you take advantage of them.

Speaking next Saturday at the Growing Place “Gardener’s Art Fest”

What are you doing next Saturday at 1:00 p.m.? If you said that you’ll be listening to me speak at the Gardener’s Art Fest at the Growing Place in Naperville, THAT’S THE RIGHT ANSWER!

This is the Growing Place’s 75th Anniversary (heck, they’re almost as old as I am), and their filling it with great events and, of course, great plants and products. Of course, if you shop there regularly, or even if you don’t, you should know that it is truly one of the great garden centers in a metropolitan area just filled with great garden centers. My talk next Saturday, June 25, will be “Good Planets Are Hard to Find.” (Sound familiar?) Here’s the full line up of the day’s activities.

See you there!