Spooky trees, a spooky election and Mr. Brown Thumb on “Good Growing” in Chicago

October 31, 2010

Spooky trees in spooky places

Now, I don’t want to SCARE you…even on Halloween…or maybe I do, but there’s something a little, um off-center about my friend Guy Sternberg. It’s not just that he stands about six-foot-six and has the deepest voice in horticulture (I’m going to make him say “You raaang?” on the show), but he has this fascination with trees. Of course, a lot of people like trees. Some even hug them (you can include me in that group.) But Guy is the kind of, er, guy who starts his own arboretum by planting as many trees as he can possibly get his hands on. It’s called Starhill Forest Arboretum and it’s located in Petersburg, Illinois, just down the road a piece from New Salem, where Abraham Lincoln hung his legal shingle for awhile.

But that’s not the only thing that sets him apart. Sternberg wants to tell you all about creepy but cool trees that grow in cemeteries. Heck, I didn’t even know that was a category! He’s teaching a course called Cemetery Botany at the Morton Arboretum on Halloween Day from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. in the Vistor Center.

They tell me you’ll discover why particular trees are found in cemeteries, what different trees on headstones symbolize, and how cemeteries can contain botanical history. The class will show photos from cemeteries all over the country.

Of course, while I have him in the studio, I’ll ask him about the status of the Kewanee Osage-Orange tree, which was one of the stops on the 2010 Stihl Tour des Trees in July. Guy and I and about sixty cyclists spent a couple of hours with this historic tree, which pre-dates the Civil War. That very day, it was pruned by another superb arborist–and another Guy–Guy Meilleur. As of now, the tree is still standing and healthy…thanks to the work of many people, including the two Guys.

Voting for the environment in Illinois

Voting isn’t what it used to be…and that’s not a bad thing. What I mean is that, in the past, this would be the day when I urged people to get out to the polls next Tuesday, and hoped that rain wouldn’t be forecast because it would hold the numbers down. Well, I’m still urging people to vote on Tuesday, but I know that many (including me) have already cast their ballots. So this kind of last minute information post has less of an effect than it once did.

Nevertheless, many of you haven’t voted yet, and since my passion is the environment, I’m talking today about green issues and which candidates are most likely to support them. That’s why Jack Darin, Director of the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club, and Max Muller, Program Director for Environment Illinois are stopping by to talk about their respective organizations’ political endorsements for 2010.

Click here for Illinois political endorsements from Illinois Sierra Club.
Click here for Illinois political endorsements from Environment Illinois.

Introducing “Good Growing” on The Mike Nowak Show!

Starting with today’s show, I will be featuring correspondents who stop by once a week for a short segment I call “Good Growing.” I can’t possibly cover everything that’s going on in the gardening/horticulture/urban farming world, so I’ve enlisted the aid of some pretty impressive friends to talk with me about a wide range of topics. For instance:

  • the “new” gardening, with an emphasis on environmental sanity
  • the people who are growing our food, including urban/rural farmers and farmers in training
  • community gardens of all kinds
  • news stories about urban policies, breakthroughs in growing techniques, weather and more
  • tips for gardeners and farmers, whether they grow crops, flowers or both
  • horticultural and environmental events that are of interest to growers

Some of the correspondents will be people like Martha Boyd, Program Director of the Chicago Urban Initiative for Angelic Organics Learning Center and her colleagues Tom Spaulding and Sheri Doyel.

Today, we kick off with Mr. Brown Thumb, who is ubiquitous on blogs, Twitter and Facebook. Here are some of the subjects we will try to get through (probably not all of them…but that’s why you can always go to some of these links.)

Mr. Brown Thumb writes:

Urban Gardening

Now is the time of year when you prepare your garden for next year. Gather fallen leaves and use them as leaf mulch or add them to your compost pile. Plant ornamental bulbs like tulips and edibles like garlic. If you’re too busy to get everything in the ground now, pre-dig holes so you can plop your bulbs into the ground in case we get a hard freeze before you’re finished. Save seeds from your garden to plant next year. You can also sow seeds for perennials that need a cold treatment now directly into the soil.


70-foot blue spruce from McHenry has been chosen to be Chicago’s Christmas tree.

Chicago Wilderness Congress 2010.

Thursday, November 4 9AM-4:30PM . Program covers Chicago Wilderness strategic initiatives: to restore the health of local nature, implement the Chicago Wilderness Green Infrastructure Vision, combat climate change, and leave no child inside. Registration Fee: Registration is $50 at the door student rate $20 more info at www.Chicagowilderness.org/congress.php

Black Farmers & Urban Gardeners Conference

November 19-21 Brooklyn College, Brooklyn, NY. In the 1920 over 14% of U.S farmers were African American. By 2007 that number was less than 2%. The Black Farmers & Urban Gardeners Conference will focus on green jobs and food-related issues that contribute to inequality. Will Allen, Growing Power Founder & CEO will be the keynote speaker on November 20, 2010. More info at http://www.blackfarmersconf.org/home-1


3rd Annual Bioneers at MCC Conference. Saturday November 6th, 2010 Topics include how to make Local Food Happen, Becoming a Locovore, and Healthy Food and Schools. There will be a Green Living Expo added to the event this year that will showcase green services and products.  More info at http://www.mcbioneers.com/

Frontera Farmer Foundation

Midwest family farms that practice sustainable farming can apply for the capital grant from Frontera Farmer Foundation. http://www.rickbayless.com/foundation/downloadapp.html

MrBrownThumb is the screen name of an urban gardener in Chicago. He can be found at his eponymous blog MrBrownThumb and Chicago Garden at ChicagoNow.