Walking around in the heat

July 17, 2011

Just in time for garden walks…the hottest weather in 6 years

Sometimes you just have to wonder why folks schedule garden walks for the summer. I mean, aside from the fact that that’s when plants are growing. If it were me, I’d look at January. Aside from the occasional blizzard, there’s not a lot going on in that month, and you certainly don’t have to deal with heat waves. As you can tell, I’m not much of a fan of hot weather. And we’re going to get it in spades this week.

I can always tell when we’re about to encounter a weather anomaly because meteorologist Rick DiMaio starts sending me websites to peruse. This week, he even sent me a PowerPoint presentation called “Heat Waves and Droughts: A Silent Killer.” You might want to check it out.

Rick also has some very important information regarding kids and cars. He says that, on average, nearly 50 children die in cars each year due to heat.  Pets are also susceptible and should not be taken for granted. There’s more at this website.

Like I said, however, a lot of garden walks happen at this time of year. To get an overview of what’s out there for July, you can click onto Chicagoland Gardening Magazine’s garden walks page. One of the country’s oldest events of this kind is the Dearborn Garden Walk, now in its 53rd year. That walk is being held today, July 17 from noon to 5 pm. Tickets are $35 each and the entry is at The Latin Lower School, 1531 North Dearborn in Chicago.

The 43rd Annual Sheffield Garden Walk and Festival is a the younger sibling by 10 years but it doesn’t take a back seat in terms of fun. Master Gardener and former Chicago Gardener of the Year Laury Lewis stops by the studio today for his annual visit to plug the two day event and to help me answer gardening questions. Here’s most of what you need to know:

  • More than 90 gardens to view on a self-guided tour, Saturday and Sunday noon – 5:30 pm
  • Guided Garden Tours 3:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
  • Guided Architectural Tours, Saturday at 2:00 pm and 4:00 pm, Sunday at 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm. Italianate, Romanesque and Queen Anne architectural styles will be viewed.
  • Ask a Master Gardner, Saturday and Sunday 1:00 – 4:00 pm
  • Bands each day from 12:15 to 10:00 p.m., including Soul Asylum and Poi Dog Pondering
  • Kids’ Corner – free family entertainment
  • Barry Winograd and the Alternatives Big Band will play on the grounds of the Little Sisters of the Poor, on Belden between Lakewood and Racine, Saturday 2:00 – 5:00 pm. On Sunday, Barry and the Alternatives Little Band will entertain from 1:00 – 5:00 pm.
  • Food Vendors, featuring Robinson’s Ribs, Sal’s Deli, Quang Noodle, Kasia’s Deli and St. Vincent de Paul.

Impressively, about 450 volunteers contribute their time and effort to this community event. Proceeds provide continued support for neighborhood schools, local institutions, and community projects. In addition, proceeds are allocated to SNA’s Award-Winning Beautification Program, a 7-10 year plan to maintain Sheffield as the Garden District of Chicago.

Information for one other garden walk of note today was sent to me by Doug Wood of the Wicker Park Garden Club. He says that the Graceland West Community Association’s 29th annual Garden Walk (also known as Donna Forsberg’s Garden Walk) will take place this afternoon from noon-5PM, free.

This is a self-guided tour of 50 gardens including our famous Warner Park which was voted  one of the “best places to relax and read” in Chicago. Enjoy our friendly neighbors on tree lined streets with lovely homes on spacious lots.

Pick up a map at 4334 N. Greenview (DONNA’S HOUSE). The boundaries are Clark-Ashland-Montrose-Irving Park. For more info, donnaforsberg@sbcglobal.net

Gardening and environment stories on my radar

Since Laury Lewis and I will be chatting about gardening and other things, I thought I’d list a few items that have caught my eye recently. I hope you will find them useful.

  • I mentioned this WAY too briefly on my show last week. Julie Bass, a ,mother of six in Oak Park, Michigan (not to be confused in any way, shape or form with Oak Park, Illinois or any other Oak Park in the nation) was cited by her city for growing vegetables in her front yard. Ring a bell? That’s what happened last fall in the Chicago suburb of Northbrook, when Alex Lyakhovetsky and his mother Dora quickly became the poster children for the suburban Locavore movement. In that case, it ended happily, when Northbrook decided to allow front yard vegetable gardens without size restrictions. Not so much–so far–in Oak Park, Michigan. Only God knows why a city government–WHICH HAS ALREADY LOST THIS BATTLE IN THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION–would dig in its heels. And yet, it does. All you have to do is scroll through a few of the latest posts on Julie’s blog, Oak Park Hates Veggies, to see that Oak Park is acting pretty much like a fourteen-year-old who can’t believe that it isn’t getting exactly what it wants. Our love of lawns, benign shrubs and pesticides that will will wipe out anything that doesn’t remotely look like a blade of grass has gone far beyond fetish. When it keeps people from growing their own food, simply because their neighbors don’t like the “aesthetic,” we have become a gravely ill society.
  • DuPont recently had an herbicide called Imprelis approved by the EPA for use on lawns. It was supposed to be more environmentally friendly than other lawn treatments, while killing pernicious weeds like creeping charlie and violets (if you consider them weeds–it’s all in the perception, kids). Now Imprelis has been implicated in the death of thousands of Norway spruces, eastern white pines and other trees on lawns and golf courses across the country. Oops, our bad.
  • As we head into a week of plus-90 temperatures, Paul Tukey has some good advice about lawns, cool-season grasses and fungal diseases.
  • Remember earlier in the year when I applauded Governor Pat Quinn for vetoing a bill that would have created a coal-gasification plant on Chicago’s southeast side? I take it back. This week, the governor approved the plant, after “consumer protections” were added to the bill. The NRDC’s Rebecca Standfield takes Quinn to task for his short-sighted decision.
  • I was on Mighty House Saturday morning and Ron Cowgill asked me why I planted onions next to strawberries in the WCPT Parking Lot Farm. He wondered if I was trying to mix the flavors. Well, what I was doing is practicing something called “companion planting,” which is when you mix certain crops and ornamental plants to increase yield. You can find specific lists of plants and their buddies on these pages at Seeds of Change and Golden Harvest Organics.
  • Climate change is already taking a toll on five national parks in the Great Lakes region, according to a new study by the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization (RMCO) and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The major factors of decline are higher temperatures, less winter ice, erosion of shorelines and dunes, loss of wildlife and loss of birds.
  • File this under the heading “No Brainer.” A new study from the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) concludes that the simplification of the landscape has led to an increased abundance of crop pests and therefore higher use of insecticides.