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Sustainable backyards

A Northwest Side park which has become a hive of urban gardening activity will hold its first garden exchange tomorrow, featuring workshops on creating “sustainable backyards.”

The event takes place at  Kilbourn Park Organic Greenhouse, 3501 N. Kilbourn (Saturday, March 5 from 1 to 4 p.m.) and raises funds to support programming for children.

It’s the Chicago Park District’s only “teaching organic greenhouse,” and it features the only public fruit tree orchard in a major city, along with a prairie garden with native wildflowers, a rain garden, and a popular community garden. It’s all backed by a large and enthusiastic group of volunteers (and a Facebook page), said coordinator Kirsten Akre.

The garden exchange will offer donated gardening and cooking supplies, tools, books and magazines at cut-rate prices. Organic compost will be for sale along with seeds for early spring plants, and a rain barrel and a composter will be raffled off.

Three workshops in the fieldhouse are available (there’s a $5 charge for each).  Seneca Kern of We Farm will offer an introduction to organic gardening, Blayne Greiner of the Chicago Botanical Garden’s Windy City Harvest will discuss “farming the frost” with plants appropriate to early spring gardening, and Ellen Meyer of DuPage Master Gardeners will speak on “winter sowing,” using small containers to grow seedlings for transplant.

In the greenhouse there will be free demonstrations covering soil by Robert Lee, a Chicago master gardener; worm composting by master composter Lila Russell; and rain barrels and composting bins by Kathleen Boyle, a Chicago Conservation Corps volunteer.  (CCC now has a blog tracking some of the activities of its many volunteers, by the way.)

Educational efforts at the greenhouse range from programming for preschool and elementary school kids to service learning for high school students, Akre said.

“They get so enthused,” she said.  “They beg me for salad, they beg me for kale.  They want to grow, they want to cook.”

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Category: community gardens, food

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