For Chicagoans who want to garden but don't have the time or resources to start their own garden, volunteering to work in a garden around Chicago may be the best option. You get to work with plants, meet fellow gardeners, and learn about gardening by getting your hands dirty. Volunteering also a good learning experience for new gardeners who may be thinking about starting a garden but aren't sure if they want to devote their free time to the hobby. Take a garden out for a test drive and see if gardening is right for you by volunteering with these school gardens, conservatories, garden clubs and community garden in Chicago.
The Lincoln Park Zoo is expanding their gardening education tours and programs. From April through September zoo visitors can take part in free garden tours the second Saturday of each month at 10 a.m. The zoo is also offering a series of gardening workshops this year perfect for those interest in ornamental gardening, in particular native plants. See my April 2011 events post for the first workshop on troughs and pots. Brian Houck, director of horticulture at Lincoln Park Zoo, tells me that he's trying to grow their volunteer gardening program to extend over into the Nature Boardwalk as well. If you're interesting in volunteering with the restoration project at the Lincoln Park Zoo, contact Lauren Pike, Volunteer Manager, at email@example.com.
The Garfield Park Conservatory has a great volunteer program that enables people to help in the gardens and diverse programs the conservatory offers. They're currently experiencing a surge in volunteer applications but check back with their website to see when they re-open the volunteer application process.
Another great organization to check with is OpenLands if your gardening interests skews more towards conservation, green spaces, trees and native plants.
Community Gardens in Chicago
If the hits to this garden blog are any indication, a lot of Chicagoans are looking to volunteer at community gardens this year. If you're looking for a community garden near you or a chance to volunteer, check with NeighborSpace, Chicago's land trust for community gardens. My friends at the Thomas Street Garden in West Town/Humboldt Park are currently looking for volunteers for two work days coming up on April 23 and May 14th. The projects include: spring cleaning, dividing perennials hardscaping and assembling a new compost bin. The Peterson Garden is looking for volunteers and will be holding orientation during the weekend of April 9th-10th. Clarendon Park Community Garden this Sunday (April 10th) 10:30 am - 2:00 pm Clarendon Park (Just North of the Park house), 4501 North Clarendon Avenue. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org if you can make it. April 16th preSERVE Garden in North Lawndale. Help green-ify the neighborhood and teach the value of growing and eating fresh, healthy foods in one of Chicago's food deserts. From 10:00 am - 3:00 pm on Saturday, April 16th, volunteers will spread planting material on the garden beds, move mulch and wood chips, and plant collard greens and kale. Lunch will be provided! Spaces are limited, please RSVP to email@example.com. More info here.
They're more than just a way to socialize with other gardeners. Garden clubs in Chicago offer many learning opportunities that you can't get if you garden by yourself. See my listing of garden clubs around Chicago to locate a garden club near you and see if they need volunteers for plant sales, meeting, lectures and workshops. The Wicker Park Garden Club is currently looking for volunteers for their annual plant sale and fundraiser the weekend of May 7th & 8th from 10AM-4PM. Volunteers who work 4 hours receive a 10% discount on plant prices. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 773-278-9075 for more information.
Years after graduating high school I sometimes still have those weird dreams like the one where you're walking down the hallways nude or you learn right before graduation that you don't have enough credits to graduate. So I was really surprised when I agreed to go to my old high school last year to meet the newly formed school garden club. I've already scheduled a workday for this May and am looking forward to see how these young gardeners are doing and their plans to expand the school garden. If you don't mind being reminded that you're getting old school gardens are a great place to volunteer and share your gardening knowledge. The Perspective Charter Schools IIT/MSA on Chicago's South Side needs help with the care and maintainence of 12 raised beds. Volunteers at this school garden would help facilitate lessons about the needs and methods of urban gardening. Time commitment would be flexible and could be 7am-5pm M-F. Contact Dan King at email@example.com.
Skinner North Elementary, between Halsted and Larrabee, will be planting trees to provide wildlife habitat and cleaning up the playground and is looking for volunteers through the One Brick program on Saturday, May 7th. More info here.
Need volunteers for your garden? Leave me a message and I'll add you to this post.
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