I’ve noticed a couple of small gardens emerge in the Little Village
neighborhood in Chicago this spring and summer. Today I got a lead on
who was responsible for these tiny gardens from Lee Bouchard at Urban Habitat Chicago and her suspicion that they were managed by Enlace Chicago turned out to be correct. I called the number on Enlace’s
website and within an hour I was at one of the locations with extra
plants and seeds I wouldn’t get a chance to get to this year and an
eager audience of young gardeners.
These Pocket Parks are built on empty lots in Chicago with permission of the property owners and are a temporary solution to the problem of urban blight. The Pocket Park I visited today is next to a foreclosed home and in the “yard” of a shuttered cookie factory that in a few years will become home to a green build immigrant resource center that will serve the community.
Today, the vacant lot is home to a small ornamental garden and a vegetable garden in raised beds and acts as an open air-classroom where these Chicago teens learn about gardening, urban gardening and the environment.
We talked about companion plantings and trap crops for their vegetable garden. I found myself happily demonstrating how one of the weeds growing in their garden was home to dozen of black aphids while their vegetable garden just four feet away was pest free. We made homemade plant labels for the plants I shared and explained how many of the things we throw away can be reused in the garden and kept out of landfills. The kids, including my four-year-old nephew who was acting as my assistant, planted marigolds and Nasturtiums and direct sowed some extra Zinnia and sunflower seeds I had.
I was impressed by how genuinely interested the kids were in what we were talking about and just how much they already knew about gardening, plants and the possibility of green collar jobs in their future.
If you look closely at the photo above you may notice that in
some cases tall plants were planted at the front of the beds and short
plants in the center. I smiled when I saw that because I made the same
mistake in my garden beds, but now they know that the ground covers go
in the front of the bed followed my the medium-sized plants and then
the tall plants.
Thanks, to Enlace and the kids for letting me interrupt your cleanup day to talk about gardening and thanks for the lemonade. I got a lot of sun, I’m achy, hungry and tired–but I couldn’t have planned a better day.
Note: The group responsible for building and maintaining these gardens calls them Pocket Parks. A Google search returns people using the term Pocket Garden to refer to small space gardens (like this corner lot) and plants planted in crevasses.