Spring with all its surprises

Several news items below: garden stewardship schedule, workday accomplishments, prescribed burn update, and spring wildflowers! Please scroll, read and respond.

1. Garden days: Wednesdays 5pm-dark, Saturdays 10am- noon

Dear Friends, regular stewardship days have recommenced. Please join us whenever you can, for as long as you can. All are welcome and invited to share the work, learn and teach, share food and music. Don’t delay!

2. April 8 workday accomplishments

Contributed by Phil B.

It was a very productive Saturday, April 8, at the garden!

Things we discussed…

– breaking some of the ongoing jobs into small groups which may add focus to work days (thanks Brendon!) or allow people to work on projects outside of regularly scheduled workdays.

– completing a report after each (Saturday?) garden workday to keep gardeners not in attendance and Ms. Rovito/Waters School apprised of what has been done and possibly flagging items of concern. 

– a timeline and need to shorten and tidy up some of the larger beds veggie beds that impede on the circulation. Especially where walking path enters bed area.

Things we did….

An inventory was made of the cedar fencing that still remains in the tool shed. There is a need to purchase a few more posts so that we can continue the split rail fencing along the outermost path at south/east native planted area (just south of the community plots). We set a goal to add about fifty more feet of cedar fence this season.

Mostly we all teamed up to repair and replace the temporary fencing that has been trampled over the winter. We made good progress. The understory bed along the large shed is now protected. Jeremy and Ewan did a great job putting up temporary fencing near the Serviceberry/Amelanchier to help protect the delicate and very low growing trout lily/ Erythronium americanum. Please take a look on your next trip to garden and let’s all help maintain these soft, protective borders. Please take a moment to pick up sticks, branches and bricks that have been scattered around. Store in cedar shed.

Trash was collected, the hoses got dragged out and the tool shed needs organizing. Poppy diligently uncovered the spiral herb garden and unwintered the roses! Melanie helped organize the composting brown(s) bins, keeping the trash isolated and separated—also, clearing a path for passing by. We made sure everything but the trash had a brick on it to keep folks from throwing garbage on perfectly good leaves. 

Things we’re concerned about…..

When the potato patch was dismantled, the concrete reinforcement steel (6×6’) grids were removed and  leaned up near the greenhouse. We attempted to make them as orderly and safe as possible by adding ribbon and bending in any projectiles. There may be a better place or solution or maybe we need to ask ourselves…does it makes sense to keep them? (Planting in that area is impossible without protection for the growing plants. The steel cages, staked and set teepee style did a great job protecting and trellising the plants. P.L.)

We’ll see you next time or on Wednesday.

3. Prescribed burn

Contributed by Meredith L.

On Monday April 3 at 8:00am, an email popped up from the school with notification that a prescribed burn of the Waters Garden would begin just an hour later at 9:00am! This came as a great surprise because the school and contractor had promised that garden stewards would be alerted in advance so that someone with specific knowledge of the garden’s native plants could be present to consult with the contracted burn crew. Despite the late notice, lack of coordination with garden stewards, and the fact that many volunteers were out of town for spring break, we were able to pull together a group of gardeners to arrive by 9:00am.

While this initial communication oversight was quite concerning, everything went great with the burn itself! The Davey Trees crew very much welcomed garden stewards’ input on which areas to burn and which areas to skip because precious spring ephemerals (like Virginia bluebells, trout lily, and Dutchman’s breeches) have already started to emerge. Fire would kill these beautiful early spring flowers, and it could take years for them to recover, if ever. The whole process only took an hour or so: the 3-person crew showed up around 9:15-9:30, gardeners were able to do a walkaround with them, they had fire on the ground at little before 10:00 and were finished up by about 10:30. The weather wasn’t the most cooperative, with barely any wind and drizzle starting midway through, so the burn ended up being a bit patchy. Excitingly, the crew was even able to burn the swale despite the construction–this was a high priority for us due to the buildup of grass fuel in that space! At the end, the contractor’s burn boss even asked about our background because it sounded like we had industry experience, so it seems like they found the volunteers’ contributions valuable. Cheers to a successful burn!

4. Spring wildflowers!


This a photo of Bloodroot, a native ephemeral wildflower. You can walk for blocks and miles around our neighborhood and not witness this plant that was once an integral part of the spring native plant community. It lives at Waters!!!! Its blossom time is short. Hot days cause it to drop its petals. But the plant continues to draw in sunlight and CO2 and to grow, its roots and bulbs. In years when the weather is cool, they will put out a spectacular show! We are blessed. Pleeeeeease protect them.

Check out this animation that shows the progress of bloodroot blooming as the season progresses. We are part of a worldwide movement monitoring the changes brought about by climate change. These bloodroot blossoms are helping us to learn and understand. Thanks to Jeremy A. for the photos and animation.

Spring Beauty

This is Spring Beauty. It is small and hidden. Can you find it? It is rare, outside of the forest preserves. It is a jewel. It has taken us 20+ years to re-introduce it to our neighborhood, our garden. Please look for it! Ask for a guided tour. Or come to our stewardship days, to get acquainted.