Sunny and Hot, Snowy and Cold

Read on for news on our spring wildflowers and a visit from the Openlands Treekeepers, notes and reminders for community gardeners, and updates from last Saturday’s garden stewardship day.

Spring wildflowers and a visit from the Openland Treekeepers

Contributed by Pete Leki

It’s true: one day hot, one day cold. People love sunny and warm, but native spring ephemerals thrive in cool, even cold, and moist temperatures. Bloodroot, pictured above, will loose its petals in a single day if it is too sunny and hot. They cover the ground like snow. Every day new flowers are appearing: celandine poppies, Pennsylvania sedge, shooting stars in bud, bluebells, and trout lilies. Seek them out. But, please don’t cross fence lines or pick any flowers. These plants were once plentiful in our area. Today they only exist where they have been restored: planted, tended and protected. Please be one of the protectors.

A visit from the Openlands Treekeepers

Waters School Garden also hosts to some of the most valuable trees in the Chicago region. Our Bur oaks are mighty and mature survivors of two centuries of furious development, draining of the river, and the utter destruction of the ecosystems that covered the land. Today, our garden includes scores of other rare trees, shrubs and flowers that create habitat for insects and animals, including us, humans. In the picture above, we are sharing the story of the restoration of the ecosystem under the oaks with the Openlands Treekeepers group.

Welcome back, community gardeners!

Contributed by Arunas

The weather is finally nice enough to get out and do some gardening (it was on Saturday, at least). Here are some things to know about Waters Garden in 2023:

  • We’re [still] gardening!
  • Garden days are on Wednesdays (5:00 p.m. – Sunset) and Saturdays (10:00 a.m. – Noonish). We’ve had a few productive work days so far, but we’d love to see more of you. Join us if you want to get more involved and spend a nice day outside.
  • Please let me know if you had a plot last year but will not be gardening this year, otherwise I’ll assume you’re gardening. If your garden is still fallow in mid-May, there’s a chance it will be given away to someone else. That being said, now is a great time to plant some cold weather crops, like lettuce, spinach, kale, chard, broccoli, etc.
  • We likely will not be getting that great soil from NeighborSpace that we’ve gotten in years past, so if you need to energize your plot, Gesthemene Garden Center in Andersonville and the Farmer’s Market garden store on Elston sell organic soil by the bag. If you use Wastenot for your composting, I believe they provide their members soil, so check that out. We also have some compost in one of the bins, but you’d have to get that on a Wednesday or Saturday workday.
  • The water is on and we have access to all the taps, as well as a couple of new ones, and the water barrels are full. Please be sure to keep lids on the water barrels around the garden. If you see one with its lid off, please put it on. Despite what you may have read, squirrels are not good swimmers. If you see an empty water barrel and have a few minutes, fill it up (or even half fill it up).
  • Some of the plots look a little busted up this spring, but they look like they should be easy enough to repair, and we have plans to convert a couple of the large plots (from gardeners who aren’t returning this year) into smaller plots, so if you don’t love your garden plot, we may have some better options this year. We submitted an order for some wood and other materials with the principal, so hopefully that comes in soon, and we’ll announce a workday for fixing and building plots once we get the materials.
  • Waters needs waterers. In the summer the community gardeners help keep all the gardens on the school (west) side of the garden and many of the green areas watered. It usually takes about an hour and it’s a nice way to help keep the garden growing. If you have a free hour during the week and you like water, reach out and we’ll make you a Waters Waterer.

While the garden has seen significant changes over the last year and created many new challenges, it has also given us the opportunity to grow the garden in new and interesting ways. It has also reminded us how tenuous our existence is and how much the garden depends on our involvement. We have some ideas of how to get people more involved this year and also welcome any ideas you might have to keep the garden vibrant, but the best way to get involved is to plant your seeds and plants, keep your plot in order and watered, and show up for a garden day.

Happy gardening!

Swamp buttercup (Ranunculus septentrionalis)

Report from April 15, 2023 garden day

Contributed by Poppy

Warm Saturday already seems like a long time ago. There weren’t many of us but here’s what was worked on:

  • Placed compost (from our own compost bins) around the base of the raspberries in the nature play space and along the west side of the school. 
  • Put rope (reminder not to trample!) fencing up in the nature play space area (there is still so much more to go up and stick fencing to be repaired!)
  • Moved wandering wild geranium, Virginia waterleaf, and yellow violets to the a mound in the Journeys & Refuge Garden, just west of the linden tree where we had transplanted ferns (a few of which made it over the winter and are fiddleheading out of their straw coverage), tulips, and currants last year. We covered the new transplants with leaf mulch using up the last of those bags that had been taking up space in the shed.
  • Repaired brick-smashed-through-the door-damage to one of the storage cupboards of the pizza oven.
  • Eradicated some of the dreaded lesser celadine (invasive flower that is often mistaken for a buttercup).
  • Cleared A LOT of trash from the property.

And again: How can we find a way to make this a children’s school ground that they can explore and enjoy but not destroy? We don’t want the garden to look like these areas that we no longer tend to…