News

Community Singing at the Garden

Saturday Feb. 3, 1:00–2:00 p.m.

Mark your calendars! All interested gardeners and neighbors are invited to a song circle at the Waters Garden fire pit next Saturday Feb. 3 from 1:00–2:00 p.m. We’ll get together to sing around the fire—led by Megan Eberhardt, who also leads a similar monthly event at the Old Town School—and share hot chocolate. We will pass the hat, and any donations to support Megan’s work as a song leader will be appreciated.

Surprise January Garden Day!

If you’ve been to the garden on a wet day, you may have noticed that the main path from Sunnyside to the school becomes a bit of a muddy lake.

But a solution has arrived! We recently received a load of gravel, and with unseasonably warm and hopefully dry weather in the forecast for this weekend, a volunteer crew will be gathering tomorrow (Saturday 1/27) starting around 9:00am to lay it down on the path.

Join us for this rare and special January garden day – as the saying goes, many hands make light work!

Garden Winter Break + Solstice at the Riverbank

Winter is rolling in, and our stewardship days will be taking a break until spring.

In the meantime, Waters gardening friends are invited to our sister-site, Riverbank Neighbors Natural Area, for:

Riverbank Neighbors Winter Solstice Gathering
Saturday, December 23, 2023
1:00 until Sundown
2556 West Berteau (Berteau and the east bank of the River)

There will be a warm fire burning, and we will share food and drinks, warm and chilled, stories, news, songs, impromptu dancing… Please join us for a moment or the duration.

Garden Day To-Do List

Well well well, Saturday looks like it will be a nice day for Fall gardening. I plan on being there by 9:00 but I have to leave by 11:00 for a Friends of the Park event. Here are some thoughts and observations:

Bravo to parkway plantings:
I went to the school yesterday, sunny and lovely, to check out a few things. And I noted that the parkway plantings along Campbell and Maplewood look well-tended and healthy. Bravo to those of you who put time in to make them more presentable and more productive. More signage?

More sapling pruning needed:
There are still more saplings that need pruning. We did A LOT last Saturday, burned up the smaller pieces, and stored the heftier pieces for future twig fencing. Again, bravo.

Dried, bagged oak leaves useful:
We have a lot of leaves laying around. The non-oak leaves tend to rot and disappear by the end of Spring. But oak leaves can serve another purpose. If we burn the natural areas in the Spring, and there is not enough grassy fuel, we can prepare for the burn by distributing oak leaves that have been bagged and stored in the shed overwinter. It used to be a fun task for students to rake and store oak leaves, and helpful.

“Everbearing” raspberries:
We have a lot of these raspberries (I think they have been “modified” by selective cultivation). Anyway, you may have seen raspberries fruiting in late summer and early fall. By now, all that is left is the late, spent carpels of the fruit. I always heard that you should cut these canes to the ground, and they will produce a good crop next Fall. So I hope to label all our “everbearing” rasps, so that we can handle them differently. Let’s have a look on Saturday!

Regular raspberry pruning:
Some of you have heard my instructions on raspberries pruning, which I more or less stand by. But here is a really nice video about pruning in a more commercial, less chaotic setting than we host. Check it out and let’s compare notes.

What a blessing of days,
Pete

Another Garden Day + Witch Hazel

Join us on Saturday, 10:00am until noon, for garden stewardship! We’ve been grateful for a string of unseasonably pleasant Saturday morning weather throughout the fall, and there is always more to do to get the garden settled for winter. But our luck will certainly run out sooner or later, so come on by tomorrow for what could be our last workday of the season!

Focus on… Witch Hazel

The final native plant to flower each year is the witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana). We have two witch hazel trees at Waters, and they can bloom as late as Christmas. Their delicate flowers have four yellow petals and four yellow sepals. Once pollinated, the seed capsule takes a year to mature. During this maturation process the seed capsule turns into a mini seed canon. As it dries out, it begins to deform, which applies pressure to the seed inside it. Eventually this force is large enough to overcome the seed’s resistance, and the seed is fired out at speeds of up to 30 mph.

The witch hazel in the south swale is host to the witch-hazel cone gall aphid (Hormaphis hamamelidis), an insect with a fascinating life cycle that includes seven distinct generations over the course of a year, three of which occur on the nearby river birch (Betula nigra) trees. One of the generations lives in a gall that forms on the leaves of the witch hazel. You can see these galls throughout the year protruding from the leaves.

The witch hazel in the south swale has been blooming for the last month or so. The witch hazel closer to the school main entrance is blooming now. Go check them out.

The “Focus On” series is written by Jeremy Atherton, the parent of a Waters 5th grader. He is a research scientist at Northwestern University Medical School. In addition to volunteering at Waters Garden, he is a steward at Riverbank Neighbors and a member of the 47th Ward Green Council.

Preparing for Winter

Join us on Saturday, 10:00am until noon, for garden stewardship! Temperatures are slated to be in the 50s with maybe even a peek of sun.

I try to be open to this moment of change, of ending, of hunkering down, aware of the clouds and sky and winds and birds… The cold took me by surprise. I was at the library, shivering from my bike ride. There was a box for donation of winter clothes. I admit, I took a look. I realize that these clothes were meant for the homeless, refugees and poor. To be cold is to be poor. It also made me think about the scores of boots and coats and gloves we have collected for Waters Ecology over the years. Today, they are sitting in the shed, unused and taking up space. Marsha and I were thinking that this Saturday we would go through, vet and clean the boots and clothes, and get them to those in need. And like the well-ordered and cleaned cedar shed, we can try to straighten up the “other” shed, tools, materials, cooking stuff. A good way to feather the nest to prepare for the winter.

—Pete

Last Wednesday night stewardship of 2023

Join us tomorrow, Oct. 25, 5:00pm to dusk for the last Wednesday evening garden stewardship gathering of the season. We’ll continue to meet on Saturdays as the weather permits, but it is time to bid farewell to our Wednesday gatherings as the sunset time creeps too early for weeknights to be workable. Come enjoy the unseasonably mild temperatures while they last!

Stewardship Saturday, Kidical Mass Sunday, + Talking to Kids About Climate Change

Join us on Saturday, 10:00am until noon, for our usual garden stewardship gathering, and come by on Sunday for Kidical Mass followed by a celebration in the garden!

Sunday: Kidical Mass and Garden Celebration

Join Kidical Mass this Sunday, October 22, for a slow, easy-going, and fun group ride focused on kids of all ages and families that will tour the Lincoln Square neighborhood and end with a celebration in Waters Garden!

The bike ride will gather @ Waters Elementary 10:00am; depart @ 10:30am. Festive dress and decorations encouraged. All kids must bring a parent/guardian with a bike.

Cyclists will return to Waters @ 11:00ish for a Garden Celebration until about 1:00pm, including stories, snacks, and activities. The neighborhood garden jam will join the fun during this time as well. All musicians welcome, so bring your instruments!

Focus on… Talking to Children About Climate Change

Our children are going to live through one of the most challenging crises humans have ever faced. On a global scale, the summer of 2023 gave us the hottest months ever recorded, and fires ravaged huge areas of the planet, while other areas experienced extreme rainfall and epic floods. Climate scientists warn that within 10 years this will be our normal summer, and by the time they are grandparents, our children will look back at the summer of 2023 as a mild one.

How do we prepare our children for this crisis? I believe that one element of such preparation is ecology education. Waters Garden enables us to give our children a grounding in field ecology and an understanding of how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together, so that maybe, when everything falls apart, they will have the knowledge that they need to help put it back together. It’s not everything that they will need, but it is something positive that we can do in the face of what can seem like a hopeless problem.

It is not hopeless. There is hope for the future. Amazing people are working to combat climate change, we all should join them in that fight, both in our day-to-day choices and through demanding that our elected representatives enact meaningful change. Even so, it can be difficult to discuss these issues with your children, which is why the 47th Ward Green Council would like to invite you to ‘How to Talk to Children About Climate Change’ on November 9 at 6 p.m. at the Sulzer library. RSVP here.

The “Focus On” series is written by Jeremy Atherton, the parent of a Waters 5th grader. He is a research scientist at Northwestern University Medical School. In addition to volunteering at Waters Garden, he is a steward at Riverbank Neighbors and a member of the 47th Ward Green Council.

Roll up the hoses, straighten the shed

The curtain is coming down on another year of gardening. But it’s not over yet. There are raspberries to transplant, hoses to coil and stow, sheds to declutter and fires to warm us, food and stories and news to share. Wednesday nights are short now, but some of us will be there, 5:00pm until dusk.

—Pete

Garden Critters

The temperatures are falling, but tomorrow’s forecast still calls for some sunshine. Join us on Saturday, 10:00am until noon, for garden stewardship!

Focus on… Critters

It’s not just plants that live in Waters’ garden. Here’s a small selection of insects seen over the last few months.

The “Focus On” series is written by Jeremy Atherton, the parent of a Waters 5th grader. He is a research scientist at Northwestern University Medical School. In addition to volunteering at Waters Garden, he is a steward at Riverbank Neighbors and a member of the 47th Ward Green Council.

Climate Change & Mosquitos: The Biting Truth

Meredith was fascinated by this Illinois Environmental Council webinar about mosquito abatement, which covered how climate change is affecting our mosquito population and what sustainable solutions are available.

Watch the recording on YouTube here!