Chicago Youth Centers new garden space (10/17/2018)

Earlier this year, Chicago Youth Centers’s Bronzeville location Elliott Donelly Youth Center decided to create a large new garden space in their giant sand pit! Needless to say, I was absolutely thrilled with this idea. I designed a plan for the space during my Edible Landscaping and Container Design certification course with Windy City Harvest:

I envisioned a keyhole entryway, and a teardrop shaped path around the center space. I also made a crop plan for Spring, Summer and Fall. Then, together with the Gardening Club youth, and my friend Ryan who I also enlisted to help, we brought it to life!

Early in the Springtime, the center added about 6in of compost on top of the sand. I knew this wouldn’t be enough, so we added a TON more, probably amounting to 3-4 cubic yards, to build the compost up to 1-1.5 feet deep. I knew we needed more compost because in that size garden, with the amount of plants we would ideally have, they would need more space for rooting… if they didn’t have that, we would likely be dealing with unhealthy plants, which leads to pest infestations. I explained this to the center and thankfully, they was able to import a ton more compost!

First I placed the woodchip mulch pathways and center space, and the youth enthusiastically helped add the compost and finish off the woodchips. It turned out exactly as I had imagined it!

I guided the youth to plant different varieties of tomatoes (red cherry, sungolds and green zebras), peppers (black beauty, banana, thai chiles and jalapeños), green beans, Tondo di Scuro squash (huge!!), cucumbers, parsley and mint, along with non-edible ornamentals such as hostas, prairie grass, ferns, elephant ears, and wandering Jew. Throughout the rest of Summer and into Fall, the garden has been healthy and thriving, and we’ve been enjoying the harvest 🙂 The youth and staff have been taking great care of their new garden space! The staff also love to harvest on their own, which I’m very happy to see!

The weather is starting to turn consistently colder, but plenty of produce is still harvestable. We’ve still got a Fall crop of baby greens growing too. Just today we planted garlic! It will overwinter and be ready next Spring 🙂