Sunday, August 17, 2014

Urban Gardening / Farming - Tour of Rick Bayless Property, Chicago

In August I toured the Chicago urban farm and garden owned by Rick Bayless - chef and restaurateur. The garden features a mix of traditional beds, raised beds, containers and vertical garden space.  It hosts annuals (Tropical), herbs, vegetables, Citrus, fruit, succulents, and "farm" animals.

The garden was started over 15 years ago - as a hobby, but also as a demonstration of urban agriculture and to support organic greens and vegetables for his culinary needs. Since then it's grown to cover three city lots.  The vegetable growing space is over 1,000 square feet and includes indoor and "alternative growing spaces."  By alternative I'm referencing porch grow-box, vertical gardens, as well as indoor space utilizing grow lights.

Chicago Urban Garden (see the beehive)
At the start of the tour the guide and full-time gardener stated "don't try this at home" indicating that the garden has evolved overtime and is a business with nearly 6-8 part time

Carnivorous Plants - Fun "interactive" display

The Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago currently has a plant bog full of carnivorous plants. It was very fun to not only see the plants - but to really watch them at work. It only takes a few moments to see flies swarm and crawl into these beautiful flowers - never to return. 
Carnivorous plants in Chicago

Carnivorous plants derive some or most of their nutrients from trapping and consuming insects. Carnivorous plants grow in places where the soil is thin or poor in nutrients, especially nitrogen, such as acidic bogs and rock outcroppings. Thus their adaptation to consume insects for nutrients.  Charles Darwin wrote the first comprehensive book on carnivorous plants in 1875 - Insectivorous Plants, the first well-known treatise on carnivorous plants, in 1875! This is about the same time that plans for the park, gardens, and first conservatory in now Garfield Park in Chicago were forming. 

The conservatory recreated a bog in a shady area in a nice elevated bed. The display does a nice job of sharing different trapping mechanisms - and placement makes it so easy to see.  There is also a nice range of various "fly catching" techniques."

I did see a sign that said do not touch, but I didn't see a sign that said "no feeding the plants!"

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Urban Children's Garden Revisited - Harvest time

In spring I had the pleasure of touring an after-school programs urban garden - which was growing along the fence between two buildings. The photo at the right shows you the location of the garden along the fence.

The kids were so excited to be growing their own vegetables and herbs when I was here in the spring. I was skeptical that there would be produce at the end of the journey - I'm pleased to say they were so successful!

Take a look back at where they started in this blog in May 2014 - and see the results in August in the photos below. This is a wonderful example of maximizing small urban spaces as productive growing areas. I would have never thought that some of the vegetables would grow under these low light and small container conditions.