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)|
gardeners supporting the production effort. His direction given was "to always have the garden looking nice." To that point - there were hardly any weeds (I counted three,) no mess of dirt around the containers, and no dried up or yellowed leaves. This crew is meticulous and busy!
|Rick Bayless Chicago Garden|
Naturally as celebrity chef owner - there is a very well equipped outdoor kitchen and dining area. One table area seats four or five and another can fit up to 20. Here is an overview of the layout of the gardens and agriculture area. The space to the left of the cooking area and right of the dining area is largely planted with tropics an low light plants. It includes a small pond with coy. This is a relaxing and inviting space. The panoramas immediately above are taken here.
|Overview of property and garden|
By the numbers:
- Over 1000 ft2 of vegetable/herb growing space
- Production of over 500 pounds of salad greens, micro-greens, herbs and edible flowers annually - that's $30,000 value
- 4 crops of greens outside each year
- 1 beehive producing 60 pounds of honey a year
- 3 chickens (the coop recommended by Martha Stewart)
- 100's if not thousands of worms (red)
- 2 feral cats that help keep the rabbits and other critters at by (outside year round)
- Spend over $3750 on seed each year
- Over 40 wheelbarrows of compost per year (no including compost from the chickens)
- $25 - the cost of the tour :)
|Rick Bayless Urban Garden - Chicago, Aug 2014|
A key piece of advice from Bill Shores the properties gardener was to observe the garden. While that sounds a bit silly - it has helped him cultivate and reap rewards from understanding and leveraging the garden's micro-climates. For example he knows exactly where the sun will start to hit the ground in the spring and how to warm it up faster to speed the first crop of lettuce. He knows at what height the sum will reach in the middle of the plot which is largely shady - here structural elements enable full fun plants to thrive. He capitalizes on the full sun balcony to grow peppers. He knows how the water flows when it rains and what that means for the crops. He even knows where the ants like to play.