We had the idea of turning our yard into a community garden once our kids were grown and gone. Chris had the bright idea of creating a rain garden in a low spot, using the dirt from digging out our patio, to create a berm. And so, the Hodges Park Community Garden and Sustainable Yard began.
There are four 8 X 20 feet gardens, divided in half; so each gardener has a 8 X 10 plot. Chris and our first gardeners built fences out of buckthorn and chicken wire to keep bunnies, dogs and little children out of the gardens; and Chris built cute gates for each garden. The gardens are raised and filled with good soil and mushroom compost.
Our own large in-ground garden is along our back fence. This year we’re going to plant “the three sisters” back there—corn in mounds, climbing beans around the corn and summer squash around the beans. Indigenous Peoples knew that “the three sisters” nurture each other and humans with all they and we need to survive. The corn gives us starch. The beans give us protein and the squashes give us nutrients to keep us healthy.
By catching rainwater in our 4 rain barrels, creating a rain garden and building sedge rows we do our best to keep all of the rain that falls on our property out of the sewer pipes. We use no commercial pesticides or herbicides and have a large open compost bin for food and yard waste. Chris has a seed garden along our front hedge. He grows native plants that were given to him by the Forest Preserve. He collects the seeds from these plants each year. They are sorted and sent to various Forest Preserve sites to restore the woods and prairies to their pre-settlement glory.
One of the most important results of all of these activities, especially the gardens in our yard, is the community building that happens. We have loved getting to know our neighbors better. It’s delightful to see them teaching their children to garden, seeing them chewing on a green bean, tomato or cucumber fresh from the garden. Of course, the main result of gardening is that we eat healthy, fresh food that we’ve grown ourselves. We hope that our small efforts to live sustainably and grow our own food will influence others to do the same.
What started out as our own hobby has turned into a community effort that benefits more than just ourselves. We give and we receive. Thanks for recognizing us as “Changemakers”. It’s an honor. Nan and Chris
Take a look at what your neighbors are doing for Park Ridge sustainability!