At our first community meeting and in conversations around the neighborhood, many people have had similar questions.
As we get more answers and more questions come in, we’ll try to keep everyone updated here.
How many lots? The plans we decide on for the first year will depend on how many people are interested in gardening. The layout of the lot could certainly adjust to match the needs of the community over the years. A variety of plans have been drawn up to take into account different arrangements, all based on standard 8′x8′ garden beds with wide paths between. At the first meeting, 22+ people signed up to “rent” their own lots.
What will it cost? In other gardens, individual lots generally cost between $15 and $50 per year after the initial setup. We won’t know what the setup costs will be until more research is done into a number of different issues.Â We’re already working with several great organizations in Chicago and hope this will help us seek out the best resources and opportunities. We’d also like to organize a fundraising committee to help defray the costs – this could include looking for grants, organizing events, etc.
Who can get a lot? The initial research into ownership of the lot shows that it was “deeded to the subdivision in 1874.” NeighborSpace and the Old Irving Park Historical Society are looking into the details of ownership and the legal boundaries of the “subdivision.” For now, we are defining the subdivision as the triangular neighborhood boarded by Milwaukee, Addison and Pulaski and limiting plot holders to that area.
Soil: In September, the soil was tested for nutrients and heavy metals. The test showed that the soil was in good shape except for lead content. Lead content is 688 parts per million. This is about average for soil in yards / gardens in Chicago. However, the EPA recommends NOT growing vegetables in soil with lead content higher than 400 parts per million. In order to grow plants and vegetables safely in the garden, we can use raised beds. In non-garden-plot areas, we need to put down permeable garden fabric and wood chips. We may be able to get the material for raised beds donated OR get discounted prices from local lumber yards / landscape supply companies
Water: We’re investigating multiple options for water. The simplest is to get a hose and a key and use the fire hydrant located on Addison in front of 4233 W. Addison St. The homeowner for that building was at the first meeting and said she’d be willing for a hose to be installed through her yard and/or the empty lot next door to that house. Other options include making arrangments with local businesses on the alley or setting up a rain barrel collection system on the roofs of the nearby businesses and apartment buildings.
Composting: Several people at the meeting expressed an interest in setting up a composting program. Other community gardens do this by “blocks” of people sharing responsibility for smaller compost bins. The City of Chicago has policies about the types of compost bins that are acceptable and a grant program that could help pay for the bins. We’d like to set up a committee to research options and figure out what it would take to get this organized, since it may be something we could start sooner to have compost ready by the spring.
Other questions: Many people at our first meeting brought up important issues like rodent/pest control and fencing for general security. Since there are so many other gardens like this in Chicago, we’re confident we can find good examples. But we’re just starting our research into possible solutions and resources to provide those solutions.