Posted by Emily
Rebecca Schnorenberg, an undergraduate student who was doing research in the community gardens last summer, is presenting some of her findings at the UIC Honors Research Conference today. She made a beautiful poster of her findings, which she said I could share with you.
Rebecca was interested in learning about the garden characteristics that influence the bird community in a garden. It won't surprise most of you that she found that larger gardens have a greater abundance of birds and higher diversity of native bird species in particular. But for those of you with smaller gardens, never fear--there is something you can do to increase the diversity of native birds in your garden! Rebecca also found that gardens with more woody vegetation, which includes everything from small shrubs to large trees, have a higher diversity of native birds. So if you have space to add a tree or shrub, it could bring new birds into your garden.
Here is part 1 and part 2 of 'Birds in the gardens'
Posted by Emily
As you're thinking about putting your garden to rest for the winter, you might want to consider leaving things a little messy. Dried stems, leaves, and flower heads can be important resources for wildlife in the winter. Here are two good articles explaining the benefits of a messy garden and tips for how to make it look presentable:
Posted by Emily
It has been a pleasure and a privilege to watch your gardens grow over the season. Now, fall is in the air. We have completed our ecological field work and are starting to dig in to some data analysis. We will continue to post interesting findings on this blog, as they arise. Here is a little look at what is ahead for us:
Thanks to everyone for all your enthusiasm and support for our project. We will continue to be in touch with updates about our findings, both through this blog and also with personal emails to those of you who have asked about data from your gardens. For now, happy harvests!
Posted by Emily
Have you ever wondered about potential contaminants in your community garden? We frequently hear questions about the safety of Chicago’s soils and urban-grown produce. Although individual gardens may test their soil and (less commonly) their water, there is little information about general trends in contaminants in urban agriculture.
We are excited to be partnering with Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future and the US Department of Agriculture to join the ‘Safe Urban Harvests’ study. This study, which started in Baltimore, will investigate potential contamination risks associated with urban agriculture in Chicago. Our hope is that this study will provide the most in-depth insights into these issues to date. We hope that all gardens in our current study will participate!
Here is some more information:
Farmers and gardeners may come into contact with heavy metals that may be in soil. People may also ingest these chemicals when eating produce grown in contaminated soils. By investigating these potential risks, we hope to address these concerns and promote safer growing practices.
Our researchers will survey community garden leaders in Chicago, and collect and analyze soil and irrigation water samples for the presence of heavy metals. The soil and water test results from your garden will be shared with you, accompanied by interpretation of those results, and recommendations (if any). The combined results for all farms and gardens may be published in reports and research papers, but they will not be presented in a way that would allow readers to identify the results for your garden. If our findings provide reason for concern, we will work with affected gardeners to address any safety issues. In the event that we find no or minimal risks, our findings may foster greater confidence in the safety of urban harvests.
Would you be willing to let us collect some soil and water samples in your garden? If so, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We might be able to include other gardens in this study too, so if you know of someone in another garden who might be interested, please feel free to share this information with them.
Posted by Emily
I love these photos taken by Paul Bick, the project photographer. He beautifully captured a male American Goldfinch "stealing" sunflower seeds from Ruby Garden. If you have coneflowers in your garden, keep an eye out for goldfinches eating those seeds too. They are lovely little garden thieves!
Posted by Benji
During my insect counts yesterday at La Huerta Roots and Rays, I surveyed a patch of oregano. Wow was that patch buzzing with activity! Look at the bumble bee in the adjacent photo, who was crawling and foraging all over an oregano plant. Note the 'pollen baskets' (technically called 'corbiculae') on her hind legs. This is how some bee species store their pollen until they get back to their nest.
The oregano also had more bees in the genus Agapostemon than I think I’ve seen all summer! Agapostemon are a kind of green sweat bee and many can be identified by their metallic green head/body and their darker (often yellow and black in males) abdomen. If anyone has a thick patch of oregano in their gardens, take a quick look next time you’re there and see if you can spot any of the metallic green sweat bees on your flowers; they’re some of my favorites to look at. For more information, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agapostemon (the wikipedia article is short and very readable, take a look)
posted by Emily
Water is such an important element of community gardens. I find it interesting how different gardens ensure that the plants get watered. On a recent visit to the Hello! Howard garden in Rogers Park, I saw several creative approaches.
For example, if gardeners aren't able to water their own bed (e.g., they are out of town, ill, etc), they can put a little laminated sign in their bed to indicate that they would like other people to water for them.
I also really liked these clay pots, which can be filled with water during a visit to the garden. The water will then slowly seep out of the pot and into the soil over a period of several days, keeping the soil moist. Very clever!
Please feel free to share any creative watering approaches you've observed in the comments.
The oldest dragonfly fossil discovered was in Junggar Basin in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China and is from the Late Triassic period (Xinhua, 2017). That's about 200 million years ago. One of its wings is almost 4 inches long.
Our dragonflies today are not so large, but one of the larger ones commonly seen in the Chicago area is the Common Green Darner (Anax junius). Its wingspan is about 3 inches, and its body length averages from 2.5-3.25 inches (Post, n.d.). This one below is a female. Males have bright blue on their abdomen. This beauty was observed in Englewood Veterans Garden across the street from Hermitage Community Garden while a celebration ceremony was taking place for its Founder and Director Cordia Pugh. The veterans were honoring her for establishing a garden specifically for them. The kids from Green Corps that worked inside of the gardens built benches, tables and helped with the maintenance of the garden. They told me that they saw many of these throughout the summer resting and flying overhead.
The other common dragonfly seen this summer was the Black saddlebag (Tramea lacerata). It is easy to identify because of the large black spots on its hind wings. From the air, these spots look like saddlebags. Notice its silhouette in the photo to the right. If you see this large dragonfly flying overhead and you do not notice a red hue, it is more than likely the Black saddlebag. This was one of many on several visits seen flying around the Edna White Century Garden. This one is a male. Females look similar but have yellow spots on their abdomen.
The second most common dragonfly observed so far was the male Blue dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis). Females have more of a golden brown with yellow streaks down the side of their abdomens.
These are often seen chasing each other. In this photo he is cooling himself on a squash leaf at Hello! Howard Garden where dozens have been observed at various times.
The Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera) is another dragonfly often seen around Chicago. This cutey is a male. Females have spots on their wings. They are small but easy to notice because of their bright amber color.
In this photo, he is cooling himself in the prairie grasses at Pullman Community Garden on a hot summer day of 88 degrees Fahrenheit. The position that you see it in is called obelisking. This is done to prevent overheating.
This is not a complete listing of my dragonfly observations. This will come when the study is complete. It is continuing into September, but I am happy to report that dragonflies do indeed use the community gardens throughout Chicago.
In the meantime, if you spot one, we would love to hear about it. Please leave a comment and upload a photo if you have one. If you need a good field guide to help with identifying this mysteriously wonderful creature, please check out the Field Museum's Common Dragonflies and Damselflies guide (http://fieldguides.fieldmuseum.org/guides/guide/380).
Post, S. (n.d.) Common Green Darner Dragonfly. Illinois Natural History Survey, Prairie Research Institute. Retrieved from http://wwx.inhs.illinois.edu/outreach/spotlight/common-green-darner/.
Xinhuanet. (2017). 中科院团队发现2亿年前蜻蜓大如手掌. Retrieved from http://news.xinhuanet.com/tech/2017-06/15/c_1121149054.htm
Erratum: The Blue dasher photo was snapped at Hello! Howard Community Garden where dozens were seen in July and August. They were also seen at Cornell Oasis, but the photo in this post is from Hello! This was edited to indicate that on 12 August 2017 at 9:00am CST.
Posted by Alexis
Many of the community gardens we visited have native prairie wildflowers growing in the commons. They are really lovely. Today I saw this comic and I thought I would share it.
The artist is Liz Anna Kozik, and you can see more art from Liz at fifthdayprairie.tumblr.com/
If you are interested in the prairie, its plants, and the people who have called it home for many generations, I would also like to recommend a book:
In addition to being engaging and practical, this book has also won a place in my heart because the author demonstrates respect for the native people from whose knowledge we benefit. Many early ethnobotanical texts are exploitative and insulting to the very people teaching the researchers how to find nourishment without being poisoned! It's refreshing to read a book like Kindscher's, in contrast.