Winter is coming and Chicago’s urban gardeners are getting ready

Spreading mulch underneath the cover will help preserve soil integrity, and using compost can improve soil health, although it won’t provide insulation, Heath said. The bed should accumulate plant matter, much like a rainforest. “Lay as much plant material on the bed as possible,” she said. “Use anything that you can find. We’re trying to mimic the natural environment.” (Alexis Shanes/MEDILL)

By Alexis Shanes
Medill Reports

Local gardening enthusiasts on Saturday braved freezing winds to learn winter plant management techniques at an urban garden in Uptown, the latest in a series of grassroots workshops aimed at educating city growers.

Breanne Heath, the education program manager at Peterson Garden Project, offered participants tips for caring for perennial herbs, planting garlic and preparing unplanted raised garden beds to weather an oppressive Chicago winter until the spring growing season.

Peterson Garden Project, a Chicago-based non-profit founded in 2010, provides 4-foot by 8-foot raised garden beds, growing materials and learning resources for members, who pay an annual $85 fee to participate. However, membership was not required for the weekend workshop, which cost $25.

Eight project gardens are scattered around the city in neighborhoods such as Rogers Park, South Loop and Edgewater. Some, like the Uptown garden, are permanent fixtures, while others are temporary attractions.

Photo at top: Growing season for tomatoes is almost complete, but winter weather brings a host of urban gardening possibilities. (Alexis Shanes/MEDILL)