Container gardens at Victor Walchirk Apartments replace what one person called a “weedy patch” that had lain untended for years. For now, residents will need to step carefully over scattered woodchips and a perimeter of railroad ties to reach newly installed container gardens.

A gardening project plotted last winter has blossomed into late-summer plants, through the collective efforts of the Senior Green Connections Partnership: the Housing Authority of Cook County (HCAA), the City of Evanston, Family Focus and the office of Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin. 

Senior Green Connections is establishing container gardens this year at the Victor Walchirk Apartments, Jane R. Pearlman Apartments and Blake Robinson Manor, with plans to expand next year to Ebenezer Primm Towers. The large boxes will hold vegetables, herbs and flowers.

Some residents will actively work the soil, said Jessica Moeller of HCAA, while others may simply enjoy the beauty. The container gardens are “a great
enhancement of the quality of life for the residents,” she added. One likely gardener, Rodney Stidem, said he remembers gardening with his grand-mother in Savannah, Ga.

Dr. Dorothy Williams, executive director of Family Focus, said, “When gardeners garden, it’s not just plants that grow, but the gardeners as well. … We’re going to put our hands in the soil, and we’re all going to grow together – beautiful, beautiful flowers and plants.”

Justin Smith, Latrese Kennedy and Riti Kanwar, students who worked at Family Focus this summer, helped with the garden project. Dr. Williams said youth from Family Focus would continue to work with the residents year-round in planning and planting the garden. 

Evonda Thomas, director of Health and Human Services for the City, said, “You will find great joy and connection when you come together to grow your own fruits and vegetables.”

Two more containers and a compost area will be added to the Walchirk garden soon, said Catherine Hurley, sustainable programs coordinator for the City. She and Charlayne Evans of Family Focus designed the container garden.

Only the sure-footed are likely to have access to these containers, however, since the area is bounded by railroad ties and the surface surrounding the containers unevenly scattered with wood chips.

The containers are higher than those in traditional enabling gardens. Karen Chavers of Commissioner Suffredin’s office, who is also treasurer of HACC, said the height was chosen by the residents, many of whom use walkers with seats rather than wheelchairs.

 The containers themselves are too high for wheelchair-bound residents to participate in gardening, even if they could maneuver past the railroad ties and wood chips. Ms. Hurley said the garden was somewhat hastily put together – the plants had been installed only that morning – but “in time we’ll be able to expand it.”

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and HCAA Executive Director Richard Monocchi cut the ribbon on the two containers at Walchirk Apartments. Afterward, several residents tucked seed packets into a bag of soil placed next to one of the containers. These represented the seeds of hope for the garden’s future, Ms. Chavers said.

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...