Evanston has always been a green town. It was settled originally in a magnificent oak grove next to Lake Michigan. Today Evanston is noted for its tree-lined streets. In addition, it was one of the first communities in Illinois to host a Farmers Market. The decision to become even greener for Evanston’s 150th anniversary celebration is no surprise.
The Edible Evanston Committee of Evanston 150 is committed to helping residents learn about nutrition and the pleasure of growing their own eatables. Traditionally, people in Evanston have grown food on their own property or in a community garden. As Evanston has grown, garden space is limited and Evanstonians need to be more creative. Instead of planting in the ground, try growing plants in containers which can sit on the ground, hang in the air, or given wheels, to be pushed about to follow the sun.
Most of the committee is working on planning and collecting information. Andrew Fisher, however, starting on May 13, planted, cultivated and enjoyed eating his crop of cherry tomatoes. Andy’s work is a great example of what can be done. As grandma said “doing does it” and “you learn by doing.”
One might wonder how to grow plants on an upper floor. Anyone with a bright window can grow a few pots of herbs to perk up meals. With a balcony, the high-rise horticulturalist is limited by imagination and how much weight the structure can take. Water, as well as containers, plants and soil, must be considered in figuring the weight. One gallon weighs 15 pounds.
When considering highrise horticulture, starting with plants is good for the morale. It can be a bit frustrating trying to grow plants from seed in a cramped space. Also, already growing plants give a hint of what is to come. Planting them gives the gratification of having an instant garden. In addition, on a balcony there are no worries about rabbits or poachers.
Generally, people plan in winter, plant in spring, and enjoy very fresh vegetables in summer and fall. The tomato season is almost over, but some vegetables can be started in late summer. Lettuce, beets, cabbage and collard plants can take cold weather. They are easy to grow in a small space and easy to protect from freezing cold by covering them with a plastic dropcloth, or by bringing them inside, when necessary.
Finally, those who grow more than they can eat can take part in another Evanston tradition: sharing the bounty with others.