In Jan 2014, a small group of volunteers eager to promote sustainability saw the potential in an almost acre of land on the Fremont Township property. For several years prior, it had been your run-of-the-mill veggie garden with long rows of veggie with limited diversity and lots of weeds. These volunteers instead visioned crop diversity, permaculture, community and education.
In February of 2014, Alicia, Jen and Dakotah presented our ideas to the township. Weeds, watering and lack of volunteers had been their biggest challenges in the past. We proposed cover crops and biointensive plantings to discourage weeds, also knowing that a few specialized tools would make weeding more manageable. To minimize the need to water, we proposed adding organic matter to the soil in the form of compost and digging swales to eliminate water run-off. We proposed starting a Facebook group to share our progress with the community, announce workdays, and gather community support.
Other visions included an community area for hosting events or gatherings, art made from repurposed materials, and lots and lots of flowers. Instead of having another grass covered swath of township property, our garden would be an example of what community can create when they work together! The township board voted to give us a chance!
We got right to work drawing up plans:
And enticing volunteers:
We also collected all the cardboard we could find in Mundelein!
Knowing that a significant weed seed bank existed caused me (Alicia) to have nightmares at night. Our solution for the mulched paths and the community area was to layer cardboard over the soil and then top with woodchips. We received some donated mulch from Sawvell in Mundelein for our initial layer. Then we realized the potential to make the best of our township’s dead ash trees! Instead of paying to dump the woodchips elsewhere, the township gladly dumped truckloads at the garden edge. I’m eternally grateful to the hardworking volunteers who wheeled load after load to their final resting place, blanketing all the cardboard with woodchips.
Township swooping in for the win!
In prior years, township volunteers would stretch a couple hundred feet of hoses from the building out to the garden in order to water. It was unpleasant to say the least. Township Supervisor Diana O’Kelly surprised me with her plan to add a water spigot in the middle of the garden. The Parks Dept were able to easily add a second spigot closer to route 60, and by May, we were really feeling the garden momentum building! Easy access to water really eases the gardening burden!