Peterson Garden Project: 10 Exciting Things for 2013

Peterson Garden Project: 10 Exciting Things for 2013

When I run into our gardeners or people who know about the Peterson Garden Project I hear a lot of comments like “what do you do to stay busy during the winter months?” This makes me laugh because the winter months are just as busy except the work is more cerebral in nature vs. the heavy lifting of spring and summer.

The PGP leadership team, and our wonderful partners, have been planning a number of exciting things as we go into year four of our mission to recruit, educate and inspire a new generation of gardeners who want to gain control of their food supply, grow their own produce organically, and make urban gardening the norm—not the exception.

From our single, eponymous revival Victory Garden in 2010, we’ve grown to four giant Pop-up Victory gardens, two demo gardens, a workplace garden at the Field Museum and a school garden at Mather High School. It was quite a year!

2013 shows no signs of slowing down as even more people want to learn to grow food and make stronger communities.

Here’s ten things I’m looking forward to doing – with YOU – in 2013:

Unless you’ve been to one of our plant sales, a movie night or another event, you may not know about our Learning Center at 4642 N Francisco Ave. That’s probably because we got the space (thanks to a grant from CEDA and the Cook County Dept of Energy) right in the middle of April when we were building all the gardens. The Learning Center, or HQ as we like to call it, developed slowly over the summer to host the plant sales, some events, meetings, etc. For 2013 we will be using the space to the fullest with a complete list of “winter” classes. (Information will be available the week of Jan 7 on our Classes & Events page.) We’re very excited about expanding our educational offerings and using the Learning Center to its fullest.

That being said, our annual Seed Swap is too big for the space so we’ll be having it again at Swedish Covenant Hospital on Sunday, February 10 at 2pm.

Immediately before the Seed Swap at 1pm we’ll have a Informational Session for new and returning gardeners to talk about more exciting plans for 2013. Details about the Seed Swap and the Info Session will be on our Classes & Events page the week of Jan 7.

We’ll have plenty of information prior to the swap on how it works, what to bring and more. Plan on a really fun day!

Word has spread about what we’re up to on the north side teaching people to grow food. The Chicago Flower and Garden Show has asked us to participate with an exhibit March 9-17 highlighting the history of Victory Gardens in Chicago and how community and home food gardening provides “new victories” for modern lives. Lucky for us, our talented creative team - Mark Kanazawa and Patrick Ewing - will be designing the space using found objects and their amazing sense of style. Lots of other partners are helping to tell the story, too. Stay tuned, we’ll be talking about this exciting event more in the next few months and please save the dates because we’ll need your help!

Building so many new gardens was a lot of joyful work last summer… and there might be more this year!

We’ve gotten a lot of calls and emails about unsightly empty lots that communities would like to convert into food gardens and neighborhood hubs.

We’ll be announcing new gardens after March 1. Get those work gloves out!


Our third annual Plant Sale will be held Mother’s Day weekend at the Learning Center.

This year we are very excited to be working with a local grower who is providing plants raised from organic Seed Saver’s Exchange seeds in an environmentally friendly peat-free mix and a biodegradable pot.

The Leadership Team will be developing a selection of “PGP Picks” that we’ve grown in our own home gardens and know to be strong producers in our area. Stay tuned for more information!

On the note of Seed Savers Exchange… we partnered with them last year for the Edible Treasures Garden at the Field Museum. What a wonderful and positive experience that was! Being a lifelong SSE/heirloom seed junkie, this was a dream come true for me and I know the sentiment was shared by the Leadership Team and many of you as well.

This year we’re going to continue the partnership with SSE by building a seed saving garden at Global Garden to expand our educational scope to teach people how to grow and save their own seed. And we’ll continue helping with the Edible Treasures garden and work to facilitate a larger community of seed saving groups in the Chicago area. We’ll also be teaching and hosting workshops with SSE about relevant seed-specific topics. If you’re a seed junkie too, and interested in helping with this initiative, send a note to

2012 was a “build year” – a lot of our energy was taken up organizing the new Pop-up Victory gardens – and dealing with that brutal heat!

Now that the gardens are in place, we want to focus on more community events in the gardens like “plotlucks,” music, story hour for the kids and other events. A community garden is 10% garden and 90% community according to the American Community Gardening Association and we love those fun events that bring us all closer as neighbors, friends and gardeners.

And we’ll do our big events too! Last year’s Gnomedependence Day on July 4 was a blast! We’ll have other big PGP-wide events to bring us all together to celebrate the great work we’re all doing and have some fun. Hopefully the weather will be a bit cooler this year but who knows?!

Last but not least, our expanded Grow2Give program this year was stellar. In addition to our gardening volunteers we had lots of other people join us to grow in excess of 1,000 pounds of produce to share with food and nutrition partners in the communities where our gardens were located. Under the supervision of our Leadership Team member, Xan Nelson (“the lady with the pink hair”), teams maintained, watered, harvested, weighed and delivered produce faithfully all summer long. And our partners sure appreciated it.

For 2013, we will expand this program in the communities where our new gardens are located and fine tune it to provide more opportunities for volunteers and more food for those in need.

When I was a kid we used to go to Disneyland every year for spring break. I grew up in Oregon and we had family in California so it was a great chance to see the cousins and have some fun at the park. My favorite ride, Big Thunder Mountain, had this caution as the ride was beginning “Hold on to your hats and glasses! This here’s the wiiiillldest ride in the west!” Whenever I heard that, I knew the fun was about to start!

Well friends, hold on your hats and (sun)glasses because 2013 is going to be amazing. Together, as a community of neighbors, friends, gardeners, partners and sponsors we are all making a difference and that is a wild and exciting adventure indeed.

Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions via and, on behalf of myself and the Leadership Team, we’re looking forward to seeing you all in 2013!


  1. It all sounds very exciting LaManda! Congratulations to you, all the volunteers, and the gardeners for all your successes and ambitious future plans. I’m thrilled for all of you.

    I can imagine the laughter about staying busy over the winter! Our little village is working on big plans for our first community garden, so I know exactly what you mean. The behind-the-scenes planning, even for our first (relatively) small project, is rigorous.

  2. Thanks for the kind words and best luck on your first community garden. The old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is so true when planning for a community garden. Happy to help if you need any advice. We’re doing a “so you want to start a community garden” mentor project in January. We’ll post info on the PGP site the week of Jan 7. Thanks again…

  3. We’re aiming for a pound of prevention, and I’ll be on the lookout for your mentor project!

    Thanks for your offer of help LaManda – I’ll definitely take you up on that. Advice from someone who’s been there, done that would/will be invaluable.

    I’m looking forward to learning about the mentor project, and I’ll let our committee know about it as soon as your post is up. Our next meeting is January 15th, and I may even want to pick your brain a little before then if you can spare a little time.

  4. Wow, you really are on a roll–watch out Chicago! Some great things happening this year. Hope I can make it to the Chicago Flower and Garden Show, sounds like it is going to be an amazing installation with Patrick and Mark doing their creative dazzling!

  5. Thanks for the note, Robin! Yes, there are many, many amazing things happening in Chicago food and community garden-wise. We are so happy to be a part of it! If you can be here for CFGS that would be amazing! I know Matrick would love it and so would the rest of the team… crossing fingers! And thanks for spreading the word on Twitter. You are the best…

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