Steve Miller at 601 Home, Oak Park, was another one of our stops on the Edible Gardens Tour, 2013, sponsored by The Sugar Beet.
Miller is a geologist who used to work at Argonne, and he tells us he was delighted to learned that a few feet below his land is a solid shelf of sand (a reminder of when, 10,000 years or so ago, Lake Michigan lapped up on shores right around where Ridgeland runs today). This sand, he told us, provides good drainage for his garden.
However, he was less delighted to learn, after a soil assay, that there were relatively high levels of lead in his soil near the alley. "It's from the car exhaust," said Miller, "and leafy greens are especially susceptible to taking up the lead, so I just moved my plants to the other side of the yard."
Moving our gardens after we've already planted – after the plants have actually started to grow – is not something many of us would dare to do. But why not? Miller was worried his plants might contain lead, thus they were pretty much dead to him anyway, so he just moved them, knowing he might lose a few in the process. They looked thriving to us.
Miller also had a few other tricks in his garden that we found instructive and sometimes amusing. For instance, he taped up his garden hose to look like a snake and deter varmints. "It works," he reported.
He also has a nifty diverter for his rain barrels. He's hooked up a device so that when the barrel is full, the water backs up along a tube that turns a switch at the gutter and channels the water into the downspout without going into the barrel.
And those are just a few of the reasons why we found the Edible Gardens tour so worthwhile. On a tour like this, you pick up tricks and you learn techniques, enabling you to leverage other people's ingenuity for your own garden.
Thank you, Steve Miller, for starting me thinking about how I can make my own garden free of lead, unwanted critters, and excess water.