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By Terry Dean
While picking green beans out of a sea of leaves from flower beds at Ascension Church's community garden in Oak Park, Wendy Schmiedeler and her young son Tom also came across a bug or two. Both were intrigued by the bug-catching contraption right next to the bed.
It's a Japanese beetle trap, explained Clem Simon, Ascension parishioner and fellow gardener. The beetle trap was donated by one of the volunteers. While looking at the unlucky batch of bugs nestled at the bottom of a bag attached to the trap, Tom asked how the trap catches the insects.
Simon said they fly in and can't get out. Schmiedeler asked what makes them fly in. Responding very delicately with little Tom looking on, Simon explained it was a mating scent that causes bugs to fly in. Just like those old Roach Motel commercials, these bugs checked in but didn't check out.
Last Tuesday was harvesting night at the community garden, located behind the Parish Office building across the street from the church at East Avenue and Van Buren. Church members started the garden two years ago. All of the produce is donated to the St. Martin de Porres Church food pantry in the Austin neighborhood. Gardeners harvest every Tuesday evening, and one of them drops off the food at St. Martin's the following morning.
Students from Ascension School, located just down the street on Van Buren, did some planting and composting for a classroom assignment. After planting dill seeds, one of the kids said he couldn't wait to come back and pick the dill pickles, recalled volunteer John Owens.
An Oak Park Eagle Scout Troop built some of the flower beds. Simon, whose parents were gardeners, built the tomato bin using old wood discarded from the Parish Offices, which are currently being renovated.
Along with green beans and tomatoes, the garden grows squash, cucumber, cantaloupe and broccoli, among other vegetables. The area was just an empty, grassy backyard before church members started this enterprise.
Schmiedeler, who lives down the street from the church, signed up after reading about the garden in the church newsletter. Being out here brings back memories, she said. Schmiedeler grew up on a farm in Ohio, but her Oak Park backyard is too small for such serious gardening, she explained.
"I've been away from it for 20 years, but I just love coming back here," Schmiedeler said, noting that her mom was a great gardener.
Some of the volunteers like Schmiedeler and Simon have some experience while the others are learning as they go. They start planting in June and harvest till around Labor Day, though they're looking to extend into October this year if possible.