Urban Native and Prairie Gardening

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By Deb Quantock McCarey

Contributing reporter/Nature blogger

Video courtesy of Kevin J. McCarey

Three years ago, after a huge summer storm took out a few key big shade trees across the street from me, the next day I happily started planning my front yard native garden.

Since then,  a  sustainable, four season Illinois native plant, prairie grass and Illinois perennial garden has emerged for all the reasons that are important to me.  And, now in my front yard where the grass used to be, along with those Illinois wild flowers and perennials, I throw in a few annual edibles for some food fun.

We often pick the nasturtiums' flowers, for example, as a colorful add-in to fresh salad.

Because in this smallish, rectangular growing space I still only have daily smatterings of solid sun, rather than an all day exposure, I have strategically installed drought resistant Illinois wild flowers and perennials that prefer a variety of growing cultures: e.g. woodland plant varieties that thrive in semi-shade gardens.

In the quadrants that are sufficiently sunny, and because I am interested in ramping up the bio-diversity in my community -- which is very good for the environment, by the way --  I have several plants and native grasses that stand tall year-round to feed and shelter birds and other critters over winter.

Recently, when I heard that the West Cook County Chapter of Wild Ones was staging a free native garden "bike" tour and talk at Cheney Mansion during Green Community Connections' 2013 Green Living and Learning Tour, I joined in and walked away with a few new ideas...and a few free seeds they said I could scatter in my evolving "little patch of Illinois prairie"  now for next year.

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Don Nekrosius from Oak Park  

Posted: October 4th, 2013 9:26 AM

Great work, Deb and Kevin. Charlie's garden is a local model for practical and wise horticulture. Planting native species is something we should all do in some part of our urban plots.

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