We All Should Vote Yes for the Forest Preserves of Cook County

For Cook County residents, here's an incredibly easy way to help fight climate change and support biodiversity. A slightly different version was published in the   Oak Park Wednesday Journal on October 18, 2022. At the beginning of the 20th century, a group of farsighted people had the novel idea to create the Cook County Forest Preserves system, the first of its kind in the country. It was a daunting task to plan, persuade people, and get laws through the legislature. Only then did the real work begin of purchasing and managing vast acreage, developing public programs, and conserving biodiversity while catering to humans. None of this was easy. Starting with an initial purchase of 500 acres in 1916, today the FPDCC comprises 70,000 acres of natural and recreational areas stretching from Lake-Cook Road south to Steger Road. Consequently, Cook County, home to over 5 million people, can also boast that it’s the most biodiverse county in the state.  In this time of global warming, en

Soil Health

Successful ecological gardening depends on healthy, living soil. Good practice also helps turn your garden into a carbon sink. I have posted about this before and will again, but here is a cheat sheet of tried and true suggestions that give good results.

Good Gardening Practices that Will Build Soil Health and Store Carbon
• Don’t use synthetic fertilizer (or herbicides or pesticides).
• Use organic fertilizer very carefully.
• Make compost and use it.
• Let fallen leaves decompose naturally under bushes and trees.
• Let pruned branches decompose naturally under trees and bushes.
• Allow duff to build naturally around bushes and trees.
• Put raked leaves in compost or start a separate leaf-mold pile.
• Don’t cultivate or till established beds if at all possible.
• Put down an inch of compost on beds in spring.
• Use organic mulches such as wood chips judiciously (I usually put down a thinnish layer over compost).
 • Grow native plants and wait until spring to cut down (or burn, if feasible): many have seeds birds love, and many will reseed themselves in fall and winter).
• Put cut-down stalks in compost or chop and leave in beds around plants.
• Reduce lawn to necessary areas (such as the croquet green, soccer pitch or picnic area).
• Top dress your small-as-possible, polyculture lawn with finely sifted compost in fall.
• Make new beds in summer or fall by mowing grass, putting down six layers of newspaper, wetting it, and topping with two to four inches of wood chips. Ready to plant in spring.
• Add compost to planting holes when putting in new plants.
• Reduce your power tool use.
•Make well-defined paths and use stepping stones to reduce soil compaction.