TSF is open for 2014

Taylor Street Farms is officially open for the 2014 gardening season! 

Over 35 hardworking volunteers gathered on April 26th to spruce up the site and prepare for our 5th growing season. Volunteers repaired raised beds, mowed grass and made general repairs around the farm. Then the fun began as many gardeners planted spring veggies and celebrated the day’s work with pizza, cookies and lemonade.

A special feature for 2014 is the addition of community plots for donation to Breakthrough Ministries. Lots of lettuce, spinach and arugula will be headed their way in a few short weeks.

Trimming grass

Trimming grass


Spring planting

Spring plantingThe compost is ready

The compost is ready

garden4 garden5

Fresh lettuce to share with our friends at Breakthrough Ministries

Fresh lettuce to share with our friends at Breakthrough Ministries

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TSF is at full capacity for 2014!

Wow – it happened again! Dozens of new sun-hungry gardeners flooded our mailbox with heartening letters to snatch a vacant garden spot. Thank you all so much for your interest! We still welcome applications, however, anyone applying from now on will be on the waiting list. Please consider also our Limited Membership where you can help to garden in common areas and join us at our community activities. All inquiries are welcome to [email protected]

Spring will come and the Sunday forecast promises exciting 51 degrees F. Looks like it´s time to go for a walk and think about which vegetables to plant. See you at the farm!

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Spring 2014 TSF Kick-off

On Sunday, February 23, a group of gardeners met at the University Village Association office on Taylor Street. Undeterred by cold weather, gardeners shared ideas, plans and seeds to prepare for the upcoming garden season.

We need your help! Please email [email protected] with the committees you’d like to be involved. This year, we hope to offer lots of opportunities for field trips to learn about beekeeping, chicken coops, sustainable living in the city and other garden tours. To make these happen, we need organizers and that means you.

Would you like to see more activities for children or social events? Please let us know about your ideas so we can make 2014 a great year!

Dreaming of warmer days and fresh tomatoes!

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Gardeners Giving Back

This past weekend, we collected our first donation for Breakthrough’s food pantry. Some of us were a bit ambitious when planting our gardens and now have an overabundance of food! It is a fantastic opportunity to give back to the community because our donations benefit senior citizens living in a nearby residential facility.

Special thanks to Gwen, Sally and Peggy for working hard and driving the donated goods to the food pantry. Many thanks to all of the gardeners who so graciously donated your extra produce.


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Compost Workshop at Taylor Street Farms

On Sunday, April 28, master composter Michele Kroger was so kind and joined us at Taylor Street Farms to tell us more about the wonderful world of composting.

Why compost?

Composting is nature´s way of recycling. Microorganisms and worms break down leaves, vegetable and fruit peels, coffee grounds and trimmings and produce a dark, crumbly, sweet-smelling soil conditioner. Compost replaces fertilizer – and it is organic and for free!

What´s the secret of a healthy compost?

It´s almost like baking a lasagna: a good compost needs the right layers and balance of ingredients, the right amount of moisture and the correct temperature.

Four “elements” are needed for a healthy compost:

1) Browns: Fallen leaves, woody prunings, untreated wood sawdust, mulch, black & white newspaper, soil, shredded stems and twigs (we keep them in a basket next to the compost pile so one can take it when it is required)

2) Greens: Fruit and vegetable trimmings, young weeds, lawn clippings, coffee grounds & filters, egg shells, tea bags, chicken or horse manures

3) Air

4) Water

Things we don´t want in our compost: meat, bones or fish; dairy products or grease; grains, breads or beans; dog, cat or bird feces; diseased plants, treated wood sawdust. These items slow down or even stop the breaking down process and have no place in compost bins.

How it works:

1) Whenever you have materials to compost (e.g. you prune your tomatoes, or need to get rid of dry leaves or wooden stems), chop them to a 4 inch (10 cm) length or smaller. It makes sense to spend 5-10 minutes each time you visit your garden to clean out the material that your garden doesn´t need and feed the compost pile. You will learn that that will save you time at the end of the season when cleaning out your plot is queuing up.

2) Put your clippings into the compost bin. After each layer of Browns, add a layer of Green, then a layer of Brown, etc. in “lasagna style”, in a ratio of 50:50 or 60:40

3) Maintain Air & Water balance by keeping the compost as moist as a wrung out sponge. Compost or dung forks are very useful to loosen up the layers to get some fresh air in. Especially in the summer, think of watering the compost as often as you would your garden plot.

4) Now the compost can start cooking. The hard working microorganisms (like microbes, worms etc.) will heat up the pile ideally between 120 – 160 degrees F (that is 49 – 71 degrees Celsius) and break down the clippings to wonderful, sweet-smelling compost.

At Taylor Street Farms we use two different composting systems. On our south corner, we have a single compost bin that we fill with above mentioned layers of healthy Greens and Browns. The bin is built in a way that we can open it on the bottom and take the compost out when it´s ready. The break down process takes about 6-12 months, depending on how small the clippings are (the smaller, the better!) and how high the temperature of the pile is.

On our north corner, we have a 3-bin turnover system. We start in the far left (west) bin with adding fresh layers of Greens and Browns and our volunteers move the compost when it´s ready to it´s second stage in bin 2. After some time it will be transferred to bin 3 where the compost will be breaking down to it´s finest – and is ready to harvest. This 3-bin system ensures that enough air is added to the compost and helps to decompose the material even faster (compost can be ready in 4-8 months).

For more information, just visit us at the farm and we will be happy to tell you more about it. In the meantime, you can check out these websites:



And here is the link to the City of Chicago´s Compost Brochure



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Rick Bayless Garden Tour

Last June, a group of gardeners from Taylor Street Farms had the pleasure of taking a guided tour of the private garden of Rick Bayless. He’s one of Chicago’s most renowned chefs and the winner of Top Chef Masters. In addition to his skills in the kitchen, Rick has an amazing home and backyard in the Wicker Park neighborhood.

His personal garden engineer showed us techniques in growing microgreens during hot weather, utilizing microclimates and ideas for starting seeds early.

We would like to plan another tour for this year. If you are interested, please let us know via email! The price is around $20/person and the tour lasts around one hour.

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Planting with the lunar cycles – blessing or esoteric humbug?

The days are getting longer, the sun more intense – spring is getting ready to come to Chicago! My dear fellow gardeners are awaking from their winter sleep and start exchanging seeds and sowing plants indoors. And as soon as we are sure that the last frost has passed our little farm at Taylor Street in Little Italy,  we will start digging and planting again.

But one question always goes around in my head: Is it the right day/time to plant? Can I be sure that my crops will grow and fruit?

Well, I grew up on a farm where the art of timing was celebrated. My mom inherited this skill from her mother who had learned it from her ancestors, and all of them knew the perfect time to sow fruit and vegetable or plant flowers. You wonder what´s behind all this? They say, the moon.

It is said that the lunar cycles can influence how successful your harvest can be. Some days (so-called fruit-days) are better for root vegetables, some are better for fruit bearing plants. When the moon wanders through the astrological signs of Aries, Leo or Sagittarius, it is supposed to be the best time to sow and plant. These days during waxing moon shall be ideal for all fruit-bearing plants like tomatoes, cucumbers, squashes, apples, and so on. When the moon is decreasing, it is said to be better for allsubterranean plants or root vegetables like carrots, potatoes, sunchokes, etc.

You might ask “What´s the point anyway”? Well, the plants are supposed to grow better, healthier and more resistant against pests. As we are a proud organic garden community, I decided to give it this year a try and will start my plants according to the lunar cycles.

And for all of you who want to give it a shot, here are the next lunar cycle dates:

March 22-24, April 19-20 waxing moon (Lion): all fruit-bearing plants (tomatoes, peppers, etc.)

March 31, April 1, 9, 10, 28 and 29 decreasing moon (Sagittarius): all subterranean plants (carrots, parsnips, etc.)

As you might guess, there are also specific times when to plant your flowers best – but that´s a completely different story, and shall be told another time.

Happy Gardening! Veronika.

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Please vote for us at the “Space in Between” contest!

The “Space in Between” contest rewards outstanding projects which revitalize forsaken areas. Taylor Street Farms grew like a phoenix from the ashes – to read our story please go to

Green Oasis

and vote for us!

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Taylor Street Festival 2012 – come visit us!

Come visit us at the Festa Italiana 2012 to learn about the community and our passion!

More about Taylor Street Festival:


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Ghost peppers, chinese eggplants and watermelons… this is Season 2012

Everyone who´s tried to grow any kind of vegetables knows: gardening can be SO exciting! After several weeks of carefully digging, watering and pruning, the first delicious treats could be harvested.

Delicious! Congrats to all successful gardeners!

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