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Gardening answers awaited at Ask the Expert in Beverly


Located between the west side of the Beverly Arts Center and its parking lot at 2407 W. 111th Street, Roy Diblik Garden is full of life. Bees and butterflies gather the last bits of pollen from purple coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, pink hydrangea, phlox, purple asters, Russian sage and other late-season blooms amid a backdrop of tall junipers and ornamental grasses.

The low-maintenance tranquil oasis, a reward for building a long-lasting garden space in harmony with nature, is a community project managed by the Morgan Park-Beverly Hills Garden Club.

It may also be of interest to gardeners who decide to attend a free Ask the Expert discussion hosted by the Garden Club at the Beverly Arts Center on October 4, where registration will begin at 9 a.m. and the Q&A session will be at 10 a.m.

Gael Mennecke, president of the club, which was founded in 1926, said low-maintenance and sustainability concepts proposed by well-known gardeners such as Diblik will be discussed.

“We organize many events throughout the year, including field trips. Our goal in all of this is to provide reliable, forward-thinking and practical information to area gardeners,” said Mennecke.

In addition to getting a wealth of information from local gardening resources, attendees can also enter free raffles to win free gardening books.

Blue Island resident Val Kehoe is one of four experts who will answer questions about flora, trees and vegetables from viewers, as well as questions submitted online.

Now a staunch advocate of sustainable gardening practices, Kehoe started in the field 33 years ago, accepting the request of his oldest child, who was 4 at the time.

“I bought him a Chia Pet,” he said. “It was the last part of winter – January – and suddenly something came alive in the house. It was so life changing. “We started gardening that summer.”

Kehoe’s son continued to work on land conservation. Kehoe’s daughter became a dietitian, having also been positively influenced by the backyard garden, which would eventually produce flowers, herbs and vegetables. Kehoe himself became a horticulturist and certified arborist.

“I guess I always had a love for plants and trees,” she said. “I realized I could go into my backyard and see a buzzing bee and pollinators working as part of a natural community. “I became aware of my connection to the natural world and realized that being outside would bring peace and a sense of grounding.”

Kehoe, who spent nine years as coordinator of the Master of Natural Sciences Program at the University of Illinois Extension and 10 years as a staff horticulturist at Christy Webber Landscapes, hopes to convey “the importance of achieving greater balance with the natural world.”

Ways to do this include reducing plant care and water use through native plant selection and incorporating gardening practices practiced before the age of industrialization.

These approaches include mowing less, watering less and fertilizing less, maintaining herb gardens near the back door, utilizing rain barrels, and devoting available water mostly to growing fruits and vegetables.

“Grass is the largest input for irrigation and chemical use,” Kehoe said. “It’s important for people to realize that there is a real cost to cleaning up water.”

He said it’s also important to realize that native plants with longer tap roots don’t require constant watering. “Many people are beginning to understand the current state of our environment as a reason to adopt approaches that are more in harmony with nature.”

Kehoe also recommended avoiding the destruction of native flower blooms that can provide seeds as a food source for birds.

Although neighbors sometimes disapprove of less well-maintained landscapes, Kehoe suggested landscaping practices that can help reduce objections, including repeating plants, layering plants, positioning trees as backgrounds with shrubs underneath and lower-level plantings in the foreground.

Even skeptical neighbors are amazed “when a butterfly or songbird appears out of nowhere,” Kehoe said.

“Combating climate change is really about finding a balance between our lands and ourselves by protecting and restoring our spaces,” he said.

Kehoe, whose own Blue Island home’s lot measures 25 x 125 feet, said this philosophy holds true even if the areas we check seem relatively small.

Native flowers such as black-eyed Susans and purple coneflowers highlight the landscape design at the Roy Diblik Garden at the Beverly Arts Center, where the Morgan Park-Beverly Hills Garden Club showcases sustainable gardening practices.

Kehoe has held a variety of volunteer roles for 25 years, including volunteer coordinator for the city of Blue Island and chair of the Blue Island Forestry Board. He also worked on restoration and trail tracking for the Cook County Forest Preserve for 15 years.

His interest in trees is not surprising. The mature white oak in front of her home compelled her to purchase her Blue Island home with her husband, Pat Kehoe, who appreciated the front porch. “There’s a whole ecosystem that forms around one of these trees,” Kehoe said.

Other horticulturists present at the Oct. 4 event included Mary Harkenrider, head farmer of Precious Blood Reconciliation Ministry Urban Farm; Greg Stack, a former University of Illinois Extension educator in horticulture; and Openlands Forestry field manager Victor Short.

Harkenrider, a master urban farmer through the University of Illinois Extension, has worked with PBMR Urban Farm for eight years, helping to fulfill its restorative justice mission to “improve relationships in the Backyards and Englewood neighborhoods through outreach, education and outreach.” get engaged.”

Built on raised beds in a former parking lot, the farm produced more than 6,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables for area residents last year.

Stack joined the University of Illinois Extension staff in 1974 as a consultant in horticulture. He worked as a special project leader for the Chicago Urban Gardening Program and served as a horticulture instructor.

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Although officially retired from those responsibilities, Stack now works “full time” for Ted’s Greenhouse in Tinley Park.

As Openlands’ Forestry field manager, Victor Short teaches apprentice arborists how trees work in our ecosystem. He briefly trained at Greencorps Chicago and worked in environmental services, supervising Chicago Park District maintenance crews working in natural areas.

Mennecke expects the Q&A to attract interest from gardeners from outside the Garden Club.

“We often attract a large number of master gardeners from Indiana to our annual events, and we provide information about it to other garden clubs in the area,” he said.

Regardless of the number of non-members, attendance is likely to be good. Garden Club membership numbers have almost doubled since the pandemic and now stand at 102.

More information at: gardenclubofmorganparkbeverly@gmail.com or on Facebook at lovetogarden1926.

Susan DeGrane is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.


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