Next Saturday, the day before Earth Day, I'll be delivering the keynote address at the Spring Celebration of Share the Harvest, a project of Grace Seeds Ministry in which south and south suburban churches and their neighbors grow food for donation to food pantries.
Linda Wygant, who is organizing the event and who knows me as a fellow Master Gardener, asked me to talk on "Growing Green in a Changing Climate." She was inspired, no doubt, by articles I've written recently for the Chicago Tribune on the new USDA climate zone map and on suggestions for changing gardening practices to cope with climate change.
But as I've been mulling over the talk, I've been thinking about climate change not just in literal terms. Yes, the climate in changing, and over the next couple of decades the long-term increase in average temperatures is likely not just to make our growing seasons longer and allow the gamblers among us to try more tender perennials, but create more violent storms and more frequent droughts, foster more invasive species and insects, and cost us some much-loved native species -- without relieving us of the volatility that is the chief characteristic of Midwestern weather.
I also think there's a change in the climate of opinion. Sure, there are still knotheads out there, but most reasonable people have come to agree with the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is happening and that human beings are contributing to it. And I like to think that more people are sharing an awareness of their responsibilities to reduce that contribution and the help deal with the unavoidable effects. that requires making some choices in our own back yards that are not just about our own enjoyment but about the unseen effects out garden choices have on our communities and the natural areas around us.
One of the visible signs of that is the growth in interest in growing our own food. It has lead to an upsurge of community gardening but also to an upsurge of programs like Share the Harvest, which after just three years now has 18 raised beds at Mt. Zion Lutheran Church in Oak Lawn and donates food to several food pantries. Sharing food with our neighbors is an aspect of understanding that we share our gardens with our communities and with the natural world.
I'll be speaking at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 21, at Mt. Zion Lutheran Church, 10400 S. Kostner Ave., Oak Lawn. My talk will be followed by mini-workshops on beekeeping, composting, choosing plants for our new climate zone designation, and crop succession and interplanting to get the greatest harvest from a small space. There will even be a simple lunch, and it's all free and open to everyone.
It's an event-packed Earth Day Weekend this year, but I hope to see some eager, generous or simply curious gardeners. For vegetable gardening beginners, there's no better way to learn than to volunteer with experienced gardeners.
For more information on the event, call Grace Seeds Ministry at 773-495-7865 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
(And thanks to WCPT 820-AM, where I am a sometime guest on Mike Nowak's greening-and-gardening radio show, for promoting the event.)