preServe Garden


The preSERVE garden is a partnership between Slow Food Chicago, the North Lawndale Greening Committee, the Chicago Honey Co-Op, and NeighborSpace.   In 2009, Slow Food Chicago had a a desire to get more deeply involved in community gardening at a neighborhood level.  North Lawndale was a natural fit because of Slow Food Chicago’s strong relationship with the Honey Co-Op and the Greening Committee, and past partnership on events like the Sweet Summer Solstice Potluck and Chicago TomatoFest.  The preSERVE garden  was created in 2010 (on the African Heritage Garden’s fifth lot) with the partners’ vision of promoting a better life and healthier eating in North Lawndale. Four organizations joined together and took action to design a sustainable business model that yields a return for the North Lawndale neighborhood by converting vacant spaces into gardens, providing food education, creating value added branded products, and providing youth education.

During its first months of establishment, Slow Food Chicago, the Chicago Honey Coop, the North Lawndale Greening Committee,  NeighborSpace and many other volunteers prepared this lot for planting Black eyed peas, Crowder peas, and Sweet Potatoes. We moved compost and woodchips to make raised bed rows. Then we planted the peas and sweet potato slips.

Since its creation, the preSERVE garden has continued to expand. We raised funds to build a custom wooden fence to signify the garden’s permanence and add to its beauty.  We were awarded a $1,500 grant from Nature Hills Nursery for fruit trees and bushes.  We’ve built a compost bin and will shortly be building a tool shed.  With the help of over 70 volunteers and supporters, we expanded our crops to include not only five varieties of sweet potatoes, black eyed peas, and crowder peas, but also six types of salad greens and a variety of heirloom tomatoes.  Our partners NeighborSpace and Green Corps installed a wooden kiosk in the garden with signs, photos, and space for sign-up sheets, so that neighborhood volunteers can get more involved with workdays.

In 2013, we harvested more than 430 pounds from the preSERVE Garden, including 31 different crops! Not bad for a city lot. Many of the varieties grown in the preSERVE Garden are from Slow Food’s Ark of Taste, an international catalog of endangered and rare foods as well as foods grown from the African American Heritage Collection.

This year we asked our partners to share in funding a program to make this garden a high brix garden.  That is, it is a garden that focuses on building healthy soil with healthy microbial life and uses mineralization, foliar feeding and nutrient drenches to grow high quality, nutrient dense fruit and vegetables. Our thanks to NeighborSpace and Openlands for joining the North Lawndale Greening Committee in this important effort.

We need your help!  We would not be able to keep the garden healthy and thriving without the help of our volunteers! Come get your hands dirty as we prepare the garden beds, learn how to plant seeds and seedlings, and join in the fun of harvesting sweet potatoes.  We need volunteer leaders and people to help with potlucks and other fun events throughout the year.

2014 preSERVE Garden Workdays

Workdays are monthly from March through November, usually on the 3rd Saturday of the month.  Our currently scheduled dates are below, but are subject to change based on weather conditions – check out our new calendar for the latest dates.   We look forward to seeing you soon.

  • June 28
  • July 19
  • August 16
  • September 20
  • October 18
  • November 1




Slumbusters Garden

Slumbusters Garden.

This community garden predates the North Lawndale Greening Committee, having been created in 1986 by Gerald and Lorean Earles. The Earles’ focus was to get rid of “the beast” and to bring beauty back to Chicago’s blighted neighborhoods. Their community garden won the President’s Points of Light Award in 1993.The Slumbusters were one of 4,000 groups nominated and only one of 30 groups who received awards. They received their award from President Clinton at a White House ceremony.

Also in 1993, the Slumbusters garden was featured in the movie, “To Sir with Love Part 2″ with Sidney Poitier. They still have two of the three evergreen bushes that were planted in the garden for this movie.

This garden also provided the impetus for the Slumbusters to get involved in other neighborhood projects such as the redevelopment and renovation of nearby Douglas Park. Today, the Earles continue to inspire others through their example to get rid of “the beast” and beautify their neighborhoods.

This large garden, located underneath and adjacent to the Pink Line elevated train tracks, features flowers, vegetable plots, and various hand-painted signs declaring “Slumbusters” and “To Do Nothing is To Be Nothing”. The Slumbusters garden is composed of a city-owned lot and land under the train tracks, which is owned by the Chicago Transit Authority.

Gerald and Lorean Earles not only created the Slumbusters Garden, they have a another community garden at 1944 S. Trumbull on the other side of two adjacent greystones. This second garden contains only flowers, though a small glass greenhouse is used to start sensitive plants in the spring, and benches are lined with vegetable seedlings for use in the main garden.

Why do we like to garden? “We like to eat fresh vegetables. It makes the community safer, it makes the community beautiful, people stop and look at the garden, people riding the train enjoy looking down on the garden and it’s a good excuse for Earl and myself.”

A wide variety of vegetables are grown in this garden, including a range of cooking greens, tomatoes, peas, beans, squashes, peppers, cucumbers, onions, and herbs. The vegetables are primarily grown for the consumption by those who tend the garden, though extra produce is at times given away to community residents.

Story Book Garden

This garden was created in 1995 with the help of the Library Staff, Volunteers and the Chicago Botanical Garden. The garden has a wide variety of trees, perennials and annuals. The main focus of this garden is the mural on the wall in title “I DARE TO DREAM.”


Troy Community Garden

Troy Community Garden.

In 1998, the 1600/1800 South Troy Block Club started this garden to “serve as a link to other areas by showing how a community can improve the standards and quality of life in the community.” The garden has an octagonal raised bed, several raised beds to grow vegetables, and a variety of shrubs and perennials. In March 2007, this garden received the Neighborhood Leadership Award (from NHS of Chicago) “in recognition of outstanding leadership in rebuilding Chicago’s neighborhoods.”

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