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Garden clubs all over the state have been passing the word around. Mike Nowak is funny. He's also knowledgeable and packs more information into a handout than most people get into a full-length book. But sometimes, if you've just had a really good lunch, "funny" can be the most important thing, as you can see in this video. GreenScreen of McHenry County taped Mike talking to the Wildflower Preservation and Propagation Committee's Natural Landscaping Seminar held at McHenry County College in February of 2008.


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Mike's Presentations
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Mike Nowak

I'm Not Really a Garden Expert,
I Just Play One on the Radio

(1 hour plus Q & A)
Except for the fact that he has a program on WCPT Radio and, before that, at WGN, Mike Nowak is probably a lot like you and your gardening friends. That is to say, he stumbled onto gardening somewhere in mid-life and has never looked back (except to see what he tripped over). Since then, he's interviewed dozens of horticultural experts--some famous, some not, some controversial, some cranky, some strange--who have taught him valuable lessons about gardening, environmental responsibility and life. WARNING FOR PEOPLE WHO LACK A SENSE OF HUMOR: This presentation may not be entirely serious! (Heck, even the pictures are funny.)


Good Planets are Hard to Find
(1 hour plus Q & A)
Like many of you, Mike Nowak has been around to observe the successes and failures of the environmental movement in its short history. There's some gardener out there right now asking, what in the world does that have to do with me? As a founder of the Midwest Ecological Landscaping Association and president of Chicago Recycling Coalition, Mike will answer that question, presenting new ways of looking at pests, pathogens and low-impact gardening solutions and, in the process, perhaps persuading you that ants, grubs and yes, even slugs, are less threatening than you ever imagined.



Thriving in Hard Soil

Mike tells the story of his community garden, Green on McLean, located in the Logan Square Neighborhood of Chicago. Just three short years ago, it was a overgrown and litter-filled backdrop to gang activity and drug deals. Then, the people in the neighborhood said "Enough!" and decided that they would take matters into their own hands. They cleaned up the trash in the vacant double lot on the corner, capped the lead-laden soil and planted their first garden. Three years later, the gangs are gone, and the lot is a place where organic produce is grown by people of all ages and backgrounds, where people sit in the shade on hot summer evenings, and where the community comes together to have pot luck gatherings on the weekends. It's an inspiring story but just one of many that are repeated throughout Chicago and suburbs--and across the country--every day.



Guys on Grass (or Organic Lawn Care 101)
(1 hour plus Q & A)

As a die-hard gardener, Mike's philosophy about lawns can be summed up in this phrase: “When in doubt, rip it out.” Yet, as a radio show host, he knows that people love their lawns, so his compromise is to preach the gospel of organic lawn care. He notes that 68% of consumers say that their concern for the environment is a consideration when buying lawn and garden products. Yet these same people are the ones who are afraid of what their neighbors will think if they don't  have a lawn that looks like a golf course fairway.  In this talk, Mike looks at why the concept of the “perfect lawn” is so harmful, starting with that lock-step mentality and moving on to the use of synthetic fertilizers and pervasive pesticides. He explains how some simple cultural practices can be just as effective as expensive chemicals to keep your lawn green and healthy. He shows you why what's in your soil is at least as important as what's above it. And he dares to ask the question, “Why are weeds so bad?” (Hint: they're not.)


That Ain't No Way to Treat a Tree
(1 hour plus Q&A)

Mike Nowak is not really an arborist. He just plays one on the radio. Actually, for the past ten years, first on WGN and now on WCPT 820AM, Mike has functioned more as a clearing house/conduit/confidant/voice of reason for the kinds of people you run into every day. That is to say, folks who are clueless not only about trees, but about most living plant material. Yes, that can be frustrating, but it can also make you laugh...when you're not crying or beating your head against the side of a garage. Opting for comedy over tragedy, Mike looks at the funnier side of misinformation, misunderstanding and miscommunication when it comes to the average American's knowledge of the magnificent plants we call trees


The 800 Pound Banana in the Room
(1 hour plus Q&A)

As the world population shoots past 7 billion on its way to 9 or 10 billion by mid-century, we should be painfully aware that the term "throwaway society" has not only become obsolete, it is a dangerous concept. Mike knows that there is no such thing as "away" when it comes to throwing out the stuff we manufacture, the organic materials that surround us and the food that we eat--it has to end up somewhere. It's time to start thinking about the end game of everything we use--otherwise we will drown in plastics, chemicals, food scraps and more. Mike looks specifically at composting and the challenge of teaching people how to be responsible for reducing the amount of organic material that goes to landfills all over the world.




Mike talks to an informal group at the Hosta Happening at Rich's Foxwillow Pines

Mike at Smith Hawken

Mike showing his appreciation for a Norway Maple



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