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April 13, 2014

Batten down the hatches--Christy Webber is back!

I know I've said this before but I'm going to say it again. The reason I love having Christy Webber on my radio show is not because Christy Webber Landscapes and Christy Webber Farm & Garden are great sponsors of my program (they are) or because she knows a ton of stuff about landscaping (she does). It's simply because Christy Webber is GREAT RADIO.

Basically, I wind her up, sit back and she does all the work for me. Not only does she love talking about the horticultural industry, but she regales me with tales of business and political intrigue (not all of those make it to the airwaves) and she's about as real a human being as you're going to get. And she's funny. What's not to like?

There's a lot going on at Christy Webber's enterprises this year. Let's start with Christy Webber Farm & Garden, which has a slightly new name and a brand new website. But they're stil there to promote urban gardening and farming of all types--including chicken raising. In fact, you can go to their Useful Info page where you can download pdfs from workshops and classes, and gather information on

Seed Starting workshop
Fertilizer infographic
Chicken Fun Facts
Urban Chicken Keeping Class
Planting Spring Bulbs
Beekeeping class: Forging a New Relationship with Bees

Of course, there are the usual suspects at the Farm & Garden--annuals and edibles, seeds and bulbs, lawn and plant care, perennials and ground covers, garden tools and supplies, shrubs and trees, tropicals, fruit trees, planters, baskets, containers and a lot more.

Also, Christy Webber Landscapes is one of the sponsors of something special in June--a conference called Soil in the City 2014: Enhancing Urban Soils for Living Landscapes and Healthy Communities. It will be held in association with from June 29 to July 2, 2014 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, 160 E. Huron Street in Chicago. The conference will focus on three themes: Urban Gardening, Green Infrastructures, and Greening Brownfields.

The event is for anyone working with planning, designing, constructing, and/or maintaining urban infrastructures and outdoor areas, including engineers, landscape architects, designers, biosolids management leaders, contractors/consultants, developers, builders, city planners, arborists, foresters, urban gardeners, researchers, and educators

It will even include a tour of what is being called "America's Greenest Street"--the Chicago Department of Transportation’s (CDOT) $14 million Cermak-Blue Island Sustainable Streetscape Project. According to the promotional piece for the conference, the first phase was completed in 2012 and the 1.5-mile stretch of Blue Island Avenue and Cermak Road incorporates eight sustainability performance areas. Some of them include native plants, recycled and local materials, and energy efficient kiosk lighting that is partly powered by wind and solar. High-albedo pavement reduces the urban heat island and photocatalytic cement helps remove nitrogen oxide from the air. The site also uses no potable water and prevents 80% of average annual rainfall from entering nearby combined sewers.

Of course, Christy and I will talk about the usual stuff, too--the harsh winter, getting your garden going for the spring and a lot more.

Preserving oaks and more with Preserve Lake County

There are a lot of great conservation organizations in the Chicago region and Conserve Lake County is one of them. It started out in 1995 as the Liberty Prairie Conservancy by citizens concerned about development pressures that threatened a unique public/private conservation effort known as the Liberty Prairie Reserve. That effort focused on land use planning and ecological restoration within the 5,800 acre reserve and was successful in protecting more than 3,300 acres and hundreds of acres of habitat are being restored.

In 2004, the mission became county-wide, and since then, programs were launched like Conservation@Home, which helps citizens protect nature in their own backyards, and the Local Food Initiative, which is designed to bring more local food production and sustainable agriculture to Lake County.

Preserve Lake County is also interested in preserving our oak trees and, to that end, has instituted a program called the Chicago Region Oak Recovery Program. You might remember that author Doug Tallamy, who wrote the book Bringing Nature Home, has appeared on my show several times, and he considers oak trees to be among the best plants to support biodiversity. Preserve Lake County says simply, "Plant an Oak Tree."


According to Sarah Surroz, Conservation and Outreach Manager for Conserve Lake County,

Oaks are considered “keystone” species in Northeastern Illinois, driving much of the
biodiversity in the region.

Unfortunately, oak ecosystems are in decline across the state, and significantly so in the Chicago area. Oak ecosystems are under intense, combined pressure from a number of threats including

• habitat fragmentation
• development
• direct cutting
• invasive species
• changing climate
• lack of management
• severe reproductive failure

There is an urgent need for action, and it must be coordinated across a range of institutions and geographies. No single agency or organization can address this issue alone. This project will establish the framework for a comprehensive, coordinated oak recovery effort across NE Illinois. This directly targets the needs identified by the IL Forest Action Plan, which identified oak decline as a major threat to woodland resources. Furthermore, the project meets many of the priority actions of the Forests Campaign and Green Cities Campaign in the Illinois Wildlife Action Plan. It also supports priority goals and objectives at regional and national levels.

According to Surroz, it is estimated that only 12% of our oak communities remain compared to the 1830’s. And while some oaks are protected on public lands, the trees that grow on private property need to be protected, too. Protecting the oaks species will, in turn, protect many, many other species.

I'm pleased to have Sarah on the program today. She is joined by Jim Anderson, who is Natural Resource Manager for the Lake County Forest Preserve District.

The Mike Nowak Show comes to the Green Metropolis Fair on April 27!

We hit the road again in a couple of weeks, as The Mike Nowak Show will be broadcast live at the Green Metropolis Fair on Sunday, April 27. from 10am-5pm at the Irish American Heritage Center, 4626 N. Knox Avenue, Chicago IL 60630. In addition to my show from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m., here's what you can look forward to at this FREE EVENT:

  • Hands on family-friendly activities: farm animals, composting, gardening stalls and more!
  • Retail market with local sustainable business vendors.
  • Food market with local restaurants and chefs.
  • Presentations on organic gardening, sustainable living, energy savings, composting, CSAs, and more!

The full program is HERE.

There is plenty of free parking, and the center is conveniently located off 90/94. However, if you want to be greener, take the CTA Blue Line to the Montrose stop and walk from there, or grab a bus. If you want to be REALLY green, ride your bike!. Bike parking is available.

Of course, check them out on Facebook.

This morning, event organizer Mary Beth Rebedeau of Green Parents Network (GPN) joins me on the show. You can contact her via email (above) or at 708.361.6000 or 708.641.2752 (cell).


Past Shows



Christy Webber

Sarah Surroz, conservation and outreach manager for Conserve Lake County

Jim Anderson, natural resource manager for the Lake
County Forest Preserve District

Mary Beth Rebedeau of Green Parents Network