Joining the Upcoming Growing Season

Greeting from the Root-Riot Urban Garden Network!

This is the New Q & A about future  Growing Year.

(last update:April 10, 1012)

After reading this, if you are interested in getting on the waiting list for either garden, please send an email to “join” or “”

This has some of be basic information about joining one of the Root-Riot gardens.

  • At Root-Riot Madison, we target early to mid April  as the day we will invite members to join the next growing season at Madison. 
    • If you are interested in a bed at Root-Riot Madison, THE ONLY WAY YOU CAN GET ON THE WAITING LIST is to please send an email to “”.
    • For the 2011, 2012, and 2013 Season and Root-Riot Madison we had 10 open beds for the season (and 30 to 39 people on the waiting list).
    • For the next growing season, we would expect about the same number of beds,  perhaps a few less, as we are learning more and more every day about how to make the Root-Riot Gardens a great community.
  • Root-Riot Harambee typically gets started a bit later in the growing season… sometime around Mother’s day. If you are interested in a bed at
    • Root-Riot Harambee please send an email to “”
    • At Harambee, we built about 20 new beds in 2011
    • We are planning on building more in 2012 but not sure how many just yet.
  • Root-Riot Forest Park Montessori school:  
    •  Well you can’t really sign up for a bed here, but you can walk over and see the nice little bed we made for the kids there.
  • * At the MIDDLE to END of APRIL, we will update the web site with registration info. (And if it comes a bit later than that, please be patient, but best bet is to send in an email and get on the list for the garden of your choice. It is comes early rejoice!  )

Here is some more info that you should read if you are interested.

If you have not walked around the garden you should do that before your join. The address is 848 Madison for Root-Riot Madison in Oak Park IL, and 500 N Waller for Root-Riot Harambee in the Austin Neighborhood of Chicago.

Below is a list of question/info about the gardens. Not comprehensive, but a darn good start. No surprise, the beds will be assigned “in the order your request was received” based on the email you just sent.

Root-Riot Gardens are an “at-risk” proposition:
In both gardens the land we are using is owned by private citizen. For the Madison Garden, you need to know the land is very much FOR SALE. At any moment we may have to leave. Having said that, the owners and the Village will be advocates for us to stay throughout the growing season. Root-Riot Harambee has a three year pledge to use the land starting with the 2010 growing season.

Root-Riot Madison does not have running water.
What? No water? Right. Believe it or not,there is a huge cistern in the back of the lot that The Village very graciously fills for us once a week. The kids love it! they fill buckets and water plants and think it is great fun. Since the water doesn’t come out any faster for the adults, it means you get to enjoy the garden, socialize with other folks, or perhaps talk to your kids while the bucket is filling.

Root-Riot Harambee has lots of water thanks to the Fire Department next door. But don’t worry, you can still talk to your neighbors and the kids as you water.

Kids are welcome!
By all means bring them along. We have some experienced kid gardeners now and they are great at helping out the the other kids and adults. Grace from Root-Riot Harambee was recognized by Openlands as one of the “Community Youth Gardener of the Year.” More about her on our web site.

Not so much. If you bring your puppy, please keep him outside the garden area.

What are all those great flowers?
Habitat! Each garden has a native plant area. We need the birds and pollinators in our garden and this gives them a place to hang out after they are done pollinating.

We do our best. One Garden has a tumbler and another a 3 bin system. We are still learning how to do it well, but so far Mother Nature has done a good job at helping us along. Worm bins have been proposed for 2011 at one of the gardens. Very exciting to see how that goes.

Last year we had an amazing effort from volunteers to teach classes. Peter is an amazing person and is a tried and true Gardner! As a professional teacher, he shared so much with us and helped out so many new gardeners. Jen came in and talked to the group about Chickens and chicken coops, Michelle is a master gardener and came in an gave us an information packed garden talk. Julie gave a powerful class to first time gardeners. We even had a day where a bus came, picked-us up, and gave us a tour of some of the other Chicago gardens. Sandra and Louise were the amazing organizers of all of this. Louise and her family moved on, and Sandra sure could use some help for 2011. Teach. Plan. Organize. You pick.

Get Involved
All the people who are doing this are just regular folks who want to participate. Not a lot of pressure to do anything but garden if that is what you want to do, but you should know, that curiosity, once unleaded, frequently leads to participation. On the web site is a “get involved” tab. Take a look. Think about it. If you have something else in mind? Let us know. Your contributions are welcome.

Each Root-Riot has a different pricing structure depending on the gifting from local business. We will let you know when we post on the web site.

Urban soils are frequently contaminated with urban pollution. We tested the soil, and while all the tests came back under the Federal standard, we decided to us the “precautionary principle” and use a engineered barrier to separate the clean soil from the existing soil. We have a saying in the Root-Riot Gardens “Respect the Barrier”. That means we don’t use a lot of shovels, mostly simple hand tools and a simple rake.

Do we make money at this?
This isn’t a for-profit effort. We just want to grow community, veggies, and friends– and begin to participate in the effort to grow sustainable, local food. We are looking to registering as a non-profit, or a new type of business called L3C. Either way, rest assure, we need a bit of a operating budget for hoses, connectors, water cans, and some water and refreshments etc on work days, For the rest, we “make-due” with what we have or what is donated.

Also, there are some very interesting “mico-business” coming out of Douglass Academy… Check out the web site for more info and see how you can get started gardening sooner this year if you help out with a simple purchase.

Other Root-Riot Gardens?
Root-Riot Harambee and Root-Riot Madison are starting their second year. We are looking at starting another garden in Forest Park. Nothing for sure yet, we started talking about it at the end of the 2010 growing season and things are looking good, but not confirmed.

We have paperwork!
When you join, each garden has Gardening agreements and liability waivers. Once we update it for 2011 we will post to the web site and you can review it there.

What should be your take-a-way from this?
We are absolutely a group of people who are giving of ourselves to create this space and have conversations about local food, creating community, sustainable practices and resilient communities. Being flexible, volunteering, contributing, inventing, creating, participating, are all freely given and much appreciated by the current Root-Riot Regulars and we expect the same from new folks.

Follow-up emails?
We are probably not able to respond to each personal email. Kids, cats, chickens, hamster, fish, full-time jobs keep us pretty busy. We will read the emails and bundle up answers in larger group emails.

I think that is enough for now. Sit tight. Send out an email to if you are interested. We will catch-up with you in April.

2 thoughts on “Joining the Upcoming Growing Season

  1. I’m interested in doing some gardening at your Chicago location if there is still space available. Any information you have would be appreciated. Thanks,

    Chris Mateja

    • Please send an email to “” that will put you on the waiting list. We will follow-up with you in mid-to end of April.


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