This Week in the Prairie Patch: September 20-26

Tuesday 9/22 is the first day of Fall! Are you doing anything special to celebrate? The weather is supposed to be lovely all week, so come enjoy the new season during a visit to the Prairie Patch.

Plant Updates:

Lead by volunteer extraordinaire, Cathy Streett, we are starting to winterize the Prairie Patch. This includes planting cover crops (red clover, oats, and peas) to help add nitrogen into the soil for healthier plants next year. We will continue to harvest and share via Garden Giveaways through the end of September. We will also do an official fall clean-up in October and plant our remaining plants and bulbs in anticipation of Spring.

Book Recommendations:

Container Gardening for all Seasons

Fine Cooking Soups and Stews: No-fail recipes for all seasons

All the President's Gardens

Share Your Prairie Patch Story:

Did you have a memorable experience in the Prairie Patch this summer? Reading in the shade, eating ice cream on a bench, playing in the Mud Kitchen? We're harvesting highlights to share on the blog the end of the season. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your story.

Seed Library:

Are you interested in helping plant future gardens? To learn what you need to do to save your seeds and donate to our Seed Library, email Natalie Williams: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

This Week in the Prairie Patch: September 13-19

Photo of the bug hotel (with limited vacancies) in Bea's Garden. Photo by Cathy Streett.

Plant Updates: Our peppers are getting bigger and we still have tomatoes growing. A few have been eaten by critters, like our beans, but we're hoping to still have some to harvest. For reference, our Garden Giveaways will continue through the end of September. Cathy, one of our volunteers, has seen a variety of pollinator insects in the garden lately, including something (potentially a  Grass-Carrying Wasp) building in the bug hotel in Bea's Garden. See the photo for more detail.

Do you have a K-2 student looking for something to do in the Prairie Patch? They can take part in our Sight Word Scavenger Hunt! Pick up a clue sheet at the Kids & Teens Ask Us desk or request a copy for pickup from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. When you've found all the sight words, your clue sheet will reveal a hidden message. Bring the message to the desk and receive a prize book! Ideal for K-2 learners.

We also have a few additional outdoor programs available in September, both in the Prairie Patch and at local spots. See here for details.

There are still monarch butterflies and hummingbirds in our area. Be a citizen scientist and your observations with our friends at Journey North.

Book Recommendations:

Illinois, Indiana & Ohio Month by Month Gardening: What to do to have a beautiful garden all year

Midwest Native Shrubs and Trees: Gardening alternatives to nonnative species: an illustrated guide

T-Veg: The story of carrot-crunching dinosaur

Share Your Prairie Patch Story:

Did you have a memorable experience in the Prairie Patch this summer? Reading in the shade, eating ice cream on a bench, playing in the Mud Kitchen? We're harvesting highlights to share on the blog the end of the season. Email Megan Lawrence with your story.

Seed Library:

Are you interested in helping plant future gardens? To learn what you need to do to save your seeds and donate to our Seed Library, email Natalie Williams: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

This Week in the Prairie Patch: September 6-12

Plant Updates: Observers of the weather and readers of last week's post might think there is a correlation with this week's cooler, rainier weather. Wouldn't it be great if that were true? We're hoping for a few more weeks in the growing season despite the obvious signs of fall that are starting to appear daily. Garden Giveaways continue to be available in the library's lobby.

Programs: Do you have a K-2 student looking for something to do in the Prairie Patch? They can take part in our Sight Word Scavenger Hunt! Pick up a clue sheet at the Kids & Teens Ask Us desk or request a copy for pickup from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. When you've found all the sight words, your clue sheet will reveal a hidden message. Bring the message to the desk and receive a prize book! Ideal for K-2 learners.

We also have a few additional outdoor programs available in September, both in the Prairie Patch and locally. Click here for details.

Book Recommendations:

This is the Sunflower

Sunflowers for Megan

Bronze and Sunflower

Share Your Prairie Patch Story:

Did you have a memorable experience in the Prairie Patch this summer? Reading in the shade, eating ice cream on a bench, playing in the Mud Kitchen? We're harvesting highlights to share on the blog the end of the season. Email Megan Lawrence with your story.

Seed Library:

Are you interested in helping plant future gardens? To learn what you need to do to save your seeds and donate to our Seed Library, email Natalie Williams: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

This Week in the Prairie Patch: August 30-September 5

Sunflowers are the plants to 'see' this month for our Sensory Garden. Look for the blue signs to help guide your sensory experience .

Plant Updates: Despite our garden team's hard work, the heat and lack of rain has definitely gotten to a few of our plants, especially the squash and cucumbers. There are still blossoms and small fruits growing on these plants but we have seen the loss of foliage and vines. Did you know squash and cucumbers are related? They are both members of the gourd family and botanically both are considered fruit, even though they are often considered vegetables. 

In good gardening news, we have several types of peppers now visibly bearing fruit and our tomatoes continue to ripen. Garden Giveaways remain available in the lobby. Our harvest days are typically Monday, Wednesday, Saturday.

Book Recommendations:

The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest

The Joy of Pickling

Ultimate Book of Step-by-Step Cooking and Gardening Projects for Kids

Share Your Prairie Patch Story:

Did you have a memorable experience in the Prairie Patch this summer? Reading in the shade, eating ice cream on a bench, playing in the Mud Kitchen? We're harvesting highlights to share on the blog the end of the season. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your story.

Seed Library:

Are you interested in helping plant future gardens? To learn what you need to do to save your seeds and donate to our Seed Library, email Natalie Williams: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



This Week in the Prairie Patch: August 23-29

European paper wasp on tropical milkweed. Photo by Cathy Streett

Plant Updates: We continue to see a variety of blooms in the garden, including zinnias, butterfly bush and tropical milkweed (pictured left) The orange impatiens at the north end of the garden have tripled in size since being planted in June. Our regular harvesting continues on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Through our Garden Giveaway program (available in the lobby) we have harvested and shared over 43 pounds of produce so far this season.

Be a citizen scientist! Our friends at Journey North have started their fall Monarch watch and are looking for observations to help document the fall migration. Click here to learn more and participate.

Book Recommendations:

Pugtato Finds a Thing

Jam Session: A Fruit-Preserving Handbook

Second Nature: A Gardener's Education

The Ultimate Container Gardener: All you need to know to create plantings for spring, summer, autumn and winter

Share Your Prairie Patch Story:

Did you have a memorable experience in the Prairie Patch this summer? Reading in the shade, eating ice cream on a bench, playing in the Mud Kitchen? We're harvesting highlights to share on the blog the end of the season. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your story. 

Seed Library:

Are you interested in helping plant future gardens? To learn what you need to do to save your seeds and donate to our Seed Library, email Natalie Williams: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.




This Week in the Prairie Patch: August 16-22

Plant Updates: This week we're harvesting dill, sage, carrots, beans, tomatoes, bell pepper, kale and mint. Look for our Garden Giveaway table in the library's lobby. 

Sensory Garden: Don't miss the sunflowers! They are blooming in several beds. The rest of the sensory garden includes dill, sage, squash and ornamental grass. Look for the blue signs indicating this curated experience.

Programming: We have a handful of outdoor programs for kids, including a Monday morning yoga class on August 24. Click here for more information and to register.

Meet the Garden Team: The Prairie Patch is maintained by a handful of IPPL staff and community volunteers. Each week, we will share information about a different team member. This week, meet Natalie!

Role: Library staff

Where are you from? Michigan originally, but I've lived in Chicago most of my adult life

How long have you been a library patron? I have worked at IPPL for 7 years

What do you like about gardening? I love the magic of watching new things grow out of seemingly nothing. I love the first sprouts of spring and every new little zucchini or pepper that appears. I also like realizing just how many seeds we eat as food...like peas, corn, and beans.

What are your favorite gardening books?A Seed is Sleepy by Dianna Hutts Aston and Gardening Lab for Kids by Renata Fossen Brown

What is your favorite thing to grow? I like growing things in the "cucurbits" family - squash, zucchini, pumpkins, and cucumber.

Do you have a favorite gardening quote or phrase? "To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow." –Audrey Hepburn

Book Recommendations:

Seed saving: A beginner's guide to heirloom gardening

Show up for salad: 100 more recipes for salads, dressings, and all the fixins you don't have to be vegan to love

Red Pepper, yellow squash: A book of colors

Seed Library:

Are you interested in helping plant future gardens? To learn what you need to do to save your seeds and donate to our Seed Library, email Natalie Williams: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


This Week in the Prairie Patch: August 9-15

Plant Updates: We have patty pan squash, summer squash and several varities of tomatoes ready for harvest this week. We're also continuing to harvest swiss chard, carrots and herbs. New blooms in the garden include a pink butterfly milkweed and sunflowers. Our Garden Giveaway is daily in the lobby.

Sensory Garden: Our latest sensory walk was installed, look for the blue signs and  explore sunflowers, dill, sage, squash and ornamental grass.

Programming: We have a handful of outdoor programs for kids in the Prairie Patch, including a Monday morning yoga class on August 17 and 24. Click here for more information and to register.

Book Recommendations:

Green Green: A community gardening story

Old Manhattan Has Some Farms

Chicago Gardens: An Early History

In Search of Meadowlarks

Seed Library:

Are you interested in helping plant future gardens? To learn what you need to do to save your seeds and donate to our Seed Library, email Natalie Williams: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

This Week in the Prairie Patch: August 2-August 8

Plant Updates: Shhh, don't tell the TriState Fire District that this Saturday is 'Sneak Some Zucchini on your Neighbor's Porch Day'.

Garden Giveaway: Available daily in the library's lobby. Depending on our harvests, you will find herbs such as mint, chives, dillweed and sage. We also have kale, swiss chard, carrots, beans and a variety of squashes. If you have any questions about the program, or are interested in donating surplus from your garden, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Meet the Garden Team: The Prairie Patch is maintained by a handful of IPPL staff and community volunteers. Each week, we will share information about a different team member. This week, meet Megan Lawrence!

Role: Youth Services Associate

Where are you from?: Willowbrook

How long have you been a library patron?: I have worked at IPPL for a little over a year, but I have been a patron for 8 years.

What do you like about gardening?: Lots of thingsIt is relaxing and a great way to spend time outside. I loved helping my parents in their garden when I was little and now, I can share gardening with my kids. It has been fun to explore nature with them through the garden.

Also, there is an artistic element in planning a garden and using plants as the medium. Finally, I really like being able to grow things from seed and see the result, and I get a tremendous amount of enjoyment in sharing my flowers and veggies.

What are your favorite gardening books?:

Native plants of the Midwest : a comprehensive guide to the best 500 species for the garden

Six seasons : a new way with vegetables

What is your favorite thing to grow?Zinnias, Bee Balm, Tomatoes, and Peonies

Do you have a favorite gardening quote or phrase?:

"To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow." Audrey Hepburn

"Mommy look it's a tomato!" My daughter, Clio

Seed Library: Are you interested in helping plant future gardens? To learn what you need to do to save your seeds and donate to our Seed Library, email Natalie Williams: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Finally, thank you to everyone who participated in our Prairie Patch Art Show! If you participated, your artwork is available for pickup at the Kids & Teens Desk.

This Week in the Prairie Patch: July 26-August 1

View the Prairie Patch Art Show: We are excited to showcase art from patrons of all ages. Now in the garden through August 1.

Garden Giveaway: Available daily in the library's lobby.

Meet the Garden Team: The Prairie Patch is maintained by a handful of IPPL staff and community volunteers. Each week, we will share information about a different team member. This week, meet Cathy!

Role: Garden volunteer and Darien Garden Club ambassador to IPPL

Where are you from: Darien

How long have you been a library patron? – since 1991 almost 30 years

What do you like about gardening?: I love many aspects of gardening; food production (nothing like a fresh garden tomato or broccoli harvested until Nov), creating wildlife and pollinator habitat with native trees, shrubs and plants in my suburban yard, sharing plants, knowledge and enthusiasm with others especially the next generation of gardeners, learning something new every day about growing and caring for the garden as well as about the garden visitors and their role in pollination and pest control.

What are your favorite gardening books? I love to cook with fresh produce so I recommend: From Asparagus to Zucchini (Jones Books – MACSAC) to get you started and to answer the question "What do you do with swiss chard? And others?

What is your favorite thing to grow? – Dahlias! Also, perennial and annual sunflowers, zinnias, tomato, and any and all native plants.

Do you have a favorite gardening quote or phrase? I have a few:

"The earth laughs in flowers." E E Cummings

"Tickle the earth with a hoe, it will laugh a harvest." Mary Cantell

"All gardens are a form of autobiography." Robert Dash

If you are interested in helping us in the garden this summer, please contact Natalie Williams about volunteering: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Book Recommendations:

Prairie Dog Song: The key to saving North America's grasslands

Q&A About Plants

STEM Kit: Plant Cell

Seed Library:

Are you interested in helping plant future gardens? To learn what you need to do to save your seeds and donate to our Seed Library, email Natalie Williams: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

This Week in the Prairie Patch: July 19- 25

We are starting to harvest the garden! This week we have picked summer squash and lots of herbs. With this bounty, we're starting the Garden Giveaways. For your health and safety, our giveaways will be different from previous years. For details see below:

Free for you!

      • This food was grown organically in the Prairie Patch, IPPL's community garden.
      • Food is harvested throughout the week as it ripens.
      • Stop by the designated table on the first floor anytime the library is open to see which herbs and veggies are available.

      • For your safety…
      • Masks are required
      • Please practice social distancing
      • Wash your hands and any food that you take home
      • Please don't touch anything you won't keep

Join us for the Prairie Patch Art Show: Calling all artists, reserve your blank yard sign by emailing your name and contact information to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Pick up a sign this week (one per family) and decorate with waterproof materials (permanent markers, oil pastels, acrylic paint, etc.). Bring it back to the library by Thursday, July 23 to be displayed in the Prairie Patch the week of July 26.

Meet the Garden Team: The Prairie Patch is maintained by a handful of IPPL staff and community volunteers. Each week, we will share information about a different team member. This week, meet Monica!

Name: Monica Dzierzbicki

Role: Youth Services Librarian/Mid-Kids Specialist

Where are you from? Illinois

How long have you been a patron? I've worked at IPPL for over 20 years.

What do you like about gardening? Gardening connects me with the principles of peace, community, nourishment and respect for all living things.

What are your favorite gardening books? There are way too many 🙂

  • Non-Fiction Titles: (newest reads)

Garden DIY: 25 fun-to-make projects for an attractive and productive garden by Daniel Johnson (2020)

The little gardener: helping children connect with the natural world. by Julie Cerny (2020)

In the Garden by Emma Guiliani (2020, Great book to share with kids, but so full of information for anyone. It shows the full range of the growing seasons in great detail.)

  • Non-Fiction Titles: (tried and true)

Ready, set, grow! a kid's guide to gardening by Rebecca Hershey (1995)

The ultimate step-by-step kids' first gardening book by Jenny Hendy (2010)

Up in the garden and down in the dirt by Kate Messner (2015

If you are interested in helping us in the garden this summer, please contact Natalie Williams about volunteering: nataliew@ippl.info

Seed Library:

Are you interested in helping plant future gardens? To learn what you need to do to save your seeds and donate to our Seed Library, email Natalie Williams: nataliew@ippl.info

This Week in the Prairie Patch: July 12-18

This week's post is brought to you by the letter 'Z' for ZINNIA. In addition to the zinnias found vibrantly blooming in planters outside the front door of the library, there are several individual zinnia plants now visible throughout the Prairie Patch. Look for them intermingled with beds including the carrots, herbs and in Bea's Garden.

Also, there are still spots available for our outdoor Kids + Teens programs scheduled in the Prairie Patch, including a Mud Kitchen, STEM in the Prairie Patch, Mid-Kid yoga and a Mid-Kid Field Day. Click here for schedules and registration information.

Join us for the Prairie Patch Art Show. Calling all artists, reserve your blank yard sign by emailing your name and contact information to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Pick up a sign this week (one per family) and decorate with waterproof materials (permanent markers, oil pastels, acrylic paint, etc.). Bring it back to the library by Thursday, July 23 to be displayed in the Prairie Patch the week of July 26.

Meet the Garden Team: The Prairie Patch is maintained by a handful of IPPL staff and community volunteers. Each week, we will share information about a different team member. This week, meet Mary!

Name: Mary Laffey

Role: Gardening Volunteer

Where are you from? Downers Grove

How long have you been a patron? Since I was twelve years old!

What do you like about gardening? I love the idea of creating, nourishing, and caring for something that is both beautiful and useful to the community.

What are your favorite gardening books? The Secret Garden and Mandy

What is your favorite thing to grow? I love our little "tea section" of the prairie patch with the mint, lavender, lemon, and chamomile

Do you have a favorite gardening quote or phrase? "If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need." - Cicero

If you are interested in helping us in the garden this summer, please contact Natalie Williams about volunteering: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Book Recommendations:

The Complete Summer Cookbook: Beat the heat with 500 recipes that make the most of summer's bounty

The Vegetable Gardener's Book of Building Projects

The Big Book of Blooms

Weekly Garden Giveaways: We hope to start these soon!

Seed Library:

It isn't too late to plant your own garden. If you are interested in getting seeds from our Seed Library, email Natalie Williams: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

This Week in the Prairie Patch: July 5-11

Early evening is a great time to visit the Prairie Patch.

Now that the library is open, no visit is complete without a walk through the Prairie Patch. The sunny weather and our awesome watering team have worked together to help make all of the plants explode in growth. We have several visible summer squashes growing, lots of tomatoes with blossoms, flowers on the butterfly bush, and fresh herbs like dill, chives, mint and chamomile. See last week's post for a map of the garden.

Also, we have several Kids + Teens programs scheduled in the Prairie Patch, including a Mud Kitchen, STEM in the Prairie Patch, Birdwatchers Meetup and Water Balloon Olympics. Click here for schedules and registration information.

Sensory Garden:

Our newest sensory garden features include listening for a wind chime, touching the lambs' ear and looking at the tall yellow hollyhock.

Weekly Garden Giveaways: We hope to start these soon!

Book Recommendations:

Fiction:

Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems

A Lullaby of Summer Things

The Shell Seekers

Non Fiction:

Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London's Ottolenghi

Born to be wild : Hundreds of Free Nature Activities for Families


Seed Library:

It isn't too late to plant your own garden! If you are interested in getting seeds from our Seed Library, email Natalie Williams: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Volunteering:

If you are interested in helping us in the garden this summer, please contact Natalie Williams about volunteering: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 


This Week in the Prairie Patch June 28-July4

Interested in knowing what we're growing? The map to the left features what's planted in each bed.

Sensory Garden:

Want a sneak peek for what to 'see' in the next Sensory Garden tour? Look for the beautiful and big yellow hollyhock growing in the perennial bed near Bea's Garden. 

Weekly Garden Giveaways: We will hopefully start these in mid July. 

Book Recommendations:

The Garden of Abdul Gasazi

Enchanted gardening : growing miniature gardens, fairy gardens, and more

Container and fragrant gardens: how to enliven spaces with containers and make the most of scented plants

Roses without chemicals: 150 disease-free varieties that will change the way you grow roses

  • Seed Library:

It isn't too late to plant your own garden! If you are interested in getting seeds from our Seed Library, email Natalie Williams: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Volunteering:

If you are interested in helping us in the garden this summer, please contact Natalie Williams about volunteering: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 



This Week in the Prairie Patch: June 21-27

Peace Pole welcoming visitors to the Prairie Patch.

Celebrate Pollinator Week with us! Bea's Garden is a lovely spot to enjoy a variety of perennial plants and has several insect hotels placed so you can observe them. Look for the garden at the north end of the Prairie Patch, and don't miss the new 'Welcome' Peace Pole in a shade bed nearby.

Is your garden a haven for pollinators? Register it with Journey North's Pollinator Patch program to support efforts to protect the annual migrations of animals like monarchs and hummingbirds. Learn more here.

Do you have a child interested in science and nature? Sign up for the following online pollinator-themed programs:

Thursday June 25, 9:30 am

Wednesday June 24, 5:30

Friday June 26, 2-3 pm

Sensory Garden:

Have you explored the Sensory Garden yet? Our next rotation will be placed in early July. If you haven't walked through yet, now is your chance! Indicated by blue signs placed throughout the garden, the current experiences are: Touch: Hosta, Taste: Mint, See: Allium, Hear: Birds, Smell: Chives.

Weekly Garden Giveaways: 

We will hopefully start these in July depending on local health guidelines.

Book Recommendations:

Monarch Butterflies Matter

Attracting Native Pollinators

Vegetables Illustrated: an inspiring guide with 700+ kitchen-tested recipes

Seed Library:

It isn't too late to plant your own garden! If you are interested in getting seeds from our Seed Library, email Natalie Williams: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Volunteering:

If you are interested in helping us in the garden this summer, please contact Natalie Williams about volunteering: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

This Week in the Prairie Patch: June 14-20

Did you know the Prairie Patch is Monarch Waystation? We have certified we have created a habitat that helps preserve the species and support the butterfly's amazing migration every year. Click here to learn more about the Monarch Way Station program.

Another great resource to help support Monarch habitats and migration is with Journey North, a citizen scientist program that helps track the migrations of a variety of species including monarchs and hummingbirdsClick here to learn more about Journey North's Monarch tracking program and how you can participate as a citizen scientist.

Sensory Garden: The globe alliums are near the end of their blooming but 'look' for the hollyhock to bloom soon in the same bed. Have you gotten a chance to 'taste' the mint yet? We have two types of mint growing in the same bed, one has a darker stem, the other a green similar to the leaves. One is definitely a sharper mint flavor. Which one do you like best?

Weekly Garden Giveaways: We will hopefully start these in July depending on local health guidelines.

Book Recommendations:

Non-Fiction

Butterfly Gardening: The North American Butterfly Association Guide

Vegetable Gardening Wisdom: Daily Advice and Inspiration for Getting the Most from Your Garden

Fiction

Up in the Garden Down in the Dirt

Kitchens of the Great Midwest

Seed Library:

It isn't too late to plant your own garden! If you are interested in getting seeds from our Seed Library, email Natalie Williams: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Volunteering:

If you are interested in helping us in the garden this summer, please contact Natalie Williams about volunteering: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.