View from the alley behind Forest Park Community Garden

Did you know that Forest Park has its own community garden? It does, located just off Harlem Avenue and the 290. We began in 2009, and underwent a large expansion in 2011. Right now we have dozens of gardeners working in our plots as well as several garden beds dedicated to growing food for the Forest Park food pantry. Thanks to the Review, we’ll be posting periodically about FPCG and about gardening around Forest Park.

What we’re planting now
At the garden (and in your own yard) it’s the perfect time to plant tomatoes! Yes, many gardeners in the area plant their tomatoes soon after Mother’s Day, but experienced tomato growers know that tomatoes don’t go out into the garden until after the soil has warmed up, and for us in the Chicagoland area that means after Memorial Day.

Generally speaking, you can place tomatoes into two categories: Determinate and indeterminate varieties. “What’s a determinate tomato?” you may be asking. Well, a determinate tomato is a tomato that will grow to a certain size, set fruit, and all your tomatoes will ripen around the same time. Also called “bush” tomatoes, these tomatoes are compact and may require some support in the form of those tomato cages we’re all familiar with. Examples of determinate tomatoes include “Taxi,” “Roma,” “San Marzano,” and “Celebrity.”

Indeterminate tomatoes are the opposite of determinates. These vines will continue to grow, bloom and set fruit in our area until they are killed by frost, sometimes reaching as tall as 6 feet or taller by the end of the season! Examples of indeterminate tomatoes include “Black Cherry,” “Arkansas Traveler” “Sun Gold,” and “Yellow Pear.”

Are determinate tomatoes better than indeterminate? It’s subjective. If you’d like to harvest all of your tomatoes around the same time and do some canning once and get it out of the way, determinate tomatoes may be the plants for you. On the other hand, if you’d like tomatoes growing and ripening throughout summer and into fall, then indeterminate tomatoes are the answer.

But there’s no rule that says you can only grow one kind. Pick up some determinate and indeterminate tomatoes at the garden center this weekend. Just don’t forget to pick up some thyme, basil, rosemary, and oregano starts to compliment your tomato paradise.

Learn a little, grow a little
This year FPCG was presented with a Forest Park Pride Award from the Chamber of Commerce. Board members were humbled by this recognition, which was accepted on behalf of all the gardeners and volunteers who helped create the garden over the years. With this award comes the responsibility to ensure the garden lives up to its full potential. That’s why FPCG is putting out a call for volunteers today.

FPCG has no paid staff, and our plots are priced at $35 per season (below the cost to maintain the garden), which means that we need to hustle for funds every year to prevent a pricing increase for garden members. Because a great idea is only as good as the ability to execute it, we are looking for people who want to lend us a hand. We have identified 3 areas we need manpower for:

1. Grant writing / corporate sponsorship – There are so many great opportunities out there for community gardens. Help us identify and follow up on grants and sponsorships for which FPCG would be eligible
2. Program management – If you have a passion for gardening, sustainability and working with people this could be you! Manage volunteers for programs related to garden maintenance, and gardening / sustainability education
3. Events management – If you like parties and get togethers this could be for you! Help us put on our annual fundraiser and organize a few other small shindigs for gardeners.

This is a fun way to meet people in town, gain experience and help Forest Park Community Garden excel. If you’re interested in these opportunities contact us at