Soil Testing

Master Gardener’s tips:  SOIL TESTING

As much as I like to garden, I have more or less taken my soil for granted.  Not that I don’t believe in amending my garden soil every year, thanks to all the GCOPRF gardening lectures I have attended, but I never really thought about soil testing.   So I was surprised to learn that soil in its natural state is usually not fertile enough for the optimum growth in plants and most soils need supplements to their existing nutrients to produce healthy lawns, trees, shrubs and flowers.  So, soil testing for pH, potassium, phosphorus and other key elements helps gardeners in their soil improvement efforts.

Soil has to be tested during the warmer months when the soil temperature is above 50 degrees.  If the soil is too wet to dig, it is too wet to sample.  Likewise if soil is really dry, it is too dry to sample.

While there are lots of soil testing labs, the Cook County Farm Bureau offers a good testing program for homeowners.  Call 708-354-3276 to order a soil test kit.  The kit includes a soil sample bag(s), instructions on how to take samples, a questionnaire about your samples and a shipping box with a prepaid UPS label.  It takes 2-3 weeks for you to receive your test results and recommendations.  Another nice feature of this testing service is that you may also call the Master Gardener Resource Center Clinic at the CCFB for additional explanations.

Master Gardener Resource Center:

Tel. number:  708-354-3276


Hours:  Mondays and Thursdays from 9a to 1p

Soil Test Prices:

One sample – $30 for non-members

Two samples – $40 for non-members

Three samples – $55 for non-members

Lead Test Prices:

One sample – $42 for non-members

Lead testing is important if you have kids or grandkids playing in your yard or if you are planting vegetables directly in the ground.  Most soil in our old suburbs has lead in it, primarily from the good old days when gas was leaded and we used lead paint.  Lead stays in the soil, period.  There are a few plants that remove lead from the soil, but otherwise the lead is there forever.  However, it only becomes airborne when the soil is disturbed by digging, etc.  Unfortunately, it is absorbed by plants and by some plants more than others.  It can be present in the leaves, stems, roots or fruit, depending on the plant.

Contributed by Jackie Paine

Expressing Ourselves in Printmaking

Prior to our most recent study group, several of the Garden Club members had a delicious lunch at Eastgate Café at 102 Harrison Street. Then we crossed the street to our class at Expressions Graphics.Expressions (3)
At our workshop, Janet Schill and Carol Friedle introduced to monotype printmaking. First Janet discussed the artful history of printmaking, and taught us a bit about using watercolors. Then we outlined and painted our own designs with water color pencils and paints onto mylar translucent plates pretreated with a release agent. We used a combinations of freehand drawing, tracing and interpreting photographs to create our prints.

Creating painted plates
Creating painted plates

Then Janet and Carol taught us how to use their fascinating print machine to turn our painted designs into printed works of art. The final results were more impressionistic and abstract than the originals. We enjoyed the process and are all eager to explore more of this creative art.

Sue, Lisa, Linda and Elaine with their printed creations.
Sue, Lisa, Linda and Elaine with their printed creations.

Expressions Graphics is a not-for-profit organization located at 29 Harrison Street, Oak Park. They have a full lineup of classes available for adults and for children interested in various aspects of printmaking. Visit the website to learn more about Expressions Graphics and printmaking:

Midwest “Can Do” Ability

GC April 2015_0025 “”

The promise of spring was in the air as the Garden Club of Oak Park and River Forest convened for their annual April business meeting on April 1, 2015 at Cheney Mansion. Elected to the Board of Directors for a two year period were:

1st Vice President (Ways and Means) co –chairs Mary Ellen Warner and Linda Zwierz

4th Vice President (Publicity) Elaine Allen

Treasurer:  Carol Gallagher

Secretary:  Joan Meister

President Barbara Graham made a few announcements concerning upcoming events:

Wednesday, April 15 at 12:30 p.m. print making workshop at Expression Graphis on Harrison. Cost $15, wear old clothes.  Attendees are encouraged to all meet at 11:30 a.m. for lunch at the nearby East Gate Café.  Read more about it at our web site:    Contact for further information or to register for the class.

The GCOPRF/FOPCON Garden Walk will be held Sunday, June 28, 2015.  A sign-up sheet was passed around for volunteers to work at the event.  Proceeds from this event will go towards scholarships for local students.  Tickets will be on sale at the May Luncheon and thereafter on the web site.  Watch the web site in late April for further details regarding the Garden Walk..

Bobbi Raymond invited everyone to see an exhibition of the original drawings used for her latest children’s book:  Three Sea Tales to be held from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. at Frame Warehouse, 346 Harrison St., Oak Park.  Light refreshments will be served.

Ted Nyquist
Ted Nyquist

Ted Nyquist of the Midwest Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society encouraged our group to include Rhodo’s and Azaleas in our landscapes.   (Note:  All Azaleas are Rhododendrons.)   Proper ground preparation, filtered sunlight and plant selections hardy to -25 are keys to successful Rhododendron plantings in the upper Midwest.  Ted showed us lovely photos from gardens in the eight states that compose the Midwest Chapter to encourage and convince us that it is possible to grow “those” plants here in zone 5.

Mr. Nyquist has recorded several videos that recap his lecture.  Go to the web site: to learn his “secrets.”  If you have further questions, he would be happy to discuss your concerns.  His number is: 630-215-5022