New Naperville garden encourages homeowners to grow food, not grass

Jodi Trendler wants to get rid of some grass.

She and about 15 Girl Scouts, Scout leaders and Resiliency Institute volunteers spent Thursday afternoon planting what's called a fruit tree guild near the Idea Gardens at the Ron Ory Community Garden Plots in Naperville.

The idea wasn't just to fill up a 12-foot triangle with a bunch of edible plants, but to provide an example of how any suburban homeowner with a sunny corner can grow food to make the community stronger.

"It's a demonstration that we want people to do at home," Trendler said. "It's beautiful. It's productive. It takes care of the birds, the bees, but also our human needs."

Fruit tree guilds mimic the conditions of a forest, Trendler said, with plants at various heights all helping everything else grow. There's a canopy layer with a fruit tree - in this case, an Asian pear - as the tallest element, followed by a shrub layer, herbs, ground cover and roots.

Trendler works as executive director and co-founder of The Resiliency Institute in Naperville, which promotes permaculture and use of edible plants in suburban landscapes.

The nonprofit organization manages one fruit tree guild at the Northern Illinois Food Bank's headquarters in Geneva, but Trendler said she's wanted to install a second one for the past four years.

During the celebration of Naperville's second annual Earth Week, she not only planted a second guild at the garden plots, but plans to install a third on Saturday outside the downtown municipal center.

Shady spots won't work for fruit tree guilds, so in her own yard, Trendler said she trimmed back several maples and an ash to allow more rays through.

"If you're going to do fruit, you've got to have sun," she said.

As the Scouts and volunteers planted yarrow, asparagus, chives, wild blue indigo, raspberry, daffodils, sorrel, coneflower, brazelberry, honeyberry, purple passion, New Jersey tea, strawberries and bee balm, Trendler and volunteer Dennis Corbin of Naperville taught them about the benefits of edible gardening.

"At one time, if you didn't have a garden, you didn't eat," said Corbin, a retired landscape architect whose yard contains roughly 50 edible varieties. "So in a way, we're trying to go back a little, to gain more self-reliance."

Fruit tree guilds, after a year or so of careful tending, become self-reliant because each plant provides needed benefits.

Some attract bees and pollinators. In the guild planted Thursday, Trendler said the wild blue indigo, New Jersey tea and bee balm play that role.

Others cover the ground and retain moisture to avoid frequent mulching, such as three varieties of strawberries now beginning to grow in the guild at the garden plots.

Still others provide fruit at various points of the growing season, so in a well-established guild, there is always something ripe and ready.

The Resiliency Institute teaches courses in how to start a fruit tree guild and also is hosting a permaculture plant sale from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, May 12, at McDonald Farm, 10S404 Knoch Knolls Road, Naperville, so people can buy all the roots, herbs, ground covers, shrubs and trees they need to establish their own backyard food source.

"Hopefully," Trendler said, "we get rid of some lawn and grow some food."

  Katelynm Batogowski, 12, of Naperville, tosses a container Thursday after helping her fellow Washington Junior High School classmates and Girl Scouts plant a fruit tree guild at the Ron Ory Community Garden Plots in Naperville. Daniel White/
  Dennis Corbin of Naperville, a volunteer with The Resiliency Institute, watches Washington Junior High students along with their parents and other community members plant a fruit tree guild Thursday at the Ron Ory Community Garden Plots in Naperville. The small garden features plants including strawberries, asparagus, chives and an Asian pear tree. Daniel White/
  Carry Liedtke of Naperville prepares to add a plant to a fruit tree guild, a demonstration of an edible garden, Thursday as volunteers with The Resiliency Institute install the garden at the Ron Ory Community Garden Plots. Daniel White/
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