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Loyola University Chicago

Retreat & Ecology Campus

Seasonal Update by Farm Manager, Emily Zack

On the Farm

Winter in the Gardens of Loyola, 2015

I know it is hard to believe but spring is going to show up eventually! This winter I have been busy planning for the growing season and catching up on the office work I ignored all summer! My planning started with seeds. After taking inventory of what I had left over, I paged through the newest seed magazines for what to grow this year. Johnny’s Seeds, Fedco, Baker’s Creek; I love getting these publications in blustery December to remind me of warmer temperatures. I chose many of my favorite varieties: Fortex pole beans, Winterbor kale, Golden Sweet yellow grape tomatoes, and Diablo Brussel sprouts.  Plus many I haven’t tried including dry beans; kidney, midnight black turtle and Kenearly yellow eye. In all, I have 14 kinds of heirloom tomatoes, 11 kinds of peppers, 3 kinds of eggplants and a bunch of herbs. Exciting!

We are expanding our growing spaces this season to include an asparagus plot. The crowns are shipped about April and will be ready to harvest in one to two seasons. We are also seeding lots of flowers in the greenhouse this year to make our grounds beautiful!

This being my first winter at Loyola, I had no idea how the greenhouse fares in the cold temperatures. I realized quickly if the roof ices up or the snow piles on, the sun can’t melt it and the temperatures inside never rise. To remedy this, we hooked up propane to the existing furnace and set it at 40 degrees. This is just warm enough to keep the roof clear so the sun can do its job. Now, even on the coldest days, when the sun does appear, the temperature can reach 80! What a treat to feel that kind of warmth in winter. I had winter lettuce, arugula and leeks growing in the greenhouse but until the roof had thawed, they hadn’t really thrived. Now they are doing well!

A new volunteer and I started seeds last week for our gardens. We started with 3 kinds of onions and leeks. This week we seeded the brassica family including cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, collard greens and kale. This round will be for the gardens, hoping to plant them in the ground in late April or early May depending on the weather and soil conditions.  In a few weeks we will re-seed these to sell at the plant sale, then a third seeding for our fall harvest.  The warm loving, cold intolerant tomato family and squashes will be the last to be seeded. Soon we will have over a thousand seedlings in the greenhouse, it’s a busy time, but so fun.

I do love the downtime of winter. The cozy evenings, the stillness of snow covered fields and the quiet of the long nights, but as the days start to get longer I feel the pull of the soil. Dirt and sweat, sore muscles and a tired body, this is what I crave. Spring can’t come fast enough!

Emily Zack
Farm Operations Manager, Loyola University Retreat and Ecology Campus

Interested in staying updated on Loyola's farm? Follow us on Instagram at  gardensofloyola_woodstock to view photos of Loyola’s farm.


Loyola University Retreat and Ecology Campus
2710 S. Country Club Road · Woodstock, IL 60098 · Phone: 815.338.1032 · lurec@luc.edu

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