If you’re traversing the city’s 606 elevated park in Bucktown and look down to see a spectacularly lush and colorful landscape, you’ve found the Bayless Gardens.
The sun-soaked 1000 square-foot backyard area is the main production garden where 13 raised planter beds produce a bounty of specialty salad greens, edible flowers and herbs destined for Rick’s restaurants.
The gardens are the result of a 2005 collaboration between Rick and Deann Bayless and Bill Shores, a Chicago-based professional grower with a background in small space intensive food production, ornamental horticulture and temperate and tropical botany.
The Bucktown garden beds are in production for 8 months of the year, yielding over 700 pounds of salad greens, 65,000 edible flowers, 250 pounds of herbs and 100 pounds of butternut squash.
In the cooler fall and winter months, production moves indoors to a 150 square-foot heated greenhouse, 60 square-foot unheated outdoor greenhouse and an indoor light garden, yielding another 150 pounds of salad and microgreens, several thousand edible flowers and another 50 pounds of herbs.
Bill and Rick also established the rooftop garden above XOCO, a 1000 square-foot rooftop space where upward of 650 pounds of tomatoes, 125 pounds of chiles and 80 pounds of Chinese long beans and an abundance of specialty herbs are grown each season. It just doesn’t get more local than that.
More than just an urban oasis that produces Frontera’s “rooftop salsa,” the gardens also gives our restaurant staff the chance to participate in the food production process.
Bill is also responsible for the design and installation of those colorful patio planter gardens outside Frontera Grill, Topolobampo, XOCO in River North and XOCO Bistro in Wicker Park. He likes to say the planters “are designed to evoke the festive feel of a Mexican Fiesta through the use of vibrant, colorful and exotic plants.”
He’s also established a group of professional urban gardeners, collectively known as “Urban Edible,” The purpose of which is “to elevate the quality, productivity, aesthetics and functionality of small space urban gardens.” He manages a fantastic Instagram account, too.
Bill says the Bayless’ “enthusiasm and ongoing support and dedication to the gardens is absolutely essential. Thousands of visitors have been able to visit the gardens and learn about the many and various ways to grow food in small spaces thanks to the Bayless’ generosity in opening their gardens for tours. Each year, the gardens support interns, volunteers and paid professional growers, all working and learning from these unique urban horticultural sites.”
Looking to take a tour? For more information on Bayless Gardens tours, classes and information on Bill’s other Urban Production Garden work, visit www.urbanedible.net