Think Spring: It’s Time to Get Started in the Garden


Although the snow on Tuesday felt like a setback to us people, little green shoots are coming up all over the place, hinting that spring is just around the corner.  

The snaps above are just A FEW of the myriad green shoots starting to come up around here.  It’s time to start thinking about what to do in your green space this spring!

When to Get Started in the Garden

According to the Gardener’s To Do List for April, that means it is time to be starting seeds inside, trimming the deadwood from ornamental shrubs and (soon) to be planting hardy veggies (potatoes, peas, lettuce and carrots) outside.

Most reckonings of when to begin the spring garden season are based on geography – how warm or cool are your winters likely to be.  Chicago is in Zone 6 according to the USDA Hardiness Zone Finder.  Although most of northern Illinois is Zone 5 (ten degrees cooler) we benefit from both Heat Island and Lake Michigan’s moderating influence and … get to start planting a little early.

In other words, the time to be happy is NOW!

Grow Your Own…

If you read our blog, you probably appreciate good local food.  What could be better, or more local, than something you grow yourself.

You don’t need the ambition of a full-on farmer to grow a few delicious additions to your kitchen.

A potted basil, picked up at a spring farmers market, will pay out in droves come pesto season.  And a few basic veggies will save you in money and time when you don’t have to shop to make diner.   Our raised bed (photo from june) planter box over flows with tempting tomatoes and herbs which make spicing up a meal as easy as stepping out the front door.


To get started in the garden, here’s a list of 15 Easy Edibles you can start with.  If you’re short on space, Sunset Magazine suggests that you can grow a cherry tomato plant in a 2 square foot bed, add in a basil in 3′ x 3′ or expand to chives and a cucumber vine to a 4′ square area.  Those should all fit the bill for easy, abundant and uber-useful in your kitchen.

Gardening with Native Plants

But we don’t only encourage green things to grow in order to eat them.  Gardeners can support the biodiversity and health of our whole regional ecosystem by choosing to ornament our green space with plants that originated here in North America rather than european or oriental imports.  In his article on Gardening for Life, Professor of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, Doug Tallamy, points out that what we plant has a huge impact on the insect, bird and other wildlife that surrounds us and we can make choices that influence our environment for good, just by choosing native plants at home.

As gardeners and stewards of our land, we have never been so empowered to help save biodiversity from extinction, and the need to do so has never been so great. All we need to do is plant native plants

Doug Tallamy, “Gardening for Life”

The native plantings in front of our office attract butterflies (and curious neighborhood children).

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As an additional plus, native planting generally requires less watering, less fertilizing, and less work over all than trying to nurture little plants that were never meant to grow here.  For an easy list of suggestions, check out Native Plants for Midwestern Landscapes selected by Jim McCormac.  Butterfly and Hummingbird friendly species are specially marked!

Other Resources

If you’re looking for a place to get started in the garden, here’s a rundown of moss’s past garden coverage.

Four reasons to Garden in Raised Beds this Year

A Roundup of Urban Gardening Info Geared to Chicago

The Right Time to Plant Shade Trees in your Yard  (Hint: It’s now)

Native and Companion Planting for Midwestern Gardens

A Provocative Design for Bringing Plants onto the Exit Stair Porch

So what are you waiting for?  Get out there and start digging out your beds!