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Mark Your Calendar! E

Mother’s Day weekend offers organic veggie and herb starts well suited to smaller, urban growing conditions and a bake sale organized by local pastry chefs. The fundraiser is held May 10 to 12 at the Peterson Garden Project Learning Center, 4642 North Francisco (next to the CTA Brown Line Francisco Stop). All proceeds go toward furthering PGP’s mission to recruit, educate and inspire a new generation of gardeners.

Westerfeld recommends purchasing most heirloom

vegetable and herbs as seeds from specialty growers on the web or in catalogs, or from seed savers’ exchanges. “It is much more cost-efficient to start your own herbs from seed, especially for herbs that you use a lot of or that you would like to preserve,” she adds. “Sow in plantable (peat or similar) pots under grow lights and use a fan to blow air across the seedlings. This will strengthen the tender stems,” advises Alguire. “Make sure to look for untreated seed if you are growing organic,” he adds. “You will have better success using a seed starter soil mix than a compost of garden soil for indoor seed starts.”

Watch the Soil The make-up of the soil is an important ingre- dient for a successful garden. “This is where a good soil test comes in,” says Alguire. “Noth- ing so much enhances success as knowing what your garden soil needs. Once you have a recommendation, natural additives like blood and bone meal, fish emulsion or lime may be needed. The life in your soil is the most important aspect for growing healthy food. Organic practices and additives encour- age the layers of nematodes, worms, healthy bacteria and chemistry that supercharges your vegetables with nutrients and flavor.” For a thorough testing, contact the Uni-

versity of Illinois Extension Service for profes- sional test labs (

38 Chicago North & North Shore

ach spring, the Kilbourn Park and Organic Green- house hosts a popular plant sale for community gardeners, selling more than 150 varieties of organically grown vegetable, herb and flower seedlings for $2 to $5 each. Customers leave the park grounds ready to plant a wide variety of open-pollinated and heirloom tomatoes, peppers and eggplants, as well an assortment of greens and onions. This year’s sale will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., May 18 and 19.

The Peterson Garden Project’s annual plant sale on

Less extensive test kits are available from some local nurseries and online outlets.

Opinions differ on the use of compost, so it tends to be a personal decision. Alguire recommends working in a layer of well-aged compost in the spring to enhance the soil. West- erfeld, however, doesn’t recommend using compost for a vegetable garden. “Use a vegetable/garden mix from your lo- cal supplier,” she says. “Then follow up with regular feedings, preferably organic. Organic will help increase the beneficial microorganisms and bacteria in the soil. I’ve also spread or recommend my customers spread their used coffee grounds into beds to help increase the worm population and therefore increase natural aeration and nutrients in the soil produced by the worms.”

Get Some Help Companies like Westerfeld’s Green Gardens Landscape & Installation, The Organic Gardener (, which specializes in the design, installation and maintenance of organic edible gardens, and Smart Gardener Backyard (, which can also build, fill and manage gardens, offer services to help gardeners that may need extra help. They can also build custom raised beds, fill them with organic soil mix, plant what their clients want, care for and then harvest the finest, freshest food avail- able—leaving the bounty on their client’s back porch with recipes for how to enjoy them. Others, like Fern’s Flower Farm (, will prep and look after perennials all season long.

Megy Karydes is itching to get her hands dirty in the garden and finds the smell of springtime morning dew more intoxicating than her morning coffee. Find her at

Photo by Smart Gardener

Photo by Smart Gardener

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