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A Blast from the Past


Back in January 1906, the Gardener’s Monthly Magazine featured these women perusing seed catalogs and magazines.

The article that accompanied this photo, “How to Have a Better Garden” touted that “the whole point of a kitchen garden is this: You get better things than money can buy — fresher vegetables, better kinds. As to freshness, the home gardener can beat the grocer every time. Any beginner can do it. But the better kinds — the varieties that stand for quality, not for ability to ship round the word and last forever — that’s where study and planning come in.”

Things haven’t changed much in the past 107 years. We want fresh food that’s free from pesticides and herbicides. And food that doesn’t sit on a ship or a truck for a few weeks before it winds up on your counter. You can grow some of your own edibles this year, like this ‘Bright Lights’ Swiss chard, even if you only have a deck or patio with some containers. In spite of last summer’s unrelenting heat, Swiss chard was a knockout performer. I harvested leaves every few days and used them in salads, sautéed them for stir-fry or as a side dish.

In early April, once the soil can be worked, you can start sowing seeds of radishes, peas, kale, kohlrabi, leaf lettuce and onions. And much more. Learn how to grow your own edibles from spring through fall with Chicagoland Gardening writer Nina Koziol in the class, “Growing a Cook’s Garden,” on April 6 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Here’s a class description:

If you have a spot in your garden, balcony, or deck that receives more than six hours of direct sunlight, you can grow fresh herbs and vegetables. This class will cover how to grow the best essential ingredients for your kitchen: tomatoes, onions, peppers, squash, garlic and leafy greens. You’ll learn the basics of soil preparation, planting in pots, plant selection, protecting your harvest from pests, extending the crops from spring through fall and ideas for using your harvest in the kitchen.

For more info, visit Chicago Botanic Garden, www.chicagobotanic.org.

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questions

With all the emphasis on growing fresh vegetables, I think I should use a cold frame but I am not sure what to do or how to go about it. Any ideas?

I’d like to plant a white bark birch in front of my home in my sunny front yard. What can you tell me about Betula utilis var. Jacquemontii?

I have a cycas palm and am not sure how much direct sunlight or water it needs. It has light brown marks developing on the leaves. What is causing this, and how do I care for my plant?

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