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From Garden to Table


No one wants to think about gardening when the temperatures hover in the single digits and the wind is howling, but before you know it, you’ll be able to get outside and start planting those lettuce and beet seeds.

At least I’ll be doing that because my soil thermometer and seed packets are ready to go. Once the snow melts and the top inch of soil reaches 45 F, I’ll sow a variety of lettuce — such as ‘Black Seeded Simpson’, ‘Speckled Trout’ and ‘Merlot’ — and four types of radishes. And they’ll be ready to harvest in about 28 days. You can do this, too.

Organic vegetable gardening continues to draw more gardeners, even those who have only dabbled in a few tomato and basil plants or in perennials. To address this growing interest, The Morton Arboretum in Lisle kicks off the first of its five EdibleGardening Workshops on Saturday, March 8 from 9:30 to noon.

“These workshops can help gardeners create fresh, new meal ideas from edibles growing right in their own backyard,” says Megan Dunning, the Arboretum’s manager of community education and outreach. “The instructors will offer new tips and techniques on how to make the most of a garden space or landscape by adding both beauty and function with edible plants.”

On March 8, horticulturist Katrina Chipman and I will show participants how to put some fun into their vegetables and their meals when we look at how to grow organic edible theme gardens. We’ll explain how to grow a pizza/salsa garden, a purple edible garden, a salad garden, an Asian stir-fry garden, a Brassica (think kale) garden, and an herbal beverage garden (think herbal wine or tea drinks).

The classes take place on Saturdays through April. See complete details here. And think spring.

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questions

I am interested in growing fruit trees in my suburban DuPage County yard. Can sweet cherries be grown here? Can you suggest varieties of apples, pears, peaches, apricots and plums that are hardy and disease resistant?

What does it take to make a climbing hydrangea flower? Ours was planted 3 years ago and is growing energetically. It’s in a protected nook near the patio and gets very little direct sunlight, but doesn’t act sun starved. We gave it a shot of slow release fertilizer on planting, and once since. Somewhat inadvertently it gets plenty of water, since the hose spigot is nearby and leaks, but drainage does not seem to be the problem. It now fully occupies an 8-foot trellis but shows no interest in flowering. Is it youth, lack of sun, too much or too little fertilizer, bugs, lack of pruning or what? When do these plants bloom and what conditions do they like?

Our Russian sage (Perovskia) is full and bountiful but will not stay upright. Is there anything we can do? Is there a way to split some off when it has outgrown its space? Should it be trimmed back in fall or spring?

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