Happy Arbor Day!

Free Tree Follow Up

The Illinois Tollway gave away free trees again for Arbor Day, plus native wildflower seeds. I did not get any this year, but I did follow up on the trees I gave away last year. The one that went to Debi H. is doing great.

Red Oak Seedling – photo by Debi H.  – 4/27/17

Red Oak Seedling – photo by Debi H.  – 4/27/17

This is a red oak. It is fenced in to protect it from animals. Isn’t it beautiful–Debi is taking good care of this baby tree!

New Trees for Chez Rea

Once again I got some rootstock and scions from the Midwest Fruit Explorers and grafted fruit trees–Asian pears and apples. I’m thrilled to report that most of them have started growing above the grafts, which means those grafts took. Next I will plant these in 1-gallon pots and let them grow in a protected area through the summer. I need to decide where to plant these trees. Yes, I will call JULIE before we dig!

How about you? Are you going to plant any trees this year? Let me know in the comments below.

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More Cool Stuff

Posted by my husband: “So many plants, so little yard.” – 4/17/17

I got more spring planting done this week! I planted the broccoli bed and the container potatoes. I also did a little more tending of the ornamentals.

Planting the Broccoli Bed

Buying Plants

As you can see from the photo above, I did buy broccoli seedlings. (Remember, I told you I would in my last post because I had started the broccoli seeds too late.) No, I did not buy organic seedlings.  However, they will get nothing but organic cultural practices under my care, so any traces of synthetic chemicals in these baby plants will be long gone by the time they are full grown and ready to harvest.  I could fit up to 8 broccoli plants in a bed, so I bought just one 6-cell pack. I put them in my covered plant stand for hardening off until I could plant them.

Laying out Soaker Hoses

Once again I began by removing the black plastic cover from the bed and then leveling the soil in it–so nice and rich with llama manure from last fall! Because the broccoli plants would remain in this bed all summer long, I put a soaker hose down in this bed. I do not lay the hoses out in straight lines and hold them down with wire pins because those wires can cut gashes into the hose. I prefer work with the natural curve of the hoses (they’re stored wound up) and arrange them to fit the plants that I will put there. When I lay out the hose, I use bricks and stones to weigh it down and hold it in place. These can be removed later when the hose gets used to its position. I also put the input valve, where the water pressure will be highest, at the higher end of the bed. Sometimes I mark it with a flag when the plants have grown bigger so it would be easier to find. (I’ve explained more about how to use the soaker hoses when watering in a previous post: Watering, Watering Everywhere.)

Broccoli bed – planted 4/20/17


While the broccoli will grow to fill this bed, I want to use the rest of the space here as much as possible. Therefore I plant other plants around the broccoli–some that could be harvested sooner and some that could handle the shade of the full grown broccoli plants later.

I also like to make my beds look pretty, so I plant them in designs. Last year, for example, I put leeks all around the edges and down the middle of the broccoli bed. I also planted radishes by the leeks, figuring I would harvest them before the leeks grew. However, I forgot about or did not see the radishes that I’d planted down the middle of the bed until I was pulling up the leeks in the fall. Those radishes had grown to the size of turnips! That made me think it would better to plant beets down the middle this time because I really do want them to grow that big. I sowed a line of golden beets to the left of the hose going down the middle of the bed. On the right side of it I sowed red beets. Just outside those rows I planted onion sets.

Next I planted the broccoli seedlings, each one inside a loop of the soaker hose. I sprinkled some organic fertilizer in each planting hole. Then all along the hose near the outer edges of the bed I planted Swiss chard, plus a little more between the broccoli plants. I didn’t have any Swiss chard seeds left, so I transplanted many of the ones that had come up in my first cool crops bed. They needed to be thinned out anyway! Later, I checked a good companion plant guide and found I had made very good choices when I picked the plants to intercrop here. Broccoli, beets, onions, and Swiss chard all grow well together.

To give you an idea of how those plants will grow as the season goes on, here are pictures of last year’s broccoli bed.

Protecting the Snow Peas

While I was out there, I couldn’t help but notice that the snow pea seedlings under the pea fence were looking more ragged than the pea shoots without supports.  After  I saw a bird nearby, I remembered the disturbing discovery I made last year: birds were eating my pea and bean plants!  I had to do something now to protect the little pea shoots, or I wouldn’t get much of a harvest.

With the pea fence in the way, however, I couldn’t just put a tunnel of netting over the snow pea plants. Besides, when I used to put netting around all my raised beds to keep rabbits out, I always hated pulling pea and bean vines off the netting. (That was years ago–before we added the bunny fence around the kitchen garden.) I looked in the shed to see what I could use and found the wire shelves I’d saved from greenhouse shelf tents. I tied them onto the pea fence.  Birds could still get under there if they wanted to, but I’m hoping they will be deterred. For added measure I hung metal flowers with bells (from the Dollar Store). Hopefully their sound and movement will scare the birds away from my snow peas!

Snow pea protection: wire shelves and metal flower bells – 4/21/17

Planting Potatoes

Onion Sets & Seed Potatoes – 4/14/17

Last year’s potato planting experiment went well, so I decided to do it again. This time I went with white potatoes (russet I think) rather than purple ones. The purple ones were neat, but I couldn’t use them to make things like potato-leek soup because I was afraid the color would look bad. Besides, these were on sale! I paid about $1.50 total at Big R for both seed potatoes and onion sets.

My first time talking to Google! 4/21/17

I’m still rather new to planting potatoes, so I went inside to check how deep to plant them in the containers. I couldn’t get to my computer without taking off my gardening shoes, so I picked up my phone and said, “OK, Google.” It worked! I asked my question, and this is the answer I got.


I mixed organic fertilizer into the potting soil in these containers. Here they before and after I covered the seed potatoes with three more inches of soil.

I now have started planting three of the beds in my vegetable garden. One of them, the broccoli bed, is nearly finished. I will plant marigolds all around it and the other beds after all danger of frost is past.

Kitchen Garden – 4/21/17

Spring Eats

Besides the chives from my herb bed, which I’ve used in several dishes, I’ve already harvested the first vegetables of the year: rhubarb and asparagus. The rhubarb went to my friend April who had strawberry rhubarb pie on her Easter menu–but no rhubarb in any of the stores she had checked. The asparagus was cut up, pan roasted in a little butter, and added to our dinner a couple days ago. Now I’ve marked the calendar so that I’ll know to stop cutting the asparagus after eight weeks.

What’s in Bloom at Chez Rea

I’m delighted to see blooms on the pansies I overwintered from last fall. I just LOVE edible flowers! I’m also delighted to see violets blooming in our side yard lawn (not so much the dandelions and Creeping Charlie, which are also blooming). Because we haven’t sprayed the lawn, those are edible, too! I managed to pick the violets before my husband mowed the lawn, and I crystalized them and the pansies.

Here are the other flowers I spotted outside.

I know–I need to remove the rhubarb flower stalks! I just thought it would be fun to include a picture of those blooms, too. I hope you’ve enjoyed your virtual visit to my garden!

Front Yard – 4/22/17



Posted in Harvest Tally, Herbs & Edible Flowers, Vegetables, What's in Bloom at Chez Rea | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Cool Stuff Is Out There!

Front Yard – 4/13/17

I’m so excited I have to shout it out: OUTSIDE PLANTING HAS BEGUN! Here are the things I did in the garden last Saturday, April 1, 2017–no fooling!

A Little TLC – Tender Lawn Care

First things first–the daffodils had been signaling for several days that it was time to put corn gluten on the lawn. I wish I’d done that before all the rain we had just had, but my schedule would not permit it. Our mostly-organic lawn is looking sadder this year, thanks to a new cable that was buried late last fall and to a couple patches of some grassy looking weed. I covered the whole back yard in just a few minutes with this bag from Ludwig’s Feed Store. While I’m not convinced that corn gluten could really help our lawn, I had to try something to keep weeds from sprouting up in the squiggly trail of dead grass created by that cable. I just couldn’t bring myself to start with an herbicide! Besides, it’s adding some nitrogen to my lawn.

First Outdoor Planting

Now to the fun stuff! It was a beautiful warm day, and I had only the afternoon to spend in my garden. This is what I did.

  1. First, I sprinkled lettuce seeds in between all the garlic coming up in the herb bed.

Russian Red garlic growing on the outer side of my Herbs & Edible Flowers bed. 4/1/17

2. Then I went inside and planned out this year’s kitchen garden. This was easily done because I keep blank copies of its layout in my garden journal. I just had to look through the last several years’ plans to determine where to rotate this summer’s vegetables.

Chez Rea Kitchen Garden Plan for 2017 – 4/1/17

Because I use succession planting to get the most out of my garden, I chose the future cucumber bed as the place to start my earliest planting. These cool crops should be done or ready to transplant by the time I’m ready to plant the cucumbers there.

3. Next I chose what to plant now. For this first planting, I was not too choosy about the seeds I used. I just wanted to get something in the ground as soon as possible! When I had begun sorting through my stash of seeds (That was on February 25–I know because my husband posted pictures of me.), I set aside all the cool season vegetable seeds. Then a few days before planting,  I noted which ones I was out of–kale and chard–and bought them. (Thank you, Menard’s seeds sale!)

I was just sorting through my seeds, not even planting yet.

These are the ones I started with this year: lettuce, arugula, radishes, kale (2 kinds), beets, and Swiss chard. If I had more than one package of anything, I looked at the dates on the packages and picked the older ones. I figured it would be best to use those first and that I would sow them thickly. This was just my first planting, so it’s O.K. if these plants do not do well due to poor weather or old seeds.

4. Back outside, I pulled the black plastic cover off the future cucumber bed. Then I used a bow rake to level the soil in that bed. This is where our method of putting the garden to bed really pays off! In late fall, my husband uses a digging fork to hand till free manure into the vegetable beds. (He got lamma manure the last two years!) Then he covers each bed with black plastic. All I have to do now in the spring is take the cover off and start planting. It’s a beautiful thing I tell you. (Recently in the Chicago Tribune I read an article that recommends this process we’ve been doing for years. How reaffirming!)

Cool crops planted in the future cucumber bed. 4/1/17

5. When I got close to finishing that bed, I realized–much to my surprise–that I would still have enough time left in my afternoon to plant snow peas, too. I let the beet seeds, chard seeds, and snow pea seeds all soak while I set up the pea fence in one of the future green bean beds. Because my time was limited, I decided to do just one bed for now. I plan to plant another line of snow peas in the other legume bed in a few weeks–another type of succession planting. I’ll compare how the two beds do this year to see if the snow peas’ growing season is lengthened.

Snow peas planted in one legumes bed – 4/1/17

After the snow pea supports were up, I finished planting the cool crops bed with the beet and chard seeds I had soaked. This gave the snow pea seeds, which are bigger, more time to soak. Then I planted the snow peas along their support fence. I had soaked too many seeds for the one row, so I planted the rest in a corner of the same bed to grow just for pea shoots. Those will be ready to harvest long before the other vines are producing any snow peas. More succession planting for the win!

6. The last step was to water everything I’d just planted. Our hose was not hooked up yet, so I used a watering can that I filled at our kitchen sink. I was glad that the weather report was predicting rain two days later–perfect timing!

Cool Crop Planting Started – 4/1/17

And more!

And that’s how this year’s kitchen garden began–outdoors, at least. Of course, I’ve been seed starting, taking cuttings, and overwintering things indoors. To prepare for hardening those plants off, I set up the “shade” greenhouse tent. Its new cover is from another tent I bought last year It’s cheaper to buy a whole new set than to buy just a replacement cover! Unfortunately, the new shelf’s cover was not long enough so I had to wrap a frost cover blanket around the bottom. That should work, right?

Greenhouse shelf tent set up in shady corner – 4/1/17

Shade greenhouse tent – 4/11/17










After a great afternoon of working in the garden, I went inside to make dinner–using a package of last year’s broccoli from the freezer. How COOL is that!

Broccoli–from garden to table almost year round! – 4/1/17

When to Plant Outdoors

Theoretically, I could have started planting outside earlier.  Cool crops are the ones that can be planted “in spring as soon as the ground can be worked.” That’s usually in March for me because the soil under the black plastic in my raised beds is warmer and drier than the rest of the ground.

It also helped to know that rain was coming in a couple days.

In practice, however, I also have to wait until my schedule is open on a day with suitable weather. As you may recall, I’d already used a couple days of good weather this year to do other outside tasks, such as pruning and cleaning up. Thus it wasn’t until last Saturday that I had nice weather and a free afternoon for starting those cool season vegetables.

If you are looking for general guidelines on planting dates for your area, plug your last spring frost date into a seed starting/planting calculator. Then look up the vegetables you wish to plant and see what dates are recommended for transplanting (or sowing for direct seeding) outside–that’s the last column on the right. If you’re in the Chicago area, this master gardener chart of planting dates is a very handy reference for indoor seed starting as well as planting outdoors.

Because the weather is different every year, for more specific recommendations you should go by soil temperature (not air temperature) of the area you’ll be planting. If you do not have a soil thermometer and you live in Illinois, you could get an idea of your area’s soil temperatures here. Even if you have a soil thermometer, you should check local soil monitoring data to see how low the soil temperature gets at night. (I’m assuming you’re not going out there to measure it yourself at 3 A.M.) For this first planting, I was not too worried about soil temperatures. That will be more important when I’m getting ready to set out warm season vegetables.

What’s Next

Shallot seedlings in shade greenhouse tent – 4/10/17

As soon as possible, I should get some onion sets and start planting them. Oh, and speaking of onions, I also need to plant these shallots that I started from seed (3/9/17). They’ve been out in that shade tent the last week. I know I started this type of seeds successfully a couple years ago, but I don’t remember anything coming of them. Perhaps I’d started them too early back then (first week of January) and couldn’t get them into the ground soon enough.  I’ve been very successful with growing leeks from grass blade size seedlings like these. In fact, I still have some of last year’s leeks in the freezer.  It’s easier, of course, to grow shallots from sets, which is what I did the last two years; but someone gave me these seeds several years ago, and I have to keep trying. We’ll see what happens!

Broccoli seedlings under grow lights – 4/10/17

Broccoli is another plant that I usually grow that could go out early. I’m afraid I was late in starting it from seed this year. (3/30/17–a month late! What was I thinking?) As you can see, I’m trying out a new little Burpee self-watering seed starter tray. It looks like I’ll have to buy broccoli seedlings again this year.  Maybe I could plant these seedlings outside later in the summer for a fall crop. I just have to decide where. Planting it between the earlier broccoli, which I tried in 2011, did not work. The bigger plants shaded the baby ones too much, and they did not grow well.

In a few weeks, I hope to plant the other row of snow peas plus another succession of these other cool crops. Cool beans! I mean–peas!

UPDATE 4/13/17:

Today I noticed that several of those seeds I planted have popped up. So far I see snow peas, kale, and radishes.

Snow peas have germinated. 4/13/17

Kale and radishes have popped up. 4/13/17





Today is also the day I planted those shallots I started from seeds. I decided to try them along the edge of the asparagus bed.

Planted shallots.  – 4/13/17

Shallots at edge of asparagus bed – 4/13/17

What’s in Bloom at Chez Rea




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What’s in Bloom at Chez Rea

Just a quick peek . . .

Just posted on Facebook

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Look Who SHOWed Up!

Here is my report on the 2017 Chicago Flower & Garden Show. All that preparation paid off, and we had a great time.

First Impressions

Before we even had our group photo taken, April noticed the fragrance of this lovely white rose, Sugar Moon. Ahhh!

Display Gardens

I’ll start with my favorite: “Upcycle Your Outdoor Rooms.” If you follow me on Pinterest, you know I love recycling things for the garden.

The sound and motion at this corner of Aquascape’s display (pictured below) inspired me to try my first “Facebook Live” video. (If that doesn’t shoot me into social media fame, I don’t know what will!)

Outside corner of Aquascape’s display garden – 3/24/17

Posted LIVE from the garden show!

As fun as the cascading water and chains were, they are beyond the reach of most mere mortals. Aquascape always shows a wide range of their products. I liked this example of a nice little fountain one could do in front of a small house. Wouldn’t that look sweet in my front yard?

For my favorite Cubs fan, the handyman husband, I have to include a picture of the World Series Cubs Tribute garden. GO CUBS!

Presented by Moore Landscape and Dekker Chrysanthemums

Nothing else really struck me in the display gardens. As my gardener friends and I have noted for the last few years, the garden show is not what it used to be. It seems like there are fewer and/or smaller display gardens and not many “wows.”

Other Features

Seminars – Depending on how well the topics of the day fit your interests, the seminars can be the highlight of the show. This turned out to be true for me this year: I went to three and enjoyed them all. My favorite was Carol Chicorski’s “These Are a Few of Our Favorite Things.” She had asked all the gardeners she knows, famous or not, what their favorite garden things are and shared their responses with us. Besides the lovely plant recommendations (that I tend to forget about later–alas!), I’ve added a new garden tool to my wish list: the Root Slayer.  After listening to another speaker, Gina Iliopoulos, I’ve decided that I must stop using black colored mulch in my front yard bed even though I love how it looks.  The best replacement would be shredded leaf mulch, but I do not know of a local source (yet).

As for the speakers on the main floor, I avoided those because they were aimed at beginner gardeners. We could hear the speaker at the Gardening Live stage as we walked through the display gardens. Diane noted that he just kept talking about himself–not about gardening! What little advice I overheard was simplistic (how to water houseplants) and lame (“Compost will fix most of your garden diseases.”).

Chef Martial Noguier, Executive Chef and owner of Bistronomic

Cooking Demonstrations – I love to go to cooking classes! It’s much better than watching cooking shows on TV because you actually get to taste the food you’re seeing the chefs make. I made it to only one Garden Gourmet session, and I was relieved to find it was much better than the one my friends had gone to earlier. (They were quite disappointed because they could not understand the chef, printed recipes were not available, and–worst of all–they got NO SAMPLES!) I enjoyed watching Chef Noguier and his wife from Bistronomic show us how to make Broccoli Velouté, and we each got the recipe and a delightful (and garlicky) sample to taste.

Scented geraniums from Ted’s Greenhouse

Vendors – I did not buy anything from the vendors this year. Only my husband would consider that to be a good sign! In the past I’ve bought jewelry made with dried flowers, ornamental stuff for the garden, bulbs to plant (those did not work out well for me), and one year I found the vendor from whom I would later buy my rain barrels. Friends of mine have bought gutters, wheeled tote bags, hose nozzles and other garden tools. This year we bought nothing!

Ted’s Greenhouse had a lot of good stuff, but there’s no reason for me to buy things they’ve carted to Navy Pier only to cart it all the way back home when their nursery is just a few miles from us. (Let the north siders do that.) I do love their scented geraniums! That is where I bought the replacement for my lemon-rose geraniums when they died.

Other Takeaways – I always enjoy the tablescapes at the Flower & Garden Show because I love entertaining and creating pretty displays at home. The two things that caught my eye, however, were not on the tables. The bicycle covered with Juicy Fruit wrappers reminds me of the bikes in my kitchen garden. The strings of plain lightbulbs draped on a brick wall might be a good idea for our basement, which we’re (still) remodeling. I didn’t see a source for those lights, but I think they were like these Smith & Hawkin Drop String Lights.

This is what my garden bikes looked like last summer (before they were covered with cucumber vines and then later swallowed up  by nasturtiums). I’m thinking about painting them completely lime green. What do you think?

I used bikes as cucumber trellises. – 6/21/16

We did not have any children with us, but the Kids’ Activities looked fun (Shout out to the Master Gardeners! I miss the days when they did a display garden.) As for the Potting Parties–I don’t know. I’ve never tried them: the additional cost hinders me. Plus, I don’t want to deal with getting my arrangement home in good condition. (Remember, our car was full of people!) But it’s obviously an attractive part of the show so if you’re interested, go for it!

More Pictures and More Garden Shows

This is the first time in several years that I’ve managed to report on the show here. (The last time was in 2012.) That’s because this is a very busy time of year as my seed starting is in full swing. I usually don’t have time to sort through the many pictures I take–let alone write about them!

That said, I’m experimenting with another way to share all those other pictures whether I ever get around to writing about them or not. I’ve created a Shutterfly share site called The Gardener Wife. (That’s how my husband refers to me in his Facebook posts. I like it!) Feel free to go there and check it out. Tell me what you think! That is where I’ve posted all my pictures from this garden show.

If I like how this works out, I may go back and post pictures from past garden shows and garden walks.



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A Warm Winter’s Tale

We have had an unusually warm winter this year, including several days of highs in the 50s. But winter is not over! I went back to wearing my winter coat this weekend, and we are expecting snow tonight and tomorrow. The predicted low in a couple days is 10 degrees. This is worrisome to all in our area who have seen plants start to pop up and grow buds much earlier than normal for our area. Everyone is asking what they should do to protect their plants.

Winter Protection

Of course, I’m not going to do anything for the snowdrops pictured at the top of this post. After all, it’s their job to bloom when it’s cold and snowy. What may surprise you is that I’m not going to do anything for the other plants that have started popping up–not even those wonderful Gladiator bulbs that I planted just last fall. (Yes, I was quite thrilled to find them on clearance and finally add these purple beauties to my garden. I do hope they’ll still grow and bloom this year.) All I did was put back the black plastic covers that had blown off several vegetable beds and put the cover on my grill.

The main reason I’ve decided to do nothing is that I’m a lazy gardener–at least when it comes to my ornamentals. In the fall when I have tender vegetables and herbs out there, you may see me covering things up as I try to prolong the harvest. I’ll even cover up or bring inside a good number of ornamental containers to keep the flower bestrewn deck looking as good as possible. But right now, I’m more concerned about my indoor gardening progress. I just don’t want to mess around with these silly plants outside that don’t realize winter is far from over. Come on, kids: we’ve had BLIZZARDS in APRIL!

By the way, this is how things looked outside three years ago TODAY (3/12/17).

Another reason I’ve decided to do nothing now is that this coming snow is actually going protect my plants when the temperature dips even lower afterwards. Why should I work to cover everything when nature is going to do it for me? As for what the weather will do after that–well, I can’t predict it or stop it. Will everything bloom as normal this spring? Probably not! I doubt those Tete-a-Tete daffodils that have already developed buds are going to make it into bloom this year. If any of those buds had opened up and bloomed already (some of my friends’ daffodils have), I’d bring them inside as cut flowers. Or leave them! Like the snowdrops, flowers that bloom in early spring should be able handle some snow and cold.

Shari P.’s daffodils are already blooming! – 3/11/17

Early Spring Clean Up

I’m not sorry we’ve had a warm winter, and I’m not sorry I got a jump on my spring garden clean up a couple weeks ago. I know, I know–I could’ve left the dried plant material out there longer as another layer of protection. Since I always have a lot of work to do with the kitchen garden in spring, I decided it was worth the risk to get some clean up done now. I cleaned up both the herb bed and the front yard perennial garden, leaving only the dried hydrangeas for continued winter interest.

I also finally got around to using the pile of mulch from the ash tree we had cut down. As planned, I put it all in the asparagus bed. It has been out there so long that the mulch has broken down and looks like compost. And now the area where the mulch had been sitting, on top of tarp, is all cleared of grass and weeds. It’s ready to plant this spring–or whenever I can get around to it.  I’d like to put some large hostas back here. Little by little, I’ll keep adding onto this bed.

It probably would have been good to add more mulch around those gladiator bulbs and the other things I planted last fall. (If you planted anything new last summer or fall and didn’t mulch it yet, now would be a good time.) I can never do everything that would be good to do for my garden. I did the things that I was inclined to do and that I had time to do. We’ll see how it all turns out this year.

Normal Winter Tasks

Meanwhile, I’ve been carrying on with my usual winter gardening–and falling behind in my usual way, too. I brought many plants inside to overwinter. I made more ornamental containers for outdoors. I have continued cooking and using the wonderful harvest from my garden.  I’ve begun seed starting and taking cuttings, and this year I tried a little winter sowing, too.  I’d like to record more details about those activities, but I’ll have to save that for another post.


This has been a strange winter, and time will tell how it will affect our gardens this year. I’m thankful for what I was able to do, and I won’t fret over this next round of snow and cold. It is what it is! Keep calm and garden on.

Post-Snow Update – 3/13/17

For any who are curious, I took a few pictures today after the snow. It was a very light snow. I hope it’s enough to protect my plants when the lows go down to 10-15 degrees!

I also took a photo of the kitchen garden. It looks like one of the bed covers I put back yesterday has opened back up a little. We had high winds a while back that had pulled off several of the black plastic covers stapled to the vegetable beds. I covered them back up yesterday and tried to weight them down with whatever was handy.

Kitchen Garden in Late Winter – 3/13/17

Meanwhile inside the house today I did one small seed starting project (potting the first tomato sprouts up into cell packs). I’m also getting the inside of my house decorated for spring. Goodbye, snowmen! Hello, chickens!

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Go like a Pro to the Garden Show!

At the 2016 Chicago Flower & Garden Show - Diane, Gayle, me (yours truly), and April

At the 2016 Chicago Flower & Garden Show – Diane, Gayle, me (yours truly), and April

It’s time to get ready for this year’s Chicago Flower and Garden Show! I think this year’s theme is particularly good: Chicago’s Blooming.  It’s all about urban gardening, folks, and I love it! My dad was the best urban gardener on the north side of Chicago.  I’ve gone for many years and learned all the ropes. Here are my tips.

Buy Your Tickets NOW

…and don’t pay full price! Groupon is offering them for nearly half off, plus right now (2/24/17) you can get another 20% off with this sale code: SALE3.

NOTE TO THRIFTY GARDENERS: Before you buy these or anything else from Groupon, sign in through Ebates to get another 6% in cash back later. New members could use my link here to get a $10 BONUS—WOW!

The Groupon deal has been the best one available for the last several years, and it requires buying your tickets in pairs. That’s a good thing because you want to go with friends. Not only do you save money by going together (you could split the expensive Navy Pier parking cost, too), but you’ll always learn more and have more fun.

Gayle got plant recommendations from the master gardeners in our group.

Gayle got plant recommendations from the master gardeners in our group.

Plan Ahead for the Day

Here is my plan for this year:

WE MEET BY 9:30 AM at my house. (That means you can come earlier, but please no later than 9:30.) The show opens at 10 AM. The first seminar is at 11 AM (the last one is at 5 PM), and the first cooking demo is at 11:30 AM (the last one is at 6:30 PM).

I recommend packing snacks/lunches as well as bringing money for food and shopping with the vendors. There are plenty of lunch options there (including a nice deal from Riva’s–fancy!), but I personally prefer getting to as many seminars and cooking demos as possible, and that leaves little time for lunch. 
Once there, you can each go to whichever seminars and cooking demos you want; and whenever you’re not doing that, you could visit the gardens and vendors. Pace yourself however you like! We could meet at 3 PM, at the entrance garden perhaps, to touch base. We’ll compare notes and see if we all got to see everything yet and which, if any, of the remaining talks and demos we want to attend. (That 5 PM one does sound interesting!) We could also decide then what to do for dinner. There are many nice new eating places on Navy Pier that I’d like to try.
We should be ready to drive back home in the early evening, hopefully after rush hour traffic has died down.
Looking forward to this adventure!

Additional Tips

  • Wear comfortable walking shoes. You’ll be doing a lot of walking.
  • Bring a sweater or light jacket. It’s usually a bit chilly in the showroom, but you might want to remove this layer at times.
  • BRING A DIGITAL CAMERA! I like to take MANY pictures. Pro Tip: I also take notes with my camera by using it to take pictures of plant labels and other signs on display.  Speaking of pictures, I prefer to take pictures of the garden displays in the late afternoon, when they are usually less crowded. (That may change, of course, if everyone starts following my tips here.)
  • Bring one water bottle, preferably in some kind of carrier so you don’t have to carry it. You could refill it, as needed, at the water fountain down the hall outside the showroom. Sorry, there are no fountains inside the showroom–that’s why I’m telling you to carry a water bottle.
  • Bring a light daypack. Pack a pen and paper in it, as well as your lunch and snacks.  Throughout the day you will use it to stash the brochures, recipes, and notes you’ll collect, and perhaps any small purchases you make.

I like to go as hands free as possible.  If you look closely at the picture at the top of this post, you’ll see backpack straps on my shoulders. (OK, maybe you won’t. They’re hard to see because I was using a backpack with a blue flowery design, and it blended in with my blue–a different shade of blue–flowery jacket. I like blue flowery stuff!) You’ll also see that my purse/phone, camera (blue camera in a blue case, of course), and water bottle are all hanging from my waist. That’s the way to go like a pro to the garden show!

Posted in Garden Talks and Shows, Tips and Tools | 3 Comments