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Dig Right Minute

Growing your own food is as old a concept as, well, dirt. These days, the locally-grown movement has come close to full circle, as people complement supermarket ingredients with fresh-from-their own garden foods.

  • Summertime staples, tomatoes remain a perennially popular edible to plant in a garden. In addition to standard cherry, plum and beefsteak tomatoes, mix it up and try some different colors and varieties of tomatoes, including heirloom varieties that provide a succulent taste, not to mention a throwback to Grandma’s garden. Plant tomatoes in a bed in full sun and water regularly for moist (but not saturated) soil. Smaller or dwarf varieties can be grown in containers, making them a nice choice for balconies and small patios.
  • You can grow potatoes in this area, believe it or not, including favorites like Yukon Gold potatoes and unique blue or purple potatoes. Seed potatoes can be planted in spring and do well in regular soil enriched with a bit of compost. Split large seed potatoes in half or plant small seed potatoes whole, leaving about a foot between them. You can also grow new potatoes in a large pot. Just be sure to have at least six inches of soil on the bottom of the container to ensure root growth.
  • Chicago isn’t the tropics, to be sure, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t experiment with some citrus plants. Check your local garden centers for dwarf lime and lemon trees that produce a few lemons or limes a year. The key is to bring in those plants when the air temperature runs less than 50 degrees.
  • Make your inner Bugs Bunny happy and grow miniature carrots, which can be planted in a large container. Try to keep the number of plants to two or three per one-gallon container and be sure to water regularly.
  • Finally, grow what you love to eat! Personally, I love Caprese salad, which is why I grow tomatoes and basil that I can pair with fresh mozzarella from my local market. One of the hot trends right now is a cocktail garden, in which you can grow herbs that can be muddled in a cocktail, like mint, basil, lavender and lemongrass, along with edibles such as cucumbers, strawberries, hot peppers, strawberries or raspberriesr.

Don’t forget to contact JULIE before you dig! Whenever you’re disturbing the ground, especially when planting trees, shrubs, groundcovers or plants, be safe and contact JULIE at 811 or log onto JULIE’s www.Illinois1Call.com website and fill out an e-request. It’s free and crucial to avoid hitting underground lines, even in areas where you assume it’s safe to dig.

Dig Right Minute
by Tony Abruscato
Director, Chicago Flower & Garden Show

Sponsored in part by JULIE, the Chicago Flower & Garden Show presents realistic and DIY solutions to inspire, educate and motivate gardening enthusiasts and newbies alike, all year long.  The show blooms at Navy Pier from March 18-26, 2017.