Most of the time in Chicago, March isn’t so bad. It’s in the 50s often and the snow is gone. This year, we’re getting there, slowly. Your best bet for gardening delights is to start your seedlings. Tomatoes, peppers, annuals, and herbs all can benefit from a head start indoors 6-8 weeks before the warmth of Mother’s Day, May 10th.
- Seeds (look for heirloom, organic seeds from Botanical Interests, Baker’s Creek, or Seed Savers)
- Shop light (about $50)
- Trays with clear plastic covers, to create a greenhouse effect (this can be purchased or made with a variety of left over food containers)
- Organic seed starter mix (there is a difference from regular potting soil)
- Warmth (I start my seeds on magazines on top of a radiator, but a heating pad on low will work nicely too.)
Seeds germinate at different rates. Older seeds may also have less viability. Check out this handy herb guide and this one for most vegetables. Once seedlings have a second set of leaves, they can be transplanted into a mixture of potting soil and compost. Here, they’ll grow until being transplanted outside. Remember to keep the shop light a good 6 inches from the top of the plants, and to keep the lights on for 14-16 hours of the day. Good luck and happy gardening.