Plant your own vegetable garden

Raising your own vegetables is a smart idea: it's healthy, economical and can involve the whole family. Verd Nelson, of the Organic Gardener in Glencoe, says there's still time to start a vegetable garden, whether you've got a patio or a large plot. If you're short on space, he recommends using the Earth Box; the organic "Ready to Grow Kit" costs $52.95.

You can consult Verd at the Green City Market, which is marking its 10th year as Chicago's only sustainable green market. More than 45 sustainable or certified organic farmers participate in the popular outdoor market that attracts thousands of shoppers. GCM features chef cooking demos, the "Sprouts" education program for kids, and "Breakfast Club" discussions about the link between well-being and good nutrition. The city's year-round resource for sustainable food, Green City Market is held in Lincoln Park, between 1750 N. Clark St. and Stockton Dr from late spring through fall and at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum at 2430 N. Cannon Dr. in winter through early spring.

Just across the street from the Green City Market in Lincoln Park is the Edible Gardens, which The Organic Gardener maintains. It's a place to learn all about growing vegetables. While the Edible Gardens are aimed at children, any novice is welcome and can learn about growing, weeding, compost making, harvesting and cooking vegetables. Located in Lincoln Park Zoo's Farm-in-the- Zoo, the Edible Gardens serves as demonstration models for home gardens as well as school gardens. Families and schools – principals, teachers, students and parents – are encouraged to make field trips to the Edible Gardens, which is a partnership between the Green City Market and the zoo.

Garden & Market Hours: The Edible Gardens are open for school field trips from March 15th – December 10th on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10 am – 1 pm. You can also visit The Edible Gardens across the street from the Green City Market when the outdoor market is open: from 7 am – 1:30 through October 29. The market moves indoors from November 1 to December 20.

For more information, contact the Green City Market at (773) 435-0280 or You can reach Verd Nolan, The Organic Gardener at 847.636.2720 or

The Organic Gardener's Favorites for Success in Chicago Gardens


  • Northern Pickling, Marketmore 76, Suyo Long, Lemon, Miniature White, Diva (for those who want seedless)

  • Edamame (green soybeans)



    Basil, Dill, Chives, Oregano, Parsley, Sorel, Thyme

  • Red Russian

  • Lettuce
  • Freckles, Saladbowl (green or red oakleaf), Winter Density (green romaine, Rough D'Hiver, Nancy (butterhead)

  • Peppers
  • Sunray (yellow), Apple (red), Carmen (red), Lipstick (red), Hungarian Hot Wax, Early Jalapeno

  • Potatoes
  • Adirondack Blue or All Blue, Yukon Gold, Dark Red Norland

  • Radish
  • Easter Egg (multicolor mix)

  • Strawberries

    String Beans (Bush or Pole)
  • Provider (green), Carson (yellow), Royal Burgundy (purple), Maxibel (haricot vert)

  • Swiss Chard
  • Bright Lights

  • Tomato
  • Juliet, Garden Peach, Gardeners Delight, Sun Gold

  • Winter Squash
  • Butternut
  • What to Grow from Seed or Plants

    Direct Seeding Vs. Transplanting

    Direct Seeding
    Potato (seed potato)
    Swiss Chard
    Summer Squash
    Winter Squash

    Brussels Sprouts
    Chinese Cabbage
    Garlic (from bulb)
    Sweet Potato (from slip)

    *Indicates both options work well.

    The Edible Gardens

    Planted and Maintained by Chicago's Green City Market at Lincoln Park Zoo's Farm-in-the-Zoo

    Purpose: The Edible Gardens are designed to engage children with hands-on growing, weeding, compost making, harvesting and farmhouse kitchen cooking classes. The gardens serve as demonstration models for home gardens as well as school gardens. We invite families and schools – principals, teachers, students and parents – to join us for field trips to the Edible Gardens. Chicago's Green City Market and Lincoln Park Zoo have formed a partnership to help ensure that the future of sustainability will be understood and carried forward by our children. We hope that this program will be used as an influential educational resource with carefully constructed school tours that visit these gardens as well as the nearby Chicago's Green City Market for the most effective cross-promotion of farm-to-table.

    Field Trips: Come on out! A field trip to the Edible Gardens and to Chicago's Green City Market is a unique opportunity for children of all ages (Kindergarten – High School) to learn where their food comes from. At the Market, your students will meet farmers and taste delicious locally grown food. In the gardens, they will do real work which varies with the season: planting tomatoes, pulling weeds, thinning carrots, harvesting green beans or digging purple potatoes. Even if you do not have your own school vegetable garden, your students can learn where their vegetables come from! A portion of the garden is designed for children with disabilities. If you would like bring your students to The Edible Gardens and Chicago's Green City Market, contact Jeanne Pinsof at (847) 636-2720 or

    To see photos and a description from a successful 1st grade field trip from Franklin Fine Arts School, go to and then click on the "First grade MacKenzie" link. Then click on the Green City Market and Edible Garden link.

    Garden & Market Hours: The Edible Gardens are open for field trips from March 15th – December 10th on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10 am – 1 pm. Chicago's Green City Market is located across the street from The Edible Gardens and the market is open from May 14 – October 29 from 7 am – 1:30 pm.

    Helpful Websites: Are you a parent or teacher who is interested in starting a garden at your school or in your backyard? Visit these websites for help and advice.

    The Green Teacher Network is a powerful collaboration of Openlands, Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance and the Chicago Botanic Garden. It is Chicago's educational resource network for those who want to start a school garden, go to

    For local school gardening help, advice and information contact The Chicago Botanic Garden. They publish The Chicago School Garden Initiative: A Collaborative Model for Developing School Gardens That Work.

    For inspiration from Alice Waters, the pioneer of the school vegetable gardening movement and for amazing advice from their headquarters, The Edible Schoolyard, go to

    National Gardening Association's go to

    For information about Earth Boxes go to

    For information about The Growing Connection program and curriculum go to and

    For excellent composting and gardening advice and demonstrations at Garfield Park Conservatory, go to

    For information on school or backyard gardening from the University of Illinois Extension go to

    For more information on composting go to or call The Rotline at 773-265-9587 for answers to your composting questions

    For school garden curriculum to use in your classroom, go to or or

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