from the ground up

Grow. Gather. Enjoy.

Garden Calendar

Living with the seasons means the thrill of the first chive sightings sprouting in early spring, long beautiful evenings outside in summer, crisp mornings putting the garden to bed in fall, and cozy nights by the fireplace perusing seeds catalogues and dreaming up big plans in winter.

Each season calls for different tasks and different seeds to plant, so things are constantly changing. This is a brief outline by month of what to anticipate and what to plant when. Remember, we are in Zone 5b, so your dates will shift if you are in a warmer/cooler climate. Click below to find out your zone.


Grab your garden journal and dream.

Are you starting a brand new garden? Imagine what it will look like. If you're a few years in, what new things do you want to try this year? Can you add berries or fruit trees this year? Are there any workshops in your area that interest you? 


Cozy up to the fireplace with a cup of tea and a stack of seeds catalogues. What veggies do you like to eat? What are you favorite herbs? This is your garden, so grow what you'll eat.

Go through and mark everything you want to grow this year. This is your "wish list". Start big - you can always whittle your list down if you go a little too crazy.


The winter is a great time to reach out and connect with other local gardeners, farms and even schools with gardens. It is always nice to have other gardener friends nearby as a resource and gardeners are usually very willing to share tips & tricks they have gathered over years of hanging around plants.


Now that you've spent some good time dreaming, start putting your design together.

What are your garden dimensions? How many beds & paths do you have? How long and wide are they? Ultimately, how much space do you have and how many plants can you squeeze in?

Order Seeds

Place your order as early as possible because some seeds will run out as planting time approaches - especially that heirloom pea variety you were eyeing, so don't delay.

A note on seed packets - many seed packets have more seeds than one home garden can use in 1 season. See if any neighbors want to go in on seeds with you, or save them for the following year in a cool/dry place.

Find Seedling Sales

Scope out your local farms, farmers markets & garden centers to find out who hosts spring seedling sales. In our area seedling sales typically take place mid-May. These "seedlings" you will purchase have been growing in a greenhouse for 6+ weeks, getting a jump start on the growing season - cabbage, eggplant, herbs, peppers, tomatoes and more.


The beginning of April is for watching your daffodils pop enthusiastically out of the ground.

Finish any garden clean-up you didn't get to in the fall & keep your eye on the weather forecast.


Weather pending, we typically start planting cold-hardy veggies mid month.



A few years back we had 5 big snow days in April, which is rare, but ideally you will continue with your planting.



Keep on keepin on:

GREEN ONIONS (scallions - check Johnny's Evergreen Hardy White), LETTUCE, KALE, SWISS CHARD

Sunflower lovers - you can put in your SUNFLOWER seeds now.



Mid-Late: These seeds need slightly warmer soil to germinate. BASIL, CUCUMBER, MELON

Something to try: NASTURTIUM. They are beautiful rambling flowers in the garden with spicy edible blooms to add to summer salads.


Memorial Day Weekend = plant TOMATO & PEPPER seedlings out.

We've planted them a little sooner and also later when we're running behind, but it's a good date to keep in mind.


The soil have warmed up by now, so you can plant BEANS, EGGPLANT (purchase seedlings) ZUCCHINI and WINTER SQUASH.


You've likely eaten some of your earliest crops by now. Reseed any of them like:


Also seed a bit more BASIL and DILL. The plants don't last very long once you start cutting, so it's good to have multiple plantings of these that will be at different stages of growth. This is called "succession planting".


One crop really meant for spring and fall only is spinach. You'll notice once the weather heats up, your spinach will not like it. Fear not - it's not you, it's the spinach. Wait until the end of summer to reseed spinach.


Check on your garlic - how are they looking? This is the time when you can dig up a giant bulb, cut off the top of the bulb, drizzle olive oil onto the cloves, and roast it in the oven. It will come out like soft, garlicy butter ready to spread on toast.


Seed another round of BEANS. As with other crops, beans can tend to produce and then putter out, so it's nice to have a second round going to harvest from later in the season.

Keep an eye on your garlic. It is ready for harvest when the leaves have started to brown.


Seed your last round of BASIL & BEETS now to keep you going until the first frost. Beets will hold in the ground even after the first frost, so even though the beet greens will wilt in the frost you can still harvest the beets well into September/October.

If you've run out of ARUGULA or RADISH, put those in where you have space. These crops are both less than 30 days to maturity, so you have plenty of time.

In the Kitchen

This is the time - make pesto to freeze, bottle up your tomatoes & whiz up tomatillo salsa to freeze.

Also, keep in mind that pesto doesn't have to be basil & garlic. You can use parsley, cilantro, dill - any herbs you like. Just be sure to label them so you aren't surprised one chilly January evening when you think you're defrosting a basil pesto.


We know, it seems crazy to think about ordering most seeds in August but garlic is planted in the fall (October-ish), so you do need to start thinking about it now. As with other seeds, varieties of garlic do tend to sell out so jump on this.

Note - after your first year growing garlic, you can save some of your own harvest to plant for next year.

Planting for Fall

If you have open space in your garden, fill in with any of the following that you like - ARUGULA, BEET, CARROT, PEA, RADISH, and SPINACH*.

*Remember spinach doesn't like hot weather, so you may need to mist the bed with the spinach seeds a couple of times per day. This lowers the soil temperature to encourage germination.


Your garden may be bursting at this time with no room to plant one more seed in the ground.

If you do have space though, you can still put in a very last planting of ARUGULA, a GREENS/LETTUCE MIX, RADISH and SPINACH before the weather gets too chilly.


You can expect a first frost around September 20 here in the Chicago area. Most crops in your garden will continue on through a few light frosts and even beyond. We typically let kale, cabbage, spinach, carrots , peas and beets go on as long as possible and keep harvesting from them.

Warm weather loving crops like tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber and basil will begin to turn black. They really can't handle the colder temps.


Did you grow any winter squash or pumpkins? If so, keep an eye out for the vines to die back. As the vines die, the squash will almost separate themselves from the vine and you'll know it's time to bring them inside.


Enjoy the last of your garden for the season.


Choose a date in the middle of the month to plant your garlic for next year. Clear the bed, add compost if you have it, tuck the cloves in, and spread about 6" of straw over the top to insulate.


Clean your tools.

Brush off all soil & debris. Get yourself some linseed oil, grab an old rag and rub a thin layer of linseed into each piece. This will keep your tools from rusting.

Clean Up

This is the time for a big garden clean up.

If you clear beds as you harvest crops, you're ahead of the game. If not, now's the time. Pull out all dead plants, chop them up and put them on the compost.


Order compost from your local source. Use the compost calculator on the "Setting Up" page to determine how much to order to get a good 3" covering on each bed.

You will do this every year to replenish nutrients and protect your soil during the cold winter months. We find it's easier to do this in the fall when it's cool and dry rather than wait until spring when it's cool and soaking wet.


Call your local municipality and see if they have woodchips available for delivery. Woodchips break down slowly, so you will likely only need to replenish your paths every other year.

We use chips for other paths throughout our yard as well and they work great, adding to the nutrients in your soil as they compost in place.