At long last, the weather is warming up. Here in Chicago, late spring weather brings a few welcomed changes—like it’s finally time to put winter jackets in storage (at least for a few months). The change in weather also means it’s time to take advantage of Illinois’ late spring growing window by planting some of your favorite fruit and vegetable crops. Here are a few plants that we love, and grow well around this time of the year.
Spinach, a cool weather vegetable, is an easy crop for any aspiring farmer to populate their first garden, and are compact enough to grow in a window sill planter. With preferred growing temperatures between 40°F and 70°F, Spinach is well equipped to survive Illinois’ often unpredictable spring climate. After buying a spinach starter, plant in moist, nitrogen-rich soil, at 4 to 6 inches apart. In just a few weeks, your spinach will be ready to harvest and enjoyed raw in salads, or cooked down in pastas and sautés.
A hearty, frost-resistant root vegetable, carrots are as appealing in the garden, or window sill planter, as they are on your dinner plate. When searching for the ideal location, look for a space in full-sun, ideally with sandy, well-drained soil. Carrots mature in approximately 2 ½ months, but you can harvest whenever the desired size and maturity is reached. After harvest, carrots offer a wide range of uses ranging from roasting, to serving raw with your favorite dip. If you harvest more than you can eat right away, pickled carrots are a delicious snack that lengthens their shelf life to over a year.
Broccoli grows best in cold weather, with full sun and rich soil, and requires more space than carrots or spinach. Plant your broccoli starters roughly 18 inches apart, in an area that gets at least 6 hours of sun daily. These plants enjoy a steady source of moisture and plenty of nitrogen-rich fertilizer. After 2 to 3 months your broccoli heads should be ready for harvest. While they aren’t commonly sold at grocery stores, broccoli leaves aren’t just edible, but they’re also packed with nutrients. They can be cooked down in sautés similarly to kale, or baked in the oven with salt, pepper and olive oil to make delicious broccoli-leaf chips.
Don’t have a green thumb? Not a problem! You can support your local farmers at weekend farmers markets or signing up for a CSA. We’re excited to source spinach this summer from local Chicago farms including Growing Home and Windy City Harvest