Serving Cook County

Youth Gardening

  • Kids Gardening  
  • Five-Minute Film Festival: School Gardens: Spring will be here before you know it. It will be time to start thinking about getting outside and planting green things! School gardens are a great way to teach kids hands-on science.
  • Illinois Farm to School Network: The Illinois Farm to School Network is a growing coalition of partners working on Farm to School programming across the state. We aim to connect schools, districts, organizations, farms and more in a network that shares resources and best practices.
  • School Garden Evaluation: Communicating the value of school gardens is critical to establish and maintain support from teachers, administrators, parents, the community, and funding agencies. These resources provide tools to evaluate the effectiveness of school gardens from a wide range of perspectives.

Butterfly Gardening

  • Butterfly Gardening 101: Butterfly gardening can be easy. It can be as simple as providing the appropriate variety of host plants for larval growth and adult feeding.
  • Butterfly Gardening Basics: There is no more delightful decoration for a garden than nature's own butterflies. On warm sunny days, these visitors provide color and motion.

Composting

  • Composting 101: Tips on how to Start Composting
  • Lasagna Composting: The "Lasagna Method" is a way of structuring a compost system so that maintenance is minimized, pests are deterred, and both large and small amounts of compostables can be handled at any time. This simple layering system can be used in any bin.
  • Worm Composting: Learn the basics of indoor worm composting. Includes Herman the Worm's family tree, history, anatomy and diet. 
  • Home Composting 

En Español

  • Bulbos y Más: Bulbos y Más te enseña todo acerca de la selección, cultivo, paisajismo y mucho más con bulbos en tu jardín.
  • Jardin de Anuales: Descubra como las flores anuales pueden darle color a su jardín.
  • Vea Su Jardín Crecer: Vea Su Jardín Crecer es su guía para escoger, preparar, cultivar y guardar vegetales comunes.

DIY Gardening Construction Projects

  • How to Build a Raised Bed: Learn how to build a simple, wood-frame raised bed for your garden. University of Maryland Extension's Jon Traunfeld takes you step-by-step through the process, and gives you tips on how to get started growing. 
  • Raised Bed Checklist  
  • How to Build a Raised Bed: Tips on Building a Raised Bed from Grow NYC
  • How to Build a Salad Table or Salad Box: Do you love the idea of eating home-grown salads from April through November? There are two types of container gardens that will enable you to produce fresh, flavorful greens close to your backdoor without the need to dig in the soil. 
  • Easy to Make Grow Light: Grow lights provide the energy plants need for growing seedlings or cuttings. They'll also help keep your favorite plants alive during the long winter months. Learn how easy it is to make your own grow light with just 10 feet of PVC pipe and a fluorescent light!

Planning and Planting

  • Planting Dates for Vegetables and Annual Flowers: Information on planting times for the Cook County area. 
  • How to Make Your Own Seed Tape: A fun activity to do with children involves simple materials: toilet tissue, glue, and small vegetable seeds to make your own seed tape. And, as an added bonus, you won't have to thin your plants later.
  • Which is Best-Seeds or Transplants? Knowing which plants work best as seeds or transplants can sometimes be confusing. This segment explains the best time to use either method to grow a successful and bountiful garden.
  • Spring Garden Planning: Spring is here, and you're ready to get started outside! But before setting out your seeds and seedlings, have your students map out the garden and plan out the beds. In this video, we will discuss three variables to help you get started: site elements, last year's crops, and plant spacing.
  • Garden Calendar: A helpful monthly guide to know what to do in your garden. 
  • Garden Design Basics  
  • Seed Starting Indoors  

Growing annuals, perennials, herbs, and container plants

Vegetable Gardening

  • How to Grow Vegetables: Vegetable directory and how to grow common vegetables. 
  • Sweet Potato Growing: Looking for something fun but easy to grow this summer at your school garden? Why not plant sweet potatoes? With some initial weeding and watering, you can let these warm-season crops grow all summer long and into the fall. Sweet Potatoes will work as a protective cover crop, protecting and nourishing your garden soil, in addition to being a healthy and delicious vegetable to harvest in the fall. Watch this video to better understand how this crop grows, and the steps for planting.
  • Tips on Planting Tomatoes: Jon Traunfeld, University of Maryland Extension Educator demonstrates how to plant two sizes of tomato transplants.
  • Fencing for the Vegetable Garden: Jon Traunfeld and Ria Malloy from the University of Maryland Extension show off different types of fences you can use in your garden. Pick the right variety of fence to suit your space and keep out deer, rabbits and groundhogs.
  • Protect your Vegetable Garden with Floating Row Covers: Jon Traunfeld from the University of Maryland Extension explains what a row cover is and how to use it. Row covers are a great tool to keep out insects and other pests from your garden. 
  • Vegetable Succession Planting Chart  
  • University of Illinois Extension: Vegetable Gardening: Helpful Vegetable Gardening Videos from the University of Illinois Extension

Wildflowers and natives

Soils

  • How to Take a Soil Sample: One of the best things a first-time gardener can do is have a soil sample taken. Learn how to properly take a soil sample. 
  • Soil Testing Labs: This list is provided for your reference. Call for current fees and services. Request an interpretation of the soil test results. Often labs will provide sample bags prior to you taking a soil sample, if you request sampling information.
  • Organic Mulches: Organic mulches serve several important functions in garden and landscape plantings

Safety

Food and Nutrition

  • 13 Vegetables to Donate to Food Pantries: While food pantries that accept fresh produce will accept most types of vegetables, the following are generally preferred.
  • Food Fun: Explore fun classroom activities relating to tasting, shopping, science, language and creative arts. Complete with a teacher's guide.
  • Food Preservation: The National Center for Home Food Preservation is your source for current research-based recommendations for most methods of home food preservation.
  • USDA: Grow It, Try It, Like It! Nutrition Education Kit: Grow It, Try It, Like It! Nutrition Education Kit Featuring MyPlate is a garden-themed nutrition education kit for child care center staff that introduces children to: three fruits - peaches, strawberries, and cantaloupe, and three vegetables - spinach, sweet potatoes, and crookneck squash.
  • Where Your Food Comes From: Learn the history and culture of common crops. Complete with fun activities and teacher's guide.

Weeds and insects

Miscellaneous