Spring gardening: What you can tackle now and what needs to wait until May – Chicago Tribune


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Has there ever been a year when the itch to get outside and commune with nature seemed more urgent? The recently snow-laden earth is warming up, the birds are singing madly and little green things are popping up before our eyes. It’s time to get out into the garden, deck, balcony or windowsill and dream of warm days, barbecues and cicadas. When you tidy up the garden this spring, don’t clean up too much. A layer of leaves and plant litter provides organic matter to feed the healthy organisms that make your soil good for plants. (Morton Arboretum) So we can start planting, right? Hold your horses, cowboy. The average last frost date in the Chicago area isn’t until May 15, so it’s not time to set out the tomatoes. The Morton Arboretum’s Beth Botts offers 12 do’s and don’ts for early spring, as well as a way to encourage early budding tree branches to flower indoors. Long-lived, shade-tolerant bulbs that bloom in early spring, such as Crocus tommasinianus ‘Ruby Giant’, are good companions for trees. Many garden centers are open if you want advice and inspiration. Others won’t open for a couple of weeks, so it’s a good idea to call first. Enjoy the crocuses and jonquils, and shoot a few photos. This is also the time to plan what you’ll add in the fall for a more dramatic spring next year.
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