We like to think of gardening as an accessible pursuit--until sticker shock kicks in at the register of our commercial garden center. (How could a few two-inch-tall petunias cost so much?)
This spring, three under-the-radar plant sales hosted by the Chicago Park District mean you can get expertly tended Midwest-friendly flowers, veggies, herbs and ornamental grasses for a song.
Garfield Park Saturday?s sale of crops and flowering plants at this 1907 greenhouse supports the conservatory. Veggie lovers, go early for the best selection of peppers, radishes, onions, leeks and more. (Seedling prices vary.) Saturday, May 4, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; 300 N. Central Park Ave.; 312-746-5100 or garfieldconservatory.org
Lurie Garden This Millennium Park paradise cultivates stunning blooms sans fertilizers and insecticides. Horticulture director Jennifer Davit says we can do the same at home--even in indirect sunlight. Use the daisy-like bishop?s hat flowers and hearty autumn moor grass and--voilà!--you have a low-maintenance paradise (quarts $5, gallons $10). Saturday, May 11, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; register here for free; 201 E. Randolph St.; luriegarden.org
Kilbourn Park This massive sale of plants offers 50 varieties of tomato alone (look for the Italian heirloom, a tomato with a sweet, complex flavor), and Kilbourn floriculturist Kirsten Akre says all you need is a sun-drenched window box to grow heat-loving peppers, eggplants and kale. For smaller pots, think red robin cherry tomatoes (all seedlings $2 to $4). Saturday, May 18, and Sunday, May 19, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; 3501 N. Kilbourn Ave.; 773-685-3351 or chicagoparkdistrict.com/parks/kilbourn-park