Despite snow, gardeners gear up for spring
Barb Dombroski, owner of Veteran's Floral, assembles some of the garden decorations on sale at the shop for the upcoming spring season. | Michelle LaVigne~Sun-Times Media
Veteran’s Floral and Monuments
7800 W. Irving Park Road in Norridge
9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday
9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Updated: April 8, 2013 6:15AM
NORRIDGE — Snow may mark winter’s lingering affects, but gardeners know spring is just around the corner.
“Thinking about the garden is what gets you through the winter blues,” said Barb Dombroski, who with her husband, Ray, owns Veteran’s Floral and Monuments, 7800 W. Irving Park Rd. in Norridge.
The store carries gardening supplies, including bedding plants and rose bushes.
“You look over the yard, decide what you want to plant,” Barb Dombroski said.
In Norridge and Harwood Heights, many of staunchest gardeners are finding the rigor of getting on hands and knees to tend their plants is taking away from the pleasure they get growing flowers and vegetables.
The big thing for them is potted plants, according to Dombroski.
“People can get them premade or they can come in and create their own,” she said.
To create one’s own container garden, Ron Wolford suggested looking into systems offered by Earth Box and Smart Pots.
“We’ve been using Earth Boxes for about eight years and Smart Pots for about two or three,” said Wolford, a University of Illinois Extension educator in urban horticulture.
The agency tends the plants at the Museum of Science and Industry’s Smart Home exhibit.
Earth Boxes conserve water and cut down on weeding, using a black membrane that slows evaporation and keeps weeds from sprouting, he explained.
The best part, according to Wolford, is that the system raises the soil temperature by about 10 degrees.
“The plants really take off,” he said. “There’re no weeds, and the boxes are on wheels so you can move them around.”
Smart Pots use landscape fabric to form containers in myriad sizes, from those for houseplants to large ones for trees.
“It’s an instant, raised bed garden,” Wolford said. “And it has handles. We’ve been using it for years.”
Whether because of ethnic traditions, economics or a desire for local produce, area gardeners are fond of growing their own vegetables.
“Many customers come looking for tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, escarole and herbs,” Dombroski said. “A lot of people have gone back to gardening.
“And they all know what they like.”
Just the variety of tomatoes can be overwhelming, from beefsteak to plum to heirloom.
“People are turning to the low-acid, yellow ones,” Dombroski noted.
Because of the short growing season, any garden centers, including Veteran’s, sell pre-started plants.
“This way people can get a heads up on their gardens,” she explained “And they still have two to three months for their plants to thrive.”
In addition to a return to vegetable gardening, Dombroski said she has seen a change in choices for flower gardens.
“It used to be all about begonias and marigolds,” she said. “Now people want more specialty plants.”
Popular new options are impatiens, which come in myriad varieties; sweet potato vines, which are a good choice for hanging plants; and ornamental grasses.
“Those grasses turn red in summer and serve as a focal point in winter,” Dombroski said. “You chopped them down in the spring, and they grow all over again.”
Dombroski noted now is the time to start planning the garden, as it is a reminder that warmer weather is right around the corner.
“March is the time to start preparing the garden for spring planting,” she said. “Maybe think about a new color scheme.
“Instead of pinks and purples, maybe try yellows and oranges.” she continued. “But the important thing is to choose whatever will make you happy.”