Spring is almost here! Are you ready to start your vegetable and herb gardens? For many gardeners in the Chicago suburbs, organic transplants are a quick and easy way to get started without much hassle.
Read below to get some general tips from the farm about how to care for your transplants and avoid transplant shock, and how to have a productive season in your home vegetable garden.
For those looking to start their home gardens this year, the annual Plant Sales at Heritage Prairie Farm are filled with transplants of USDA Certified Organic herbs and vegetables. Held in April & May each year, you'll find a wide variety of plants including herbs, tomatoes, squash, lettuce, peppers and many more.
View the brochure of available plants in this PDF:
Read about organic transplants below, and join us for the 2023 Plant Sales on April 22, May 6and May 13 from 9 am - 2 pm.
If you're pressed for time or space, organic transplants are a quick and easy way to fill your planters and garden beds without having to do the seed starting yourself.
Using transplants allows you to get an earlier start on the season for an earlier harvest, and allows for succession planting for a continuous harvest. Transplants may also help ward off some early pest damage as they are past the tender seedling stage.
The farm team at Heritage Prairie Farm is hard at work each spring preparing hundreds of starter plants of your favorite herbs and veggies. Transplants, or "starts," are seedlings that are established to the point of being ready to put directly into your garden beds or planters.
How to care for your transplants: Hardening off
When preparing to move your transplants outside, it is important to make sure they're ready for the Illinois weather. Transplants need to be "hardened off," or gradually exposed to different weather elements. This is typically done about a week before moving your transplants outdoors. While most transplants from the Heritage Prairie Farm Plant Sales have typically been hardened off for you prior to sale, it would still be advised to acclimate your new plants to their new home.
The process of hardening off your transplants involves slowly exposing the young seedlings to more hours of sunlight outdoors each day as well as strengthening them by running a fan nearby. By hardening off transplants, it ensures they can handle the transition to the garden.
Knowing When to Plant & Protecting From Frost
Once your plants have been hardened off, the next step is knowing when to get them in the ground and protecting them from potential frost.
Being located in the Midwest, we tend to have late spring weather with potential for later frosts, so it is important to keep an eye on the weather before planting. Plants have different levels of hardiness to cold weather, so depending on what types of plants you have purchased, your planting week may vary.
Below, we've made a handy guide with approximate transplanting and harvesting dates for all of the plants that will be available at the upcoming 2022 plant sales. (These dates are for USDA Zone 5b which encompasses much of the Chicagoland area. You can read more about the USDA Hardiness Zones here.) If a cold snap does come through after you've planted, you can protect your young plants from frost with a variety of methods. Gently covering them with items like plastic sheets, blankets, or even a "greenhouse" made out of a two-liter bottle cut in half can help insulate heat and protect your new vegetables.
Tips For a Productive Harvest Season
Spacing: Don't Over-plant It can be tempting when starting a new garden to get excited buying a lot of new plants. When planting your beds, make sure you account for the full space of your plants once they reach maturity. Take into account which plants need to be trellised so that they do not block out the sun for nearby plants. Some sprawling plants like squash or melons will need more ground space than plants like peppers or lettuce. It can be helpful to map out a plan for your beds or planters before putting any plants in the soil.
Start With Good Soil: Your veggies will benefit from having good soil to grow in. Not only will they produce more, but they will taste better, too! At Heritage Prairie Farm, we use rich, organic soil to start and grow our vegetables.
Know Your Pests: Different vegetables have differing foes, and it's wise to know what you're up against if you wish to have a productive garden. From cabbage worms to aphids, there are organic strategies for battling your vegetables' nemeses. Watering in the morning, weeding regularly, and even beneficial bugs are all strategies for fending off the tiny freeloaders of your hard work.
Various plants also prefer different levels of moisture in the soil. Make sure you're not planting plants that prefer arid soil next to those that are much more thirsty. Check your soil often and water accordingly, preferably in the morning so the plants can get a good drink before the summer heat kicks in late-morning. Make sure your garden beds have proper drainage to avoid root rot or other issues caused by too much water.
Deadheading & Pruning: Lastly, learn the pruning preferences of your plants. Some plants, like basil, benefit from being pruned often. Others only need smaller adjustments throughout the season to deadhead any yellowing leaves or spent parts of the plant to keep the energy directed toward the fruit.
Join us at the 2023 Organic Plant Sales!
Once you've viewed the brochure above and are ready to get planting, join us at the Organic Plant Sales! Sundays April 22, May 6 & May 13
9 am - 2 pm Heritage Prairie Farm
2N308 Brundige Road, Elburn, Illinois, 60119
We'll have a full greenhouse to browse and our farm team will be on hand to answer your questions.