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Natural Awakenings Chicago

Best Spring Garden Seeds to Plant

Dec 27, 2016 10:15PM ● By Lisa Hilgenberg

Knowing how much seed will sow a 10-foot row, the days to maturity and when the harvest can be expected is the type of garden math that tangles up many a grower, but working with quality catalogs will provide vegetable grower’s guides to help to sort out how much seed we’ll need. Here is a list of a favorite varieties to directly sow into the spring garden.

Radish: Direct sow spring radish as soon as the ground can be worked or four to six weeks before the last frost. Best grown quickly in cool, damp conditions. Easy to grow, it requires only 28 days from planting to harvest. Try the spring radish varieties Early Scarlet Globe, Rudolf and Crunchy Royale.

Beets: Nothing says spring like tender, freshly harvested baby beets. Sow about a month before our last frost date and thin to three inches between seedlings. Fertilize with liquid seaweed. Beets have great culinary versatility, so plant a combination of gold and red: Detroit Dark Red, Bull’s Blood and Burpee’s Golden.

Swiss Chard: Rhubarb and Five-Colored Silverbeet can grow through the entire gardening season. By removing just the outer leaves with a harvest knife, the plant stays in place and the integrity of our design stays intact.

Carrots: The sweetest, juiciest and most flavorful carrots are the French Heirlooms. Sow two weeks before last frost date. Carrot is slow to germinate, so have patience. Favorite varieties for Chicago growers are St. Valery, Paris Market and Scarlet Nantes.

Spinach: One of the earliest germinating cool season vegetables, spinach can be direct sown in two-inch bands or rows four to six weeks before the last frost. Plant Corvair, Tyee and Donkey for the most reliable spring crops.

Lettuce: One gram of seed will sow a 15-foot row of Tennis Ball, Black-Seeded Simpson, Rouge d’Hiver and Winter Density.

Spring Greens: Thirty to 50 seeds of Mache, arugula or mizuna will seed one foot of row when sown as a cut and come again salad mix.


Lisa Hilgenberg is the horticulturist at the Regenstein Fruit and Vegetable Garden in the Chicago Botanic Garden, located at 1000 Lake Cook Rd., in Glencoe. For more information, call 847-835-5440 or visit