Spring is slowly but surely making its way to Forest Park, and now that the piles of snow have melted away, the village’s resident green-thumbs can turn their attention to their gardens. For those just beginning their gardening hobby, Kathleen Obirek, a landscape designer and a Moraine Valley Community College teacher, came by the Forest Park Library last Wednesday to provide a little bit of education and advice on growing vegetables organically.

Organic gardening differs from conventional gardening in that no chemicals are used to improve the health of the plants and the quality – and quantity – of the vegetables produced. “A lot of chemicals that are out there are still good,” Obirek said. “But there are a whole lot that are bad.”

The organic products discussed by Obirek improve the soil quality by increasing the microbes living in it. Chemical products tend to be taken up by the plants too quickly, Obirek noted, leaving little left for the microorganisms. Organic products promote the growth of these microorganisms, which help keep the plants healthy.

“If we keep taking from the soil, and taking from the soil and not replenishing…the soil dies,” Obirek said.

Many of the products, including Soilmoist, which helps keep roots hydrated; and SUPERthrive, a cocktail of micronutrients that helps plants stay healthy, are hard to find in stores, but all are available for mail-order.

The best time to plant, according to Obirek, is May 30, so those interested in gardening organically this year have plenty of time to prepare.

For those who missed last week’s program, Obirek will be teaching it again at the Justice Public Library in Justice, Ill., on April 28 and the Mokena Public Library in Mokena, Ill., on May 7.