Gardening at Home
Our gardens are organic
We take great pride in our organic gardens. We use compost instead of chemicals and conventional fertilizers in order to create organic gardens, and do what we can to reduce our water usage and incorporate native plants. You can use many of our organic practices at home.
Search for salad makings in the gardens
Look around the gardens – can you find these popular salad makings?
Show us your garden!
Upload a photo of your garden at home.
Top tips for home gardens
Use vertical space – grow on trellises to add square footage to your garden. Try growing these tasty veggies on trellises
• Pole beans
Consider the amount of sun when choosing a site – at least 6 hours a day for fruiting vegetables. If you have a shadier spot, it’s best to stick with greens like kale and lettuce.
What you see at Shedd
Edible plants flourish at Shedd. Our restaurant visitors as well as our employees and animals enjoy the bounty of our organic fruits, vegetables and herbs. Our edible plants are grown organically and don’t have to travel far—a quick snip and they’re inside the aquarium being fed to lizards and tortoises, or staff! This saves time – and energy. We grow vegetables throughout our gardens – mixing them with ornamental plants. In addition, we have a traditional backyard vegetable garden, a small greenhouse onsite, and a urban demonstration garden showing how to grow lots of vegetables in a small space. This garden is divided into six 4-by-4-foot squares with paths that provide access to each bed’s center. This is a great design for anyone with limited space and maximizes the food produced in a very small area.
We use organic lawn care practices to nurture 1.5 acres of lawn along Lake Michigan. The lawn is treated with compost and other organic nutrients such as corn gluten applications. Healthy lawns with deep roots can better fight weeds for soil, space, water and nutrients; to strengthen our root system, Shedd keeps our lawn around 3 inches tall. The taller the grass reaches, the deeper the roots grow. Deep roots require less supplemental watering in summer, while taller grass shades out germinating weed seeds.
Shedd uses a mulching mower that allows the clippings to fall back into the grass. It is important to mow frequently, removing an inch or less of the lawn’s height, as the smaller grass clippings decompose quickly on the soil’s surface contributing important nutrients the lawn needs to remain healthy. Well-maintained, sharp blades make clean cuts that are better able to retain moisture and color.
Composting for your garden
Compost is the result of natural processes that turn plant, animal and food waste into nutrients ideal for gardening. Why use expensive, toxic chemicals when you have the ingredients for naturally healthy soil in your own backyard? Start with own garden trimmings—weeds, grass, leaves—and leftovers from your kitchen that and mix with bark, straw, woodchips, sawdust and chipped brush. In the spring, use compost in your gardens wherever it’s needed.
How much compost you need depends on what you plant. In areas that need more nutrients, such as vegetable gardens, spread a 1- to 2-inch layer of compost over the tops of beds, where it will slowly filter into the soil.