News from the Reference Desk Category: Gardening

Succession Planting

For a continuous supply of fresh home grown produce, home gardeners can develop a succession plan for their vegetable plantings to ensure they are using all their available planting space. The growing season is still young enough to create and follow a plan–it’s a matter of choosing to plant the right vegetables at the right time.

For example, cool weather vegetables (e.g. radishes, lettuce, arugula, mustard) planted early in the spring can be harvested about now and other more warm weather seeds/seedlings can be planted in that precious empty garden space. Suitable choices could include: kale, heat tolerant lettuce, bush beans, and cucumbers/squash among many others.

Some vegetables are planted only once in the season as they need an extended growing period, e.g. tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. Succession planting also can refer to making multiple plantings of the same vegetable to ensure a continuous harvest. Many home gardeners plant radishes, lettuce, beans, and even cucumbers several times over a growing season.

Later in the season, some warm-weather vegetables can be replaced with cool weather crops to be harvested later in the fall, e.g. beets, carrots, kale, lettuce etc.

Check out this link to a planting chart and info about succession planting from the University of Illinois Extension: Vegetable Succession Planting Chart.

For more information, please log in to the Web Resources page (MPPL card number and PIN required) and access Article Finder. There, you can search for current how-to gardening articles (try using the terms: “succession planting,” or “vegetable gardening”).

If you need assistance with access or other questions, please contact us via Live Chat: bit.ly/MPPLlivechat; email: info@mppl.org; or phone: 847-253-5675, if we don’t answer, please leave a message–we’ll call you back.

 

Beans: Bush, Pole, Snap, and Shell

The end of May is typically a great time to plant any type of bean in the northeast region of Illinois. Usually by this time, the danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed sufficiently.

Generally, beans need to be grown in a location that receives full sun for at least 6 hours a day and can be grown successfully in most soil conditions. Successive plantings every 2-4 weeks until early August will provide a continuous harvest throughout the summer and early fall.

Plant seeds of all varieties one inch deep. Plant seeds of bush beans 2 to 4 inches apart in rows at least 18 to 24 inches apart. Plant seeds of pole beans 4 to 6 inches apart in rows 30 to 36 inches apart; or in hills (four to six seeds per hill) 30 inches apart, with 30 inches between rows.

University of Illinois Extension: Watch Your Garden Grow

Bush beans are the easiest to grow and the most common in home gardens. Pole beans must be supported so pods are off the ground and kept dry. There are many varieties that can be grown as green/snap beans and/or shell beans.

Beans are harvested in three different stages for cooking: they can be picked early when they are tender (green/snap beans); removed from fresh pods (shell beans); or left on the vine to dry (dried beans). Most bean varieties can be frozen and/or dried and stored for use throughout the year. Beans are a versatile vegetable and it’s no surprise that they are one of the most popular vegetables in home gardens.

For a selection of current magazines related to vegetable gardening (or any subject you can imagine!) check out our offerings from RB Digital.  You will need your current MPPL Library card number and PIN–then follow the instructions to get started.

If you need assistance with access or other questions, please contact us via Live Chat: bit.ly/MPPLlivechat; email: info@mppl.org; or phone: 847-253-5675 or 224-210-5198 and leave a message–we’ll call you back.

Planting Out in the Garden

Memorial Day weekend is the time to plant vegetable gardens for many home gardeners. Generally, the weather is favorable for planting warm weather vegetables, but each year’s specific conditions need to be considered individually.

Make sure seedling are hardened off and ready to go in the ground. There’s no harm in waiting a few days/week before planting to ensure proper timing, otherwise there’s a risk of damaging young seedlings if they are not ready or weather conditions are not ideal.  It’s best to plant on a cloudy day or later in the evening. Young seedlings can get stressed if planted during the heat of the day, especially if it is hot and sunny.

Handle plants with care. About an hour before transplanting, thoroughly water plants and soil in the containers (pots, bands, flats, etc.). Roots of plants in flats should be blocked out with a knife to get as much soil as possible with each root. Carefully remove plants without disturbing the roots. Keep a ball of soil around the roots. Keep the roots moist at all times when they are out of the soil.

University of Illinois Extension: Illinois Vegetable Garden Guide

For more information, please log in to the Web Resources page (MPPL card number and PIN required) and access Article Finder. There, you can search for current how-to gardening articles (try using the terms: “planting tomatoes,” or “vegetable gardening”).

If you need assistance with access or other questions, please contact us via Live Chat: bit.ly/MPPLlivechat; email: info@mppl.org; or phone: 224-210-5198, if we don’t answer, please leave a message–we’ll call you back.

Hardening Off

The average date for the last frost in this area is May 15, though each year’s weather conditions can vary widely. Early to mid-may is generally the time to start the hardening off process for tender vegetable seedlings started indoors, e.g. tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, basil etc. Hardening off in preparation for planting out in the garden involves slowly exposing young seedlings to the elements to strengthen them.

 

About 2 weeks prior to transplanting plants outside, it is recommended to start the hardening off process. Start by placing plants outside during the warmer part of the day (typically between 12-5 PM) for about 2-3 hours; gradually increasing the amount of time each day. After working the plants up to being outside for 10-12 hours a day for a few days, leave the plants outside for 24 hours for a couple days. Once you complete this, your plants are ready for transplanting. During this period of hardening off, gradually reduce how often you water; however, don’t allow the plants to wilt. It is also not recommended to fertilize the plants before or during the hardening off period.

Illinois Extension: Good Growing

Now that the days are warming up, it’s safe to bring seedlings outside to acclimate. It’s best to place them in a shady and not too windy spot the first time they are exposed to the elements. Strong sunlight can quickly burn young leaves and strong wind can be equally as damaging to tender stems and leaves. A warm and shady place is the best bet for the first time outdoors.

Hardening off seedlings requires consistent attention: seedlings need to be transferred outside and back inside for several days, placed in and out of shade when outside (too much mid-day direct sun too soon should be avoided) and sheltered from strong winds. Weather conditions and nighttime temperatures need to be monitored regularly. Temps may still dip in to the lower to mid 40’s, in which case the seedlings will need to be brought back in so they are not damaged by the cold, even later in the process. A good rule of thumb is to begin to leave seedlings out all night only when they are ready and the nighttime temperatures are above 50 degrees. After a few days of being out all day and night, the seedlings are ready to be set out in the garden.

For more information, please log in to the Web Resources page (MPPL card number and PIN required) and access Article Finder. There, you can search for current how-to gardening articles (try using the terms: “hardening off,” or “vegetable gardening”).

If you need assistance with access or other questions, please contact us via Live Chat: bit.ly/MPPLlivechat; email: info@mppl.org; or phone: 224-210-5198, if we don’t answer, please leave a message–we’ll call you back.

May is the Second Cruelest Month

According to the writer T.S. Eliot “April is the cruellest month” but May is definitely a close second. In less than a week’s time May weather can range from sunny and 80 degrees to a freeze warning and 30 degrees.
It’s easy to be tricked in to thinking that warm weather has finally arrived but don’t be fooled by May!

When planting anything out in the garden in May, the current, forecasted and historical weather conditions should be considered. The average last frost date in northeast Illinois is May 15 but frost and freezes often occur later in the month. The USDA maintains plant hardiness zone maps that can be helpful for determining when and what to plant for a geographic area. This area of Illinois is typically considered Zone 5 but as global temperatures continue to increase, northeast Illinois is creeping towards Zone 6 especially in Chicago’s heat island.

Tomato/peppers/eggplant/squash and many annual flower seedlings start to be available to purchase in early May. Many vegetable gardeners like to get their gardens planted as early as possible but planting warm-weather vegetables/flowers too early can result in plant damage.

A good rule of thumb for when to plant tender vegetables and flowers in the garden is to wait until night time temperatures remain above 50 degrees, generally near the end of May or early June. Sometimes planting early can pay off if temperatures do not dip in to the 30-40’s but some gardeners wish to wait until all threats of frost are past.

Low tunnels are a great way to get a jump on the growing season, especially for cool weather vegetables. These mustard seedlings and radishes were direct seeded in a low tunnel on April 5, 2020.

 

Depending on the severity of the winter, cool weather vegetables can be planted in the previous Fall, then overwintered and harvested in the early Spring.

This bib lettuce was planted out in a low tunnel in October 2019 and is ready to harvest now in early May.

 

It’s best to be patient though, when planting warm-weather vegetables in the garden if you want strong and productive plants! Summer is coming.

For a selection of current magazines related to vegetable gardening (or any subject you can imagine!) check out our offerings from RB Digital.  You will need your current MPPL Library card number and PIN–then follow the instructions to get started.

If you need assistance with access or other questions, please contact us via Live Chat: bit.ly/MPPLlivechat; email: info@mppl.org; or phone: 847-253-5675 and leave a message–we’ll call you back.