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Flowers, Fruits, and Frass

Local and statewide information on a variety of current topics for home gardeners and market growers.

Vegetable Gardening after Memorial Day

University of Illinois Horticulturists says there is still time to plant vegetable and herb garden after Memorial Day.

Most Central Illinois Gardeners in Zone 5b start planting their vegetable and herb gardens in late April and early May and are done well before Memorial Day, in a normal year. Memorial Day has come and gone and most gardeners are behind schedule and the weather has been everything but normal. If you are one of those procrastinators and not yet put in a vegetable garden this year then you may have saved yourself some major gardening missteps. Some of us failed to seed leafy greens and kale in the early spring because the temperatures were not high enough to achieve germination or planted our tomato plants a bit too early getting a nip from a late frost. Gardeners also have been contending with the constant drenched soils and rainy weather. I offer a reprieve to all gardeners even the procrastinators.

There are still several weeks left in the summer growing season to grow warm season vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, squash, watermelon, herbs, and sweet potatoes before the first frost date on October 15. In late August, gardeners can start their late planting of cool weather crops like kale, lettuce, cilantro, carrots, radishes, mustard and cabbage.

Benefits to starting a late vegetable garden

  1. The trees and shrubs have leafed out so choosing a sunny spot will be easy. Before deciding on a garden spot check the sun exposure at morning, noon and afternoon to ensure at least 14 hours of sun each day.
  2. Do not have to contend with early season pests and may reduce infestations of late season pest out breaks.
  3. Do not have to bother with germinating seeds but instead buy easier to grow garden transplants. Garden transplants should have full and healthy roots but not be root bound. Vine crops like cucumbers, squash and watermelon are still easiest grown by seed.
  4. Do not have to check the weather for frost updates.
  5. Grow lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, mustard and kale in cooler weather or shade to avoid bolting from high temperatures. Remember most leafy greens only need 4-weeks till harvest.
  6. Starting late causes you to miss out on only a few succession plantings. Successions planting are for gardeners who plant a new crop every few weeks in order to space out harvesting times. In normal weather, gardeners may still plant after Memorial Day.

According to Jim Angel, the Illinois State Climatologist the soil moisture is above normal which is a much needed change from last year's devastating drought records.

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