University of Illinois Extension
Bruce Spangeberg

These articles are written to apply to the northeastern corner of Illinois. Problems and timing may not apply outside of this area.

Stateline Yard & Garden

Arrival of New Gardening Catalogs

January 3, 2002

Once January arrives, new gardening catalogs start to appear. Lots of winter still remains, but it's not too early to start thinking ahead to seed and plant orders. Follow a few simple guidelines to assure plants order choices are sound ones.

First of all, make sure to know the true identity of the plant. Common names may vary, so look for Latin or scientific names to be listed, in particular with ornamental plants. Most vegetables and flowers are pretty straightforward, but sometimes a plant is written-up to have outstanding and perhaps unexpected features. If a Latin name is not given, you may not get the plant you think you are ordering.

Ordering many kinds of plants can be tempting, but be sure they fit into your yard and garden plans. Plants may have outstanding characteristics, but could be a poor fit for an individual situation. For fruit and vegetable crops, make sure you actually have a use for the crop once harvested. When considering flowers, shrubs, or trees, make sure they fit growing conditions of the site they’ll be planted. This means not only the right sun or shade level, soil conditions, etc. but also fitting into the scheme of the landscape.

Make sure the plants will it grow here. Plant hardiness is very important selection factor for trees, shrubs, and ornamental plants. Hardiness zones include both USDA (zone 5a for most of northern Illinois except parts of northwest that are zone 4b) and Arnold Arboretum (zone 4 for our area). Check which is being used by the catalog you are using.

Finally, related to hardiness is length of the growing season. Vegetable or fruit crop cultivars need to have adequate time to produce a crop in our relatively short growing season. The average last frost date for most of northern Illinois is about May 5; with the average first fall frost about October 7. Vegetables that take well over 100 days to mature (such as some vine crops) are generally not good choices, as they may not ripen before being killed by frost.


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