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

Looking Back at the Vegetable Gardening Season

October 15, 1998

Along with harvesting the last of crops and cleaning up plant debris, analyzing results should be part of the season-end ritual of vegetable gardens. Taking notes on what worked well and problems that occurred can be very valuable information when planning the 1999 garden.

Important information includes both general and specific successes and problems. For example, if just about everything did poorly, there may be a major problem that needs correcting prior to next year. If problems were limited to specific crops only, then control for next year may be targeting specific problems or needs of that crop.

Major problems that can affect an entire garden include poor soil conditions, too much shade, weed invasions, and poor overall management. Critical components of garden soils include soil pH, fertility, and drainage. Most soils in Northeastern Illinois tend to have an alkaline, or high pH. This can cause problems for many crops. A soil test (kits available at the Extension Office in Woodstock) will indicate the pH and major nutrient levels and how to correct them. Fall is a good time to sample soils.

Soil fertility is controlled by factors such as pH, organic matter, planting history, and fertilizer application. If everything is doing poorly, perhaps the fertility is too low. Fertilizer should be worked into the soil.

The garden site itself may offer clues to garden failure. Too much shade often is the reason vegetables don't do well. If feasible, do some pruning or consider moving the garden. Remember that weeds in the garden are not only unsightly but will compete with garden plantings for light, water, and nutrients. Hand-pulling on a timely basis, mulching, and herbicides are options to consider for next year.

If problems were limited to one or two crops, then either a specific pest or disease was the cause or the crop is not being cared-for properly. Spend the off-season researching the growing needs and typical problems of the crops in question. Make adjustments as needed, perhaps starting with selection of a different cultivar for the 1999 season.

Take a few moments to make notes as the season closes. You’ll be glad you did early next spring!


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