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Vegetable gardening underway

Tomato plants emerge.
Tomato plants emerge.

Throughout the state, vegetable gardening has begun in a variety of ways. Vegetable gardening starts out first in southern Illinois and does the “stadium wave” northward until we hit the Illinois-Wisconsin border.

Northern Illinois has a limited growing season compared to southern Illinois, with central Illinois in a range in between. Records show there is approximately four weeks difference in sowing seed or putting in transplants of the same vegetable in Illinois when discussing traditional in-the-ground vegetable gardening. So, gardening in southern Illinois could start as early as March 10-25, while northern Illinois gardeners have to hang on until April 10-25 to start their gardens.

Gardeners base when they get to sow seed or put in transplants on the weather, of course, and not strictly the date, which is more of a guideline. Soil temperatures are the key and that will vary by soil type. Dark soils warm up sooner than lighter soils. Lighter soils may dry sooner, though, and allow gardeners to get into the garden earlier.

Once our gardens are planted, successive plantings can be done to have those fresh veggies on the dinner table throughout the growing season. Gardeners will replant those early spring radishes and lettuces with snap beans, beets or maybe carrots if your season is long enough. With more days to grow with in southern Illinois, it is easier to get those three gardens we hear about – spring, summer and fall – completed. Gardeners up north will begin the summer garden while the spring garden has not finished and the same goes for the fall garden, making space in the summer garden.

Gardening can be done in a variety of ways, including raised-bed gardening, container gardening, bag-culture and straw-bale gardening, and wherever the imagination takes you. Good gardening, everyone.

Richard Hentschel is a University of Illinois Extension educator.

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