When to plant beets – for a healthy harvest through the year

Once you know when to plant beets you’ll be able to enjoy this delicious vegetable freshly grown throughout most of the year. 

© Provided by Homes & Gardens

Beets are a delicious root vegetable, which are dense with nutrients, including potassium, betaine, magnesium, folate, and Vitamin C, plus a good dose of nitrates.

There are so many ways the entire family can enjoy this tasty crop – it can even be used as a natural sweetener in a chocolate cake. With so many incredible recipes to choose from, once you know how to grow beets, they make a great addition to any home kitchen garden.

When to plant beets

The best time of year to plant beets very much depends on how you are starting them. You can either direct sow beets as part of your vegetable garden ideas or start them inside when you are planning a greenhouse and then transplant them out later on.

‘Beets are a fantastic early season crop when soils are just starting to warm up. Most varieties want to grow in cooler weather when the soil has thawed and frosts have stopped. For when to plant beets if direct seeding, you should wait until soil temps are around 44°F (7°C),’ advises Angelo Kelvakis, master horticulturist at Rise Gardens. 

However, you can also start seedlings indoors and transplant them out at a later date. This will give your beets a bit of an early start and could result in an earlier crop. Time the planting so you get successive crops of these and other veg by checking when to plant vegetables.

‘For transplanting – starting your seeds in a greenhouse, cold frame, or indoors – you can start them 5 weeks before the last frost and soil temps are still cold. Transplanting is a great way to ensure that your germination is successful,’ suggests Kelvakis.

What month do you plant beets?

The best month for when to plant beets can vary. Nick Welsh from Seed Craft advises to ‘succession sow from early spring to mid-summer,’ to ensure a long crop harvest. 

‘Beets are an amazing vegetable that are perfect for early and late season growing and can be stored after harvest for up to 6 months,’ adds Angelo Kelvakis. 

As beets only require a minimum of 44°F (7°C) soil temperature to germinate, they are quite hardy and therefore a brilliant crop to start early in the gardening year. 

‘Beetroot is among the easiest vegetables to grow, so you almost can’t go wrong as long as you have soil and water,’ reassures Nick.

How late can you start beets?

The latest time you can start beets will very much depend on your hardiness zone. 

As a general rule, Kelvakis suggests, ‘the last time of year for when to plant beets is when temperatures start getting hot. When the summer time hits, it’s time to take a beet break. Beets can handle soil temps up to 84°F (29°C). So be sure to monitor your soil temps with a soil thermometer in the summer time.’

An alternative is to plant beets in containers as part of your vegetable garden container ideas and then you can move the pots to cooler spots if the temperature rises.

If you’ve left it until late summer or fall to start planting your beets, ‘you can try using row covers – you can get them at most gardening stores and they can be placed over your crops to increase the air and soil temps. Row covers can get you another month or so of growing, depending on your setup and how cold it gets where you are growing,’ advises Kelvakis.

How long does it take to grow beets?

The length of time it takes for beets to grow and reach full maturity very much depends on the variety you are growing, as well as the specific soil conditions of your growing zone. 

Nick Welsh suggests you should ‘try to sow a different variety each time as this avoids a glut of just one type. There are so many great varieties out there to chose from,’ he says.

On average, beets take around 7-8 weeks from sowing to harvest.

Do beets like full sun?

Beets are a shade tolerant crop so are among the vegetables to grow in shade that will fare well in areas with less than 4 hours of sun a day. 

‘Don’t sow too many seeds as most beetroot are cluster seeds and each seed can produce up to 6 plants,’ Nick Welsh advises.

‘Do not thin out – just pull alternate roots allowing smaller ones to continue growing.’

Now that you know when to plant beets, you will be able to successfully grow them in your own kitchen garden and should be well on the way to harvesting an abundance of fresh produce.

Article by Emma Bailey for Homes and Gardens©

Source: When to plant beets – for a healthy harvest through the year (msn.com)

ZUCCHINI COMPANION PLANTS

TO DETER PESTS OR PROVIDE OTHER BENEFITS

Learning the best zucchini companion plants, as well as companions for other crops, is an important part of planning your vegetable garden ideas as it helps negate the need for pesticides, an important element in creating a sustainable garden.

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Zucchini companion plants fall under two main categories: those that help to protect against pests, and those that help improve the general conditions for the plants to thrive.

The main pests of zucchini are:

  • Cucumber beetle
  • Aphids
  • Cutworms
  • Squash vine borers
  • Spider mites
  • Thrips
  • Leaf miners
  • Whitefly

There are several different types of zucchini companion plants that can help protect against these pests. These include trap plants that are more appealing to pests than the zucchini crops, drawing them away; others that will attract in beneficial insects such as hoverflies, ladybird and lacewings that predate zucchini pests; and companion plants for zucchini that deter pests from zucchini with strong smells or visual confusion.

There are then zucchini companion plants that improve their general growing conditions. These include plants that do not compete for space or nutrients; those that house nitrogen fixing bacteria within their roots and can help to increase nitrogen levels in the soil; and ground cover plants that cover the soil and reduce water loss.

HERB ZUCCHINI COMPANION PLANTS

If you are including herb garden ideas in your vegetable garden plans, then add in some of these herbs as useful zucchini companion plants.

DILL will repel squash beetle and flea beetles and is a great companion plant for lots of crops, including zucchini. It is worth knowing how to grow dill to enjoy as a herb, in itself, and its tasty leaves and seeds are also really good at attracting beneficial insects, such as hoverflies and lacewing that will predate your pests. 

‘LAVENDER is a great zucchini companion plants as bees pollinate the lavender plant, making their way over to pollinate your zucchini plants as well. As a result, the bees will distribute more zucchini pollen throughout your garden, hopefully yielding more zucchini at the time of harvest,’ says Mary Jane Duford from Home for the Harvest.

Lavender is also among the strongly smelling herbs and is known to deter some pests, such as aphids and whitefly. 

CHIVES is another strong-smelling herb that will deter aphids with its odour. It’s a delicious and easy to grow herb that will not compete with your zucchini for space and will also attract pollinators when its flowering. 

OREGANO, marjoram, sage, and rosemary are all aromatic herbs that pair well with zucchini. They will not compete for water or nutrients, and they will attract pollinators. Their scents also deter aphids, whitefly and even squash beetle. 

FLOWERS AS ZUCCHINI COMPANION PLANTS

It’s a great idea to have flowers in your vegetable garden, whether or not they are meant as companion plants for zucchini. Attracting and supporting pollinators is a great way to ensure good crops of fruits and vegetables.

If zucchini are not pollinated you will see the end of the small, developing fruit start to rot. It’s tempting to assume that this is due to pests, disease or lack of nutrients, but more often than not it is a pollination issue. This can be avoided by simply planting more flowers.

NASTURTIUMS are a wonderful trap plant that are tasty to aphids and squash beetles, thus drawing them away from your zucchini. They are also great at pulling pollinators into the garden with their gaudy orange, yellow and red flowers. Growing nasturtiums couldn’t be easier, and the flowers, leaves and seeds are all edible, and great to use in a salad, or make into a pesto with a beautiful peppery taste.

BORAGE is a brilliant plant for any garden. With beautiful – and edible – blue, pink and white flowers, and large edible stems, they are very attractive to pollinators and insects that will prey on aphids, whitefly and thrips. They are easy to grow and will readily self-seed if allowed.

SWEET ALYSSUM is particularly attractive to hoverflies and parasitic insects that will help to control your pest populations. With its dainty flowers, it also provides good ground cover and will not compete with your zucchini for space.

Article by Becky Searle

Source: Zucchini companion plants: the best plants to grow with them | Homes & Gardens | (homesandgardens.com)

List of Garden Vegetables to Grow for Beginner and Intermediate Gardeners

Growing fruits and vegetables in your garden can be a rewarding experience for the whole family. However, not all fruits and veggies are equally easy to master and a few can be downright difficult. Continue on for a list of garden vegetables to grow for all levels.

Some crops are considered cool season crops, while others are warm season crops. Cool season crops such as peas, broccoli and potatoes tend to grow better in the spring and fall, while warm season crops do best when planted in late spring and mature throughout the summer. Utilizing succession planting can be a huge benefit to bolster your crops.

Tomato, Cherry Baby Hybrid

Beginner Veggies

We’ll start with a few vegetables that just about anyone can grow — even on a porch or patio! These plants are hardy, versatile and produce an abundance of crops you can share with friends and family.

Peas

Peas love cool temperatures and do best when planted in spring or fall. These climbing plants use their tendrils to wrap around whatever they can to hold their thin vines steadfast while they grow upward. As they mature, peas produce flowers and pods relatively quickly. Because of their quick growth, they can be planted in close proximity to other garden vegetables and along fence lines. Plant cultivars such as ‘Easy Peasy’ for first picking in about 60 days and for an extended harvest, plant three rounds of seeds in one-week intervals.

Lettuce

When discussing vegetable gardening for beginners, you can’t pass up lettuces. These fast-growing plants can be sown directly in the garden and harvested in as little as 50 days. For variety, try a leafy mix such as the ‘Looseleaf Blend’ and enjoy different leaf shapes, colors and textures. While lettuce has a tendency to bolt (go to flower), keeping your plants well-watered and shielded from extreme heat can help extend the harvest of crisp leaves. You can also extend your harvest by planting successive crops every two weeks throughout the growing season.

Hybrid Tomatoes

Homegrown tomatoes can hardly be compared to store-bought fruit with their vine-ripened sweetness, juicy texture and bright colors. Hybrid cherry tomatoes such as ‘Cherry Baby’ are easy-to-grow warm season crops and will produce fruit 70 days from planting. Cherry tomatoes are particularly easy to grow because they produce many smaller fruits that ripen quickly and take less energy from the plant. Most cherry tomatoes are also indeterminate growers, meaning they continue to grow and set fruit throughout the season, ensuring a steady crop.

Squash

No list of garden vegetables to grow would be complete without summer squash. Given full sun and plenty of water, these warm season growers reach maturity in about 40 to 50 days after planting and will continue to produce until late summer. Cultivars such as ‘Burpee’s Best’ zucchini can be started outdoors in late spring after all danger of frost has passed.

Broccoli, Sun King Hybrid

Intermediate Veggies

The next five vegetables take the experience level up a notch. Although perfectly doable in the home garden, they require more planning and patience to be successful. Given a little extra attention, they’re sure to be nutritious additions to the annual vegetable garden.

Broccoli

Broccoli is a staple food item in most homes, but few people realize they take a bit more care to grow in the home garden. As with most vegetables in the cabbage family, broccoli is a cool season crop and does best when planted in spring, fall or even during the winter months in warmer climates. Also like their cabbage relatives, when stressed by heat, drought or crowded roots, they’ll “bolt” and go to flower, so you’ll have to take care to keep these plants happy. Bolt-resistant cultivars such as ‘Sun King’ should be planted in well-composted, moist soil in full sun and reach maturity at 70 to 80 days after planting. For successive plantings, sow seeds indoors before the last frost and continue for three to four weeks thereafter.

Potatoes

Native to the Andes mountains in South America, potatoes are another cool season crop that prefers rich soil and plenty of room to spread their roots. What makes potatoes a little more difficult is that they’re best grown in raised mounds above the soil line for ease of eventual harvest. Potatoes are started as “seed potatoes” — basically sliced up potatoes, each with its own “eye” or growth point — and sown in the soil as soon as it can be worked in early spring. Cultivars such as ‘Yukon Gold’ are medium-sized spuds and ready for harvest about 100 days after planting. To harvest, remove soil from around the base of the plant and gently tug at the plant, allowing for the soil to fall away. Then, gently dig out the remainder of the potato.

Winter Squash

Winter squash grows in much the same way as summer squash and can be started outdoors after the last frost. What makes winter squash more difficult to grow is that it tends to require more time to mature its thick outer skin and grows on longer sprawling vines. Selections such as ‘Burpee’s Butterbush’ can be stored for months in a cool, dark place within the home and make excellent soups long into the winter season! Be sure to choose a location within your yard where the vines can have plenty of space and full sun throughout the growing season.

Sweet Corn

Sweet corn is another crop that requires a lot of square footage for mass planting and plenty of sun, but it deserves a place on our intermediate list of garden vegetables to grow. For those with the space, plant these crops en masse for proper pollination and give them as much full sun as possible throughout the summer. While corn is drought tolerant, the ears will fill out much better when given ample moisture — especially as ears begin to appear. Because sweet corn is wind pollinated, plant cultivars such as ‘Early Sunglow’ at two- to three-week intervals with other types of corn to avoid cross-pollination.

Heirloom Tomatoes

Heirloom tomatoes are a sight to see in the summer garden. Bursting with flavor and with a classic old-school tomato look, cultivars such as ‘Brandywine Pink’ are the epitome of garden Americana. What sets heirlooms apart from hybrid tomatoes, however, is these plants are more difficult to grow. If you’re new to gardening, they can also be somewhat underwhelming: Heirlooms lack the vigor of hybrids and produce far fewer fruits on large, rambling vines. You’ll need to take care with their placement in the garden and keep moisture at a constant to avoid cracked tomato skins. When you meet these requirements, they’re sure to be the talk of the table and enjoyed by tomato lovers!

Written by Derek Carwood, Greenwood Horticulture

Source: List of Garden Vegetables to Grow for Beginners – Burpee

Annual Vines to Grow

Hummingbird Vine

Annual vines grow quickly and bloom profusely in one growing season. They can camouflage unsightly fences or walls, accent pleasing architecture, or soften harsh structural lines—and at the same time add color, texture, and height. Vines are ideal for creating a temporary, natural screen for privacy or against sun, wind, or unattractive views. They also can create a welcoming habitat for birds, bees, and butterflies.

Source: Extension Store (iastate.edu)

How to Grow Lettuce

Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is a nutritious leafy vegetable mainly cultivated for its delicious green leaves, which have a mild taste. Lettuce is simple to grow perennial and cool-season vegetables that thrive in autumn and spring in most regions. Learn how to grow lettuce ahead!

This is an excellent crop for novices as it can be planted by seed directly into the soil once the soil can be worked. Some varieties mature in just 30 days. Some are even harvested earlier than microgreens. Since lettuce is a fast-growing plant and quickly, the most effective method is to plant only a small number of seeds per day by spreading the plantings. Lettuce flourishes when temperatures are between 60 and 70 temperatures F. Lettuce isn’t only cultivated for its leaves, but it also has seeds and stems. From your garden beds to containers for patios, these easy steps will provide plenty of fresh salad greens in all seasons.

Additionally, lettuce thrives in raised beds, making it ideal for spaces with limited space. The lettuce is an excellent container set on patios, decks, or balconies. 

© Provided by Healthier Steps

How to Cultivate Lettuce Step-by-Step Procedure:

There are two methods to grow lettuce seeds:

  • It is possible to directly sown into containers or in the garden.
  • Transplant lettuce seedlings planted indoors under grow lights or bought at a garden center.

The Best Time to Plant Lettuce

The best location for lettuce cultivation to plant lettuce in the fall and spring is in a place with full sun. If you plan to grow lettuce in the summer months or zones of the warm plantation, the partial shade will protect you from the hot summer sun. Seeding lettuce in the late summer months may require a lot of artificial coloring to keep the soil cool for germination. As the days get more relaxed, the shade can be removed to provide ample sunlight to the new lettuce plant.

Think about buying a soil analysis kit if you’ve experienced problems growing lettuce. The lettuce is sensitive to low pH, and lime can assist in bringing the pH back to a level that is 6.0 up to 7.0 in the soil.

Space Needed for Lettuce

Seeds should be planted only 1/8 – 1/4 inches deep since they need sunlight to grow. Place rows at least one foot from each other. Distance between seedlings will be determined by the size of the mature plants of the specific kind of plant. However, generally keeping the lettuce plants close to each other will help eliminate the growth of weeds. Support structures shouldn’t be required.

How to Plant Lettuce from Seed

You can start your lettuce seeds with the seed trays available in stores or create your own using an egg carton, box, or newspaper. Fill the seed trays the limit of 11 two inches (1.3 centimeters) to the edge using a soil-free growing medium. Moisten the medium before preparing for sowing seeds.

  • The seeds already have the nutrients required to sprout and grow to plant seeds in a non-soil growing medium. You can purchase an increasing medium or create one by mixing equal amounts of perlite, vermiculite, and milled sphagnum.
  • Because the seeds will be transferred to the soil once they have sprouted, the looks of your seed trays aren’t as important as their utility.
  • This gives the seeds time to germinate and grow before the soil is soft enough to be planted outside. Distribute seeds across the compartments for sources of the tray. Utilize fingertips to press seeds in the medium for growth lightly.

How to Grow Lettuce in Pots

A container for growing lettuce is an excellent method to guard it against insects. Also, you can put it in a suitable place to harvest. Check the dimensions of the specific lettuce variety you’re using. A container of between 6 and 12 inches in size is sufficient. Be sure to have drainage holes. Unglazed clay is a great container material since it allows soil moisture to pass through its walls.

Lettuce Plant Care

Set the container in a sun-lit window. Keep the medium that you are growing in consistently moist. If you allow it to dry out, seeds may not succeed.

The seed tray can be covered with a tray by a couple of layers of newspaper for the first week or a few weeks until the seeds sprout. Make sure that the newspaper is kept moist with water, and then remove the newspaper as you start to see sprouting green shoots.

Water

You’re looking to encourage the growth of the leaf over rooting. The watering of lettuce should be gentle, constant, regular, and consistent.  Beware not to overwater, leading to root rot, illness, and slowing growth.

Temperature and Humidity

The soil temperature must reach 40 deg (4degC). However, seeds are most productive when they are in temperatures between 55 and 65 degF (13 up to 18degrees Celsius). Seedlings typically sprout in seven to 10 days.

Strategies: To plant a fall crop, prepare excellent soil in the last week in August. Water the soil, then the soil with straw bales. After a week, the ground underneath the bale will be around 10 degrees Fahrenheit (6degC), more remarkable than the remainder of your garden. Sow a three-foot row of lettuce seeds every two weeks. Just turn the straw bale in the park.

Fertilizer

Mix compost into the soil before planting to improve the quantity of organic material. Use fertilizers that are high in nitrogen, beginning about the three-week mark after you grow and following the directions on the label. This will encourage the healthy, vigorous growth of your leaves.

The Final Thought

You know everything you need to learn about cultivating lettuce in your backyard. Go ahead! Create your mini garden filled with tasty fruit, vegetables, herbs, or anything else you’d like. We would like to hear your gardening tales. Make sure to have top-quality seeds.

Article by Healthier Steps 

Source: How to Grow Lettuce (msn.com)

Scale up your garden’s health with fish emulsion fertilizer

Over the years, there has been a growing demand for organic-based fertilizers to use in the garden and landscaping. There are of course ways to manufacture these organic fertilizers, but what if we could use a byproduct of the manufacture of a different product? It is an efficient use of our natural resources and perhaps even creates a sustainable source.

Byproduct fertlizer

This has given rise to many different types of organic fertilizers appearing on the market that are the “leftovers” of some other type of industry.

For instance, corn gluten meal is an organic fertilizer that is a byproduct of the corn milling industry. Milorganite is a hybridized trade name of an organic fertilizer. “Mil” means Milwaukee, “orga” shortened from organic, and “nite” for nitrogen. Though I was originally taught “nite” came from the term “night soil” which is human waste. Milorganite fertilizer is made of biosolids from treated sewer sludge from the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District.

What is Fish Emulsion Fertlizer?

And then there is fish emulsion. Fish emulsion is the leftover liquid from the fish meal and fish oil industry.

To get a picture of fish emulsion think back to or look up the Saturday Night Live video of Dan Aykroyd hawking his Super Bass-o-Matic ‘76. With the help of a blender, some water, and a dead fish, Aykroyd made a fish emulsion.

Of course, some other items go into processing fish emulsion, like straining out solid pieces and adjusting the pH so the product doesn’t spoil in the container, but it is for the most part liquified fish. 

What the Research Says

There are many unverified claims on the magic of fish emulsion. Some will say to soak seeds in this product for better germination rates. Initial studies show this not to be true. Others note to use this as a foliar spray for plants to absorb nutrients directly into their leaf tissue for big yields. Again, studies of sweet peppers show no difference in yield when using fish emulsion foliar sprays.

Fish Emulsion is an Effective Fertlizer

Fish emulsion has been shown to be effective as a fertilizer. While nutrient ratios may vary, a typical fish emulsion may have nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) rates of 2-4-1 and the micronutrients calcium, magnesium, sulfur, chlorine, and sodium.

A possible benefit of fish emulsion, and many of the organic-based fertilizers, is that they offer protein to feed our soil microorganisms, which may help to build a more robust soil food web resulting in improved plant health for the long term.

Then, there is the issue of the odor.

A liquid fish emulsion smells, well like blended up fish. I now avoid using it on houseplants, after applying it once and booting the plants outside after a day of playing the game ‘Find the Smell!’ 

Outdoors the odor is of little consequence. However, the raccoons took a very keen interest in why I was hiding dead fish in my outside containers and proceeded to dig in each pot on my patio. While this is not established research, over time several people have called the Illinois Extension office about raccoons digging in pots. After investigation, there does seem to be a trend of fish emulsion fertilizer use and mischievous raccoons.

By Horticulture Educator Christopher Enroth

Gardeners Corner Spring 2022: University of Illinois Extension

Pelleted seed gives gardeners a sown in advantage

Have you noticed the windowed packets of seeds at garden centers with brightly colored “seeds”? These pelleted seeds are small or irregular seed that have a specialized inert coating applied to improve planting, spacing, and germination. Often the coating, which increases the weight and size of the seed, is colored which aids in planting several varieties of seed in one tray, a row in a garden, or a field. 

While pelleted seed was originally developed for commercial production with a mechanical seeder. Then, seed companies began producing pelleted seed for vegetables and flowers and seeds are now available at local garden centers and big-box stores.

Photo by Mary Fischer. Pelleted seed are often sold in windowed seed packets.

History

Pelleted seed has been used intermittently since WWI. The improved pelleted seed was introduced for cereal seeds in the 1930s by a British seed company, Germains. In the 1940s, the U.S. used several types of pelleted seed in reforestation studies. The 1960s saw large-scale use of pelletized seed by commercial growers primarily for its ease of use with mechanical planters and new seed coating technologies. In the 1970s, California banned the use of short-handled hoes, increasing the use of pelleted or coated seeds.

Benefits of Pelleted Seed

Today, pelleted seed has many positive benefits for commercial productions and home gardeners. The coating protects seed from birds, rodents, and a wide range of environmental conditions that often lead to replanting. It reduces loss from needing to thin plants.

Precise spacing requires less seed, and since the seed is coated and visible, less seed will be used saving gardeners money. 

Photo by Mary Fischer. The brightly colored coating on pelleted seed makes it easier to keep track of which varieties you are planting when starting seeds.

For large-scale producers, it is easier for specific applications like aerial dropping or mechanical seeders. There are nutrient benefits with increased oxygen availability. The coating allows for pre-inoculation of legume seeds. Since chemicals are applied to the seed and not the whole field, application is safer and there is a lower cost of agricultural chemicals.

One obstacle to widespread adoption of pelleted seed has been the ability of the coating to split open once it is hydrated allowing oxygenated moisture to reach the seed. New levels of coating densities for commercial growers has overcome that issue.

Meghan Shinn has two precautions when using pelleted seed in a March 1, 2020 article from Horticulture Magazine. First, the growing medium needs to remain consistently moist, but not soggy, after the seed is sown. Secondly, all the pelleted seed must be used in the season it is purchased. This should not be a problem with most home gardeners as seed packets contain smaller amounts of seed.

How to Use Pelleted Seed

Pelleted seed is very easy to use. The colored coating allows a home gardener to see the seed as it is planted, the seed spacing, and where it is planted before covering with soil. If a home gardener is starting seed in a tray for transplant later, pelleted seed makes it easier to identify the different types of seed as it is planted.

How to Make Seed Tape

Another method of planting pelleted seed is to make your own seed tape. This is quite easy to do using single-ply toilet paper and glue.

  1. Simply tear off a length of toilet paper to fit the garden plot. Fold it in half lengthwise and cut into two pieces. Fold each length in half longways and open.
  2. Following the recommended spacing on the seed packet, place small dots of glue at the appropriate distance to one side of the fold, then add a seed.
  3. Once the entire length has been planted, fold the other side over the seed side.
  4. This tape can be wrapped around an empty paper towel roll and labeled for later use.
  5. When ready to plant, prepare the garden bed, lay the tape on the bed, and cover it to the proper depth as directed on the seed packet.

Article by Horticulture Educator Mary Fischer

Source: Gardeners Corner Spring 2022: University of Illinois Extension

Flavor your meals with low-maintenance homegrown herbs

Culinary herbs are a favorite of many gardeners. They are easy to grow as they require little care, have few insect and disease problems, and generally prefer moderate fertility levels. In addition, they add fragrance and beauty to the garden. Many herbs such as lavender, sage, and purple basil, are very ornamental and combine nicely in flower or vegetable gardens. 

Now is the time to plan what herbs you will plant this spring. First consider what herbs you use in food dishes, then consider which herb plants will add texture, color, and fragrance to your garden.

Photo by Jennifer Fishburn. Many herbs such as lavender, sage, and purple basil, are very ornamental and combine nicely in flower or vegetable gardens. 

Seeds and plants can be mail ordered and most can be purchased locally. Herbs such as dill, cilantro, and basil are easy to grow from seed. Lavender, rosemary, sage, and thyme are easily grown from purchased plants.

Mint and oregano are easy to divide, so ask a fellow gardener for a start of their plant.

Herb care

Throughout the growing season, herbs do need some attention including weeding, watering, and harvesting. Weeding takes persistence. If planted in a garden, most established herb plants don’t need additional watering. However, when rainfall is less than 1 inch per week, additional moisture may be needed. The key is to avoid overwatering as herb plants do not like wet feet.

Harvesting Herbs

Harvesting of herbs can be done throughout the growing season. Throughout the summer, annual herbs grown for their leaves such as basil, summer savory, and sweet marjoram, should be cut back leaving approximately 6 inches of stem and leaves. Cut back the stem to just above a leaf or pair of leaves. Most annual leafy herbs don’t survive frost or freezing. So, if frost is predicted, remove as much of the plant as you desire for preserving. 

Dill and cilantro are annual herbs grown for both leaves and seeds. For a continual supply of fresh leaves, reseed every two weeks. If growing for seeds allow the plant to mature before harvesting. Collect seed heads as they turn a light brown. Place seed heads upside down in a paper bag. Allow to dry for about two weeks and shake seeds off stems before removing stems from the bag.

Prune leafy perennial herbs such as sage, rosemary, thyme, and oregano by removing one-third of the top growth at a time. Avoid heavy prunings of perennial herbs after the beginning of September. In the fall, plants that will overwinter, need to start shutting down. Heavy pruning will promote new growth which keeps a plant actively growing. 

Herbs are best used fresh, however, most can be dried or frozen for later use. Before preserving herbs, wash them to remove dirt and other particles.

Article by Horticulture Educator Jennifer Fishburn

Source: Gardeners Corner Spring 2022: University of Illinois Extension

2022 All-America Selection Winners

Another Illinois winter has gone with the promise of spring to soon arrive. Garden catalogs have been arriving for months allowing gardeners to look forward to spring 2022 – the fresh air, energic wildlife, and the gardening. While many have already bought seeds and started to sow them, what if you’re just now thumbing through seed and plant catalogs looking for inspiration, warmth, and a new challenge?

Photo credit All-America Selections. All-America Selections, AAS, is a non-profit organization that trials and awards new plants varieties each year. The National Flower Winner is the sunflower variety Concert Bell F1. This sturdy and durable variety has multiple clusters of 10 to 12 annual flowers that are great in the landscape or for cut flowers.

Start by keeping good garden records from previous years to aid in the planning for the new spring. I always like to test a new plant or six, that is suited for USDA hardiness zone 5, which can sometimes be a challenge without a plan or a map.

After mapping out your existing perennials, think about what new plants could be added to your landscape and their space requirements. After covering this topic now for seven years, my starting place is the All-America Selections.

All-America Selections, AAS, is a non-profit organization that releases several trialed plants each year as AAS Winners. AAS tests new varieties every year at their private and public trial sites located around the United States and Canada. Currently, there are four trial locations in Illinois – three northern, and one central.

Independent judges, who are professional horticulturists in geographically diverse areas, evaluate trial entries against comparison plants. The results and observations are compiled, and winners are chosen. For the best plants suited to Illinois, look for Great Lakes winners or National winners on the AAS winners lists.

National Vegetable Winners

  • Eggplant Icicle F1Solanum melongena var. Icicle F1: This is a white eggplant with fewer spines than other eggplants. The larger cylindrical fruits have fewer seeds. At 48 inches tall, it requires staking. It has 55 days to harvest from transplant. The plant spreads 28 inches.
  • Lettuce BauerLactuca sativa variety Bauer: Ideal for in-ground, containers, or raised beds. Uniform, compact, dense heads of dark green leaves. 58 days to harvest from seed and 34 days from transplant. Harvest at baby or full-sized leaves for enjoyment. An excellent candidate for controlled environments.
  • Pepper Buffy F1Capsicum frutescens variety Buffy F1: Good yielding, faster maturing, hot pepper with thick walls and 500,000 Scoville units. Upright, 28-inch plants with heat tolerance and ornamental value. It has 70 days to harvest from transplant.
  • Pepper Dragonfly F1Capsicum annuum variety Dragonfly F1: Purple, four-lobed, sweet bell peppers with thick walls. The purple color changes to red if it is left on the vine too long. Plant height is 24 inches to 36 inches. Each plant produces 40 peppers. It has 75 days to harvest from transplant.
  • Tomato Purple Zebra F1Solanum lycopersicum var. Purple Zebra F1: A sweet-leaning acidic tomato with disease resistance. It has green stripes on dark red thinner-skinned fruits. It has 80 to 85 days to harvest from transplant. Its upright growth habit requires staking. Each plant produces 150 to 200 tomatoes.

Regional (Heartland) Vegetable Winner

  • Tomato Pink Delicious, Solanum lycopersicum variety Pink Delicious: A pink, early maturing, higher yielding, and beefsteak uniform tomato. Good disease resistance. Higher Brix (sugar) for a pink tomato. A 6-foot-tall upright climber with a 3-foot spread. It has 84 days to harvest from transplant.

Regional (Great Lakes) Vegetable Winner

  • Watermelon Century Star F1, Citrullus lanatus variety Century Star F1: A 10-pound, round, seedless, spotted variety. Crisp melon with sweet flesh. Vines spread 9 feet to 11 feet. Bears two to three fruits per plant. It has 65 days to harvest from transplant and 75 days from seed.

Gold Medal Winners

  • Begonia Viking™ Explorer Rose on Green F1, Begonia x hybrid variety Viking™ Explorer Rose on Green F1:  An annual, trailing begonia with rose-colored flowers that is excellent for hanging baskets and containers. Heat, weather, and disease tolerant. Pollinator friendly and 50 days to flower from transplant.
  • Petunia Bee’s Knees, Petunia x hybrid variety Bee’s Knees: This is the first petunia Gold Medal winner in 72 years. It has lush yellow, non-fading flowers on green leaves and needs little maintenance with a mounding and trailing habit. It is an annual flower that is heat and rain tolerant and pollinator friendly.

National Flower Winner

  • Sunflower Concert Bell F1Helianthus annuus L variety Concert Bell F1: Sturdy and durable, Concert Bell F1 has multiple clusters of 10 to 12 annual flowers. It is a uniform height at 5 feet to 6 feet. It is earlier to flower than other sunflowers. Direct seed for a great landscape attraction or for cut flowers.

Looking for something else to fill in your landscape and gardens? The All-America Selections website, all-americaselections.org, contains a list of all past vegetables and flowers winners since its founding in 1933.

By Horticulture Educator Bruce Black

Source: Gardeners Corner Spring 2022: University of Illinois Extension