Growing Your Own Vegetables

As summer comes to an end, many vegetable gardeners are busy reaping what they’ve sown and harvesting the fruits of their labors. Growing your own vegetables has health, nutritional, and environmental benefits, says University of Illinois Extension Educator Nicole Flowers-Kimmerle. 

Photo credit Anita Wilkinson

The health benefits are exponential with the combination of nutrients, sunshine, and exercise gained through gardening. Walking, bending, lifting, and pulling movements that naturally happen in the garden fit into the moderate excise category that can increase your body’s immune system function.

Certain vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, and brussels sprouts, produce a disease-fighting compound called sulfurane after being cut. Colorful vegetables provide antioxidants such as lycopene and beta carotene. Eating a diverse group of vegetables ensures balanced nutrition.  

“Different varieties of vegetables have different flavors,” Flowers-Kimmerle says. “Growing your own vegetables from seed allows you to choose varieties for your garden to suit your tastes.”

The flavor is also based on biochemical changes that happen to the produce once it is harvested. “The sugar in sweet corn kernels starts converting to starch as soon as the ear is harvested,” Flowers-Kimmerle says. “Cook sweet corn as soon as you can for the sweetest flavor.”

Harvest timing can also affect the flavor of a vegetable. Harvesting vegetables at their peak ensures maximum flavor. Locally grown vegetables benefit the environment by reducing carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels to transport grocery store produce.

“No plastic packaging is required when you harvest vegetables straight from the garden, which also reduces fossil fuel inputs,” Flowers-Kimmerle says. Pesticide and other chemical inputs tend to be lower in small, well-tended gardens than even small farms.

When vegetable gardeners use kitchen and yard waste as compost, they keep it out of landfills and create their own soil amendment to increase the garden’s productivity.

These health and environmental benefits can last even longer with cool weather plantings for a late fall harvest. Vegetables that grow well in cool weather, such as leaf lettuce, radish, spinach, and turnips, can be planted throughout Fall.

Article by Nicole Flowers-Kimmerle

Source: Gardener’s Corner Fall 2020: University of Illinois Extension

Planting Vegetables that Grow in Shade for a Successful Harvest

Stuck with a shady garden space? Opting for vegetables that grow in shade  — or at least vegetables that will tolerate shade — will increase your garden success. 

Vegetables that grow in partial shade

With a few exceptions, which I’ve noted, the crops below can thrive in just three to four hours of sunlight.

Shade grown vegetables have a tendency to be smaller, though. They can also take a little bit longer to mature than those grown in sunny gardens.

  • Salad greens like lettucearugula, and mesclun actually like a bit of protection from the sun. Greens are not only vegetables that grow in partial shade, but they’ll thrive there. You’ll have better luck with loose leaf lettuce; head lettuce doesn’t form well in a shade garden.

Hearty greens like Swiss chard, spinach, collards, cabbage, and kale are highly nutritious and versatile shade grown vegetables. If you can eke out five hours of sunlight, chard will produce thick stems, giving you two ways to enjoy it.
Vegetables that grow in light shade.
The plants listed above will grow in light shade as well, but add the following to the list if you’re dealing with only light shade. For these root crops, aim for four to five hours of sunlight and be aware that they might take longer to mature in these conditions.

And remember: the greens of beets, radishes, and turnips are all edible, giving you a bonus crop.

Root crops like beets, carrots, kohlrabi, radishes, and turnips are partial sun vegetables that will produce in low-light situations.
Potatoes are another partial shade vegetable.
Asparagus prefers cooler temperatures, so it’s no surprise that it will do okay with light shade, especially in hotter regions.

Vegetables that tolerate some shade

Some vegetables don’t really love shade, but they’ll do a pretty good job of tolerating low-light situations.

These options are best to choose if you have light shade.

  • Peas and beans can tolerate light shade. They won’t produce as abundantly as crops grown in full sun, though.
  • Green onions will keep producing all summer long in light shade if you cut just what you need and leave the root in place.
  • Celery tolerates light shade. Once it’s established in your garden, it will produce stems all summer long. In warmer climates, it will winter over and produce for a second year.
  • Brussels sprouts and cauliflower appreciate a little reprieve from the sun and are a good option for partial sun vegetables, as does broccoli and Romanesco.

Author: Kris Bordessa- Planting Vegetables that Grow in Shade for a Successful Harvest (