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Over the Garden Fence

Tender Vegetables, Successive Plantings and Weeds

This column has not addressed vegetables for a while and now is the time to consider the next round of transplants or seeds to go in the garden. It wasn't but about 7-10 days ago the weather was threatening a frosty night which would have us out covering up tender perennials and some of our vegetables.

The next group of vegetables to be planted are those considered "tender", ones that cannot tolerate that frosty weather at all. If you have the enough space, sowing sweetcorn is in order. Additional vegetables from seed could be New Zealand Spinach and the first planting of snap beans. When thinking of transplants, it is time for tomatoes because they are hardier than our favorite kinds of pepper.

If you are into fresh greens, it is time to do a successive seeding of leaf lettuce or mustard greens. If you are about to run out of that first planting of spring radish, find a spot in the garden for another row.

While talking about sowing seeds, one of the more difficult parts of gardening is going back to that row of snap beans or radish and thinning out the row. Seedlings will need their own space to develop and mature and provide the yields we expect. Snap bean seed is big enough that careful sowing can reduce or eliminate the need to go back and thin. The reason behind over seeding and then thinning is to ensure a stand from each vegetable we sow. When you are sowing beets, that "seed" we handle actually contains several seeds so thinning will have to be done. Unless your garden is magically weed free, distinguishing between germinated vegetable seed and weed seeds can be a challenge. On just about every seed packet there is either a line drawing or picture of the vegetable seeding to help us out. Weed seeds will be germinating all during the growing season when the conditions are right. Every time a garden is watered for example, weed seed will absorb that moisture and begin the germination and emergence process. If you are going to cultivate to keep the weeds down, do so in a very shallow manner. This is done for a couple of reasons, one you do not want to damage the roots of your developing vegetables and two, if you cultivate deeply you are bringing up a brand new bank of seeds just waiting to sprout.

About the author: Richard Hentschel’s expertise extends across several subject areas with specialties in lawn care, fruit tree production, woody ornamentals, and home and community gardening. During his 45-year career in horticulture and agriculture, Hentschel became a well-known and respected expert for commercial and homeowner audiences, industry organizations, and media. He retired from University of Illinois Extension in April 2022 with nearly 30 years of service as a Horticulture Specialist and Educator in northern Illinois.