August is a great time to start a fall garden including cool-season crops, like this lettuce, that will thrive in the milder temperatures of the late growing season.

In the heat of July, it seems out of place to consider fall frost, but it is an important detail for vegetable gardeners planning a fall garden.  There are a variety of garden crops that can be planted in July and August for fall production, many of which are cool-season crops that actually perform better as temperatures drop in the late growing season.  However, planning now is required to ensure plants have adequate time to reach maturity prior to the season-ending frosts that are inevitable. 

Delicious and sweet ‘Sungold’ tomatoes were hard to find in 2020 since an unusually large number of homebound gardeners bought up seeds and plants at unprecedented numbers.

What will your 2021 vegetable garden look like?  Where will you source seeds or plants?  What new crops are you interested in planting this year?  All these questions are on the minds of many gardeners this time of year. In 2020, there was an unprecedented interest in all types of gardening since most of us had a lot of time at home.  All signs indicate this trend will continues in 2021. So, whether you are ready for the gardening season or not, now is the time to start planning.

New Vegetable Garden Maintenance

Vegetable gardening takes some forethought and planning to ensure your garden space is ready, select the best crops, and get everything planted while working around spring rains.  Our enthusiasm and planning in early spring typically culminates in the planted garden and often wanes as the work and heat of the growing season sets in. 

I am as guilty as the next gardener for not thinking enough about garden maintenance later in the year during the excitement of spring planting.  However, there are some things we can think about now to setup of the rest of the season for success.

Beets are a cool-season vegetable that can be direct seeded into the garden now.

Although this past week’s weather trended toward more winter-like conditions, we all know that warmer spring weather is just right around the corner and next week looks quite promising.  One of the key factors in knowing when to plant your vegetable garden relates back to weather since some plants are very sensitive to colder temperatures.

Raised garden beds are a great solution to a variety of common soil issues.

In last week’s blog, I covered the basics of site selection for a new vegetable garden.  Finding the best location in your yard, or understanding that containers may be the winning option is a really important part of setting up your growing space for success.  I would like to continue the discussion this week by taking a closer look at the growing medium, or soil, we choose for gardening. 

beet growing with title "it's hard to beat a good beet"

Mentioning the ripe beets coming out of the ground this time of year doesn't get much excitement out of my kids, but they are certainly a favorite of mine. I have such fond memories of fresh beets from my grandmother's garden. She served them pretty regularly as a side, fresh when possible, and canned the rest of the year, and I actually enjoyed them quite a bit when I was a kid. The hearty root crops are edible top to bottom, relatively easy to cultivate, and quite productive for the garden space they occupy.

Tomatoes are one of the most planted garden crops in the US, with several common problems here in central Illinois that can be managed through fairly simple cultural practices.

Nothing beats a homegrown tomato!  Even when in season, the store bought varieties just cannot compare to a fully ripe tomato harvested at its peak from your own garden.  So many gardeners across American choose tomato plants for their garden each year for this reason, making it the most planted garden crop in the US.