Working in your garden doesn't stop after you plant. As the vegetables grow, there are several things you need to remember:
- Make sure plants receive 1 inch of water per week. If it does not enough, water your garden. Not sure how much is an inch? Set out shallow flat cans, such as tuna or pet food cans, before you water and measure how much water they collect.
- When watering is necessary, thoroughly irrigate about once a week. It is better to water deeply like this. Plants that receive frequent light waterings will develop unhealthy shallow roots.
- Remove all weeds. Pull them when they are small or use a hoe if they are larger. If you use a hoe, make a shaving stroke that doesn't go more than 1/4- to 1/2-inch deep to avoid damaging your plant's roots.
- Use mulch, if desired, to reduce weeds, conserve soil moisture, and lower soil temperatures.
- Check plants for insect and disease problems. Some vegetables are more susceptible than others. See the Problems page for resources to help with these problems.
Here are the 10 most common vegetables and with links to more information about growing and caring for them.
There are several types of lettuce that can be grown well in the home garden. The head-type is not easily grown in our area. Loose-head and leaf-type lettuce are best suited to Midwestern gardens.
Lettuce and spinach will become bitter and bolt
(go to seed) if exposed to hot weather.
Find more lettuce information in Purdue Extension publication HO-29-W, Leafy Greens for the Home Garden
Spinach is a cool-season green that can be grown either as an early spring or fall crop.
Lettuce and spinach will become bitter and bolt (go to seed) if exposed to hot weather.
Find more spinach information in Purdue Extension publication HO-29-W, Leafy Greens for the Home Garden
Carrots come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Harvest when they reach the appropriate size for the cultivar and be sure to keep the tops of the roots covered with soil or mulch to prevent greening of the "shoulders."
Find more carrot information from University of Illinois Extension
Onions can be grown in the home garden from seed, transplants, or small bulbs called "sets," depending on whether you intend to harvest bulb onions or green onions.
Onion sets are best used for green onions, or bulbs that will be used soon after harvest. Oddly, small sets tend to produce large bulbs, while large sets produce small bulbs.
Miniature onion bulbs (sets) are a fast, easy way to start an onion crop. For green onions, plant about an inch deep and an inch apart. For bulbs that will be eaten soon after harvest, plant about 1-2 inches deep and 3-4 inches apart.
It is best to start with seed or transplants if bulb onions are desired for winter storage. For onions harvested for bulbs, there are cultivars that do best under Northern growing conditions that form bulbs during the long days of summer. Other cultivars do best in Southern conditions, where they bulb under the short days of spring and fall.
Onion bulb harvest
When harvesting bulbs intended for storage, wait until the tops have fallen over naturally and the necks have begun to tighten and dry. Lift the bulbs out of the soil and allow to air dry for at least a few days to allow the necks and outer layers to finish drying.
Find more onion information in Purdue Extension publication HO-67-W, Onions and Their Relatives
Squash cultivars are classified as either summer squash or winter squash.
Summer squash is harvested when the fruits are still young with tender skin and seeds. If allowed to remain on the plant too long, the fruits become large, tough, and fibrous.
Find more summer squash information in Purdue Extension publication HO-8-W, Growing Cucumbers, Melons, Squash, Pumpkins and Gourds
Radishes grow rapidly in cool weather and should be ready to harvest in about 30 days. They become bitter and tough if left in the ground too long.
Find more radish information from University of Illinois Extension
Beans are warm-season members of the Legume family. There are several different species of beans that can be grown in the garden, including green, dry, and lima beans.
Most common are the "green" bean type of edible podded bean, harvested when the seeds have begun to enlarge, but while both seed and pod are still tender. Green beans may have a vining (pole-bean) habit or may be more of a bush-type plant, depending on the cultivar.
Find more bean information in Purdue Extension publication HO-175-W, Growing Beans in the Home Vegetable Garden
Peppers come in many colors, shapes and sizes. They run the gamut from mild bell peppers to blistering hot depending on the cultivar.
All peppers can be harvested when green and immature, or allowed to ripen to red, yellow, purple, or orange, depending on the cultivar.
Hot peppers come in a wide range of sizes, color, and heat, from the relatively mild Anaheim and poblano, to the medium hot jalapeno, to the fiery hot serrano, cayenne, and habenero.
Find more pepper information from University of Illinois Extension
Cucumbers come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The medium-long, narrow slicers and short, squat pickler types are most popular. Other, less common types include Oriental, European, or hothouse seedless, and lemon cucumbers. All should be harvested at the immature stage, while skins and seeds are still tender.
Find more cucumber information in Purdue Extension publication HO-8-W, Growing Cucumbers, Melons, Squash, Pumpkins and Gourds
Tomatoes are the most popular garden vegetable, and are grown for their luscious, ripe fruit. Tomato plants have two general types of growth habits - determinate and indeterminate. Though easy to grow, they are plagued by many problems.
Some cultivars tend to produce all their flowers and thus all their fruit at the same time, resulting in a concentrated harvest season. The plants grow to a certain size and then all of the growing points, including the terminal bud, produce flower clusters. This growth habit is called determinate.
Most garden tomato cultivars produce flowers throughout the growing season, prolonging the harvest of fruit over a long period. The terminal bud always remains vegetative, so the plants get taller throughout the season. This growth habit is called indeterminate.
Indeterminate type of tomatoes will perform best if supported by either a stake or a cage. Most gardeners find caging more convenient.
Find more tomato information in Purdue Extension publication HO-26-W, Tomatoes