With the celebration of Evanston 150, Evanstonians are encouraged to grow plants that feed both the body and spirit. Here are a few things to keep in mind while planning.
Length of Growing Season
In Evanston the growing season is about 154 days. That is the time between the average date of the last spring freeze and that of the first fall frost. Plants can be protected at the end of the season, but it takes work because the plants are large and the cold weather – even if it does not kill – can slow or stop growth. For example Concord grapes can grow well here, but they need 160 days to produce fruit.
Sun and Shade
Many plants will not be productive or do well without six hours of full sun a day. Partial shade often means partial crop. Leafy and root crops do better in less sun than those where the flower or fruit is harvested. Some plants can exist in full shade, but they will produce nothing but frustration. Shade from a tree can often be corrected by removing or thinning branches, and can be provided if the garden is too sunny, but it is hard to get rid of the shadow of a building.
Ease of Growing
Some plants, such as beans and tomatoes, almost grow themselves. Others like tree fruit need more care. Gardeners should know whether their plants are sensitive to tempera-ture or day-length sequences. Onions, for example, have day-length preferences. Broccoli and lettuce prefer to get started in the cold days of spring. Lettuce will also do well in the cold days of fall but will quickly go to seed in summer. Peppers, tomatoes, and beans like it warm.
Spread of Harvest
Some plants, such as radishes, can be sown a few at a time – with a much more palatable result than having 10 feet of radishes maturing all at one time. Leaf lettuce, beans, tomatoes, or herbs that can be picked over a period of time also yield more satisfactory harvests. Many new plants, however, are being bred to mature all at one time – an advantage to the commercial grower but potential glut and famine for the home gardener.
Personal preferences are important.
As the song goes, “Plant a radish, get a radish,” but gardeners should plant what they like. It is okay to try something new each year, particularly if a plant seems attractive or enticing. But if no one in the family likes it, and it cannot even be given away, it should be off the list, even if it grows beautifully in the garden and is loaded with vitamins A through Z.