Tag Archives: Great Lakes region

A Strange and Wonderful Growing Season

Well, I said I was going on hiatus from the blog for awhile but I guess this is what hiatus looks like…

It’s the last day of September 2012, but by looking at our rooftop you’d swear it was the first week of June. In the Great Lakes region we’re lucky to have one full growing season, much less two. But that’s exactly what it’s turning out to be- at least here in Chicago, 4 stories up.

Like the rest of the garden, these Atkinson heirloom tomatoes were an anomaly this year. I couldn’t get them to hold blossoms all summer – too hot? – but now in September I have plenty of fruit arriving at all stages from blossom to red ripe.

Green Bell Peppers were absolutely prolific this year and are still going strong. Each plant has more fruit than they can hold – and with new flowers blooming, there’s no sign of stopping. Will probably yield a crop of smaller peppers well into October.

Like the peppers, these Chinese eggplant were fantastic this year. In August the plants seemed to be on their way out. Leaves were yellowing and dropping. But when day time temps got milder, new growth sprouted and now flowers. Will easily have a crop of small eggs in a few weeks. They grow quite fast and can further ripen indoors if the risk of frost threatens the young’n’s.

What? A double season of squash? Now that’s a new one for me. This Dwarf Hubbard squash grew very quickly this month after the plant was surely about to dry up and blow away with the wind. Not thinking the season would support them to maturity, we actually had a September meal of squash blossoms. Glad I left one on the vine!

Another surprise – a third round of strawberries. These Ozarks are bound and determined to hold onto every last ray of sunshine this year. Fine by me!

It probably comes as no surprise that the Japanese Shishitos gave us more than we could handle this year. We ate, and ate, and ate, and gave away, and pickled. And guess what? Yup, another round of foliage and blossoms popped up this week. I think I’m going to start leaving them on people’s doorstep at night. Here’s a jar of pickled peppers that yielded amazing flavor.

Extra Dwarf Pak Choi did great in the spring but a second planting in the summer was quickly snuffed out by the heat. I planted these seeds a week and a half ago and expect to have several meals over the next couple weeks. Perfect weather for brassicas.

Mildly warm days and cool nights is ideal weather for late season greens like this arugula.

A flourishing Autumn herb garden? This cilantro seems to think so. So do its companions parsley and dill.

Not to be left out, this California poppy plant that had fully died back after its summer show is making a resurgence.

Attempting to upstage the entire crowd, this floribunda ‘Moondance’ rose towers over the garden in its 3rd blooming cycle of the summer. Am I going to have white roses at Christmas?

This year the news was full of stories about drought and poor farming conditions. Here in Chicago, it’s just been bizarre. If you felt this year’s season was strange too, I’d love to hear your story in the comment section.

Alright I really must put an end to these distractions. So back to work… unless I find more surprises up there.

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Planting Fall Crops in Chicago and the Great Lakes Region

Well, the strawberries are loving the late summer heat and putting out some serious runners and fruit. This week I pulled up some ugly looking squash plants that were starting to die back. That gave me space in a few planter boxes for fall crops, including some deep red chard seedlings. I hope to squeeze out every last drop of warmth from the season and harvest right through first frost.

Courtesy of FreeFoto.com

Mid to late August and even into early September is a good time to plant early harvest vegetables in the Great Lakes region. Some crops will mature before first frost while others can withstand light frost and be productive through October. Chicago can expect an average first frost around October 14th, which is a week later than much of Illinois due to our position on the lake and micro-climates caused by the urban heat effect. That gives us plenty of time to plant veggies with 50 to 55 days maturity.

Vegetables that can be planted now include greens such as chard, collard, kale, spinach as well as lettuces. When it comes to radish, peas, beans, beets, broccoli and cabbage, look for early maturing varieties and plant now. In the northern Great Lakes it may be too late for some of these crops, so check a frost chart for your area to determine how many days you have left in the growing season.

Here are some charts that will help:

First and Last Frost Dates For All States: Victory Seed Co.

The Fall Vegetable Garden (PDF): Purdue University Extension

Illinois First Fall Frost Chart: University of Illinois