Tomatoes

Lycopersicon esculentumTomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum, formerly Lycopersicon esculentum)

Family: Solanace
Related vegetables: eggplant, pepper and chiles, potato, tomatillo

Snapshot

  • Tender (warm-season) perennial grown as an annual. The fruit is harvested.
  • There are many different types of tomatoes and many different ways to grow them. See “Additional Information” below.
  • Height is cultivar dependent but some tomatoes can grow as tall as 6 ft, especially if staked
  •  Plant transplants two weeks after average last frost date. Planting can continue until midsummer. Last planting date is about 100 days before average first frost dat
  •  Spacing is dependent on variety. Space dwarf plants 12” apart; staked plants 15-24” apart; caged plants and plants allowed to sprawl on the ground 24-36” apart. (see “Additional Information” below
  •  Harvest tomatoes when fully colored. Time from planting to first harvest varies with cultivar, usually 60-90 days. Yield depends on cultural system, see “Additional Information” belo

You can grow your own tomatoes from seeds started indoors or buy transplants. Tomato seeds are rarely planted directly into the garden in Indiana. Start seeds indoors planting them 1/4-1/2” deep, 4-6 weeks before the average last frost date. At optimum germination temperatures of 75-80 °F seedlings should appear in about 6 days. Grow them at 60-75 °F. Transplant into larger pots as the seedlings grow and give them good light so the plants stay short and stocky.

If you purchase transplants, look for short, stocky plants with good root systems and stems about the thickness of a pencil. If you must purchase tall, leggy transplants, plant them by placing them on their side and covering the lower portion of the stem with soil. New roots will form on the stem. Plant out about 2 weeks after the average last frost date or when soil temperature remains above 60 °F. If using cages or stakes, put these in the ground as you place the transplants. If growing in container, select container proportional to the expected size of the plant.


Cauliflower

Brassica oleracea var. botrytisCauliflower (Brassica oleracea var. botrytis)

Family: Brassicace
Related vegetables: arugula, Brussels sprouts, cabbage (all types), cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, radish, rutabaga, turnip, horseradish, collards, watercress

Snapshot

  • Cauliflower is a hardy biennial. The head, called the curd, is made of dormant flower buds. The curd is usually white (snowball type), blanched by pulling the leaves over the head during growth. Hybrids between broccoli and cauliflower are available with purple or green heads (“broccoflower”). Purple cauliflower tastes like broccoli if harvested before frost, like cauliflower if harvested after frost. The purple color is lost during cooking
  • Plants are medium height, about 3 ft
  • For spring planting, put transplants in the ground 2-3 weeks before average last frost date after the soil has warmed to 50 °F. Do not plant so late that the curd matures in the heat of the summer. If growing from seed, plant indoors 5-7 weeks earlier. Space plants 18-24” apart with rows a minimum of 24” apart. Spacing within a wide row is 12-18”
  • For fall harvest, plant transplants 7-9 weeks before average first frost date (about mid-August in northern Indiana, late August in southern Indiana). Put transplants further apart than the spacing listed for spring plantings
  • Cauliflower is ready for harvest 50-55 days from transplanting for early season cultivars and in 70- 80 days for late season varieties. Harvest by cutting far enough below the head to include several leaves to help hold the head together. Each plant produces only one head. Estimated yield per 10 ft row is 10 lb

Sow seeds 1/4-1/2” deep. Seeds are usually started indoors but may be planted in soil for the fall crop. Seeds germinate in 5-6 days at 70-80 °F. Grow on at 60-70 °F with cooler night temperatures. If using transplants, don’t let them get too large (no more than about 4”) before planting. However, plants with less than 3-4 pairs of true leaves are sensitive to frost. Practice crop rotation. Do not plant the same area with a cole crop two years running.


Cabbage

Brassica oleracea var. capitataCabbage (Brassica oleracea var. capitata)

Family: Brassicaceae
Related vegetables: arugula, Brussels sprouts, cabbage (all types), cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, radish, rutabaga, turnip, horseradish, collards, watercress

Snapshot

  • Hardy biennial harvested the first season. The terminal cluster of leaves, often called a head, is eaten.
  • There are several types of cabbage. You can grow green ones, red ones, or ones with crinkled leaves called savoy cabbage. Round heads are typical but you can also find more flattened or more pointed varieties. There are early maturing varieties, with smaller heads, that are planted in spring to mature before hot weather arrives. Late maturing varieties are commonly planted for fall harvest. They often form very large heads (several pounds) and are best used for preserving (e.g. sauerkraut).
  • Plants are short, about 18”.
  • In spring, plant transplants 2-6 weeks before average last frost date, continuing until very early April in southern Indiana, into May in the coldest part of the state. If growing from seed start indoors 5-7 weeks earlier. Ideal transplants are stocky, have 4-6 true leaves, and stems about the size of a pencil. Plant 12-24” apart in rows a minimum of 18” apart. Spacing within a wide row is 12-18”.
  • For fall harvest, plant transplants 7-9 weeks before average first frost date (about mid-July in northern IN, late August in southern Indiana). Cabbage is quite cold tolerant and you may be able to harvest after that date.
  • First heads can be harvested 7-9 weeks from transplanting though this can vary from 60 days to more than 90 days, depending on variety. Estimated yield per 10 ft row is 5-10 heads.

Sow seeds 1/4-1/2” deep. Seeds are usually started indoors but may be planted in soil for the fall crop. Seeds germinate in 4-5 days at 70-80 °F. Grow on at 60-70 °F with cooler night temperatures. Once planted outdoors, transplants with fewer than 4 true leaves are more sensitive to cold than larger transplants. Very mature transplants (more than 6 leaves) may produce inferior crops or may begin to flower prematurely.

Spring planting dates are usually given as 2-6 weeks before average last frost date. The earliest plantings are chancy because a prolonged cold spell, which will cause the plant to bolt (see “Common Problems” below), is more likely at this time. Wait until soil has warmed to 40 °F before transplanting. Practice crop rotation. Do not plant the same area with a cole crop two years running.


Brussels Sprouts

Brassica oleracea var. gemmiferaBrussels Sprouts (Brassica oleracea var. gemmifera)

Family: Brassicaceae
Related vegetables: arugula, Brussels sprouts, cabbage (all types), cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, radish, rutabaga, turnip, horseradish, collards, watercress

Snapshot

  • Hardy biennial harvested at the end of the first season.
  • Enlarged buds at the base of leaves, called sprouts, are harvested during first season of growth.
  • Medium height, 2- 3 ft.
  • Spring plantings are usually not successful. This vegetable needs a long season of growth and cool weather as the buds mature.
  • For fall harvest, start seeds in mid-June to transplant into the garden in late July-early August. Space 18-24” apart, with minimum row spacing of 24”. Spacing within a wide row is 18-24”. • First harvest is 85-100 days from transplanting, 130 days from seed. Lowest buds mature first. Harvest when they are 1-2” in diameter. Remove the leaves at the base of the buds you harvest.

Plant seeds 1/4”-1/2” deep. Germination is best at 70-80 °F and seedlings will appear in about 5 days. Grow the seedlings a bit cooler, at 60-70 °F. They will be ready for transplanting in 4-5 weeks. You may also be able to purchase transplants. If you try a spring planting, put transplants out early, in March or early April. Summer planting for fall harvest are more common. Have plants in the ground by early July in northern Indiana, by mid-August in southern Indiana. Practice crop rotation. Do not plant the same area with a cole crop two years running.


Broccoli

Brassica oleracea var. italicaBroccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica)

Family: Brassicaceae
Related vegetables: arugula, Brussels sprouts, cabbage (all types), cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, radish, rutabaga, turnip, horseradish, collards, watercress

Snapshot

  • Cool season annual.
  • There are different types of broccoli—annual green or, more rarely, purple “heading” broccoli; “romanesco,” which has yellowish green, conical groups of buds arranged in spirals; and sprouting broccoli, an overwintering annual or perennial, rarely grown in this country. Heading broccoli forms the large, rounded flower heads commonly seen in groceries. Sprouting broccoli forms small shoots in the leaf axils over a long period instead of forming a large head.
  • Unopened flower buds, stems, and young, tender leaves can be eaten.
  • Medium height, about 3 ft.
  • In spring, plant transplants 4-6 weeks before average last frost date. Planting can continue into April, even through May in the coldest part of the state. If growing from seed, start indoors 5-7 weeks earlier. Spacing is 18-24”, rows a minimum of 36” apart, spacing within a wide row is 12”- 18”.
  • For a fall harvest, plant transplants about 70 days before the average first frost date. Seeds can be planted outdoors 4-6 weeks earlier. No matter the season, broccoli grows best if it can mature when air temperatures are somewhat warm but not hot (less than 80 °F). Broccoli is very frost tolerant. Mature plants can survive temperatures down to 25 °F, perhaps lower with protection.
  • First harvest is about 60 days from transplant and about 110 from seed. Cut off flower head before flowers open plus about 5” of stem. Small side shoots may develop, providing an additional harvest. Estimated yield per 10 ft row is 10 lb.

Broccoli is usually put into the garden as transplants. These can be purchased or you can grow your own from seed. For spring planting, start seeds indoors 5-7 weeks before your anticipated planting date. Temperature optimum for germination is 70-80 °F, for seedling growth is 60-70 °F. Plant seeds 1/4-1/2” deep, seedlings appear in about 5 days.

The first transplants can be put into the soil 4-6 weeks before the average last frost date. Seedlings should have at least 4 pairs of leaves. Smaller seedlings are very sensitive to frost. Planting for fall harvest is done in late summer. If using transplants, assume harvest will be on average first frost date, then count back the number of days from transplant to harvest for your cultivar plus 10 days.

You can grow these transplants from seed also. Since the soil has warmed, you may be able to plant seeds directly into the garden as well as starting them indoors. Plant seeds 4-6 weeks before the anticipated transplanting date. Practice crop rotation. Do not plant the same area with a cole crop two years running.


Radishes

Raphanus sativusRadishes (Raphanus sativus)

Family: Brassicaceae
Related vegetables: arugula, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage (all types), cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, rutabaga, turnip, horseradish, collards, watercress

Snapshot

  • Cool-season annual harvested for its swollen root before the plant flowers. Some winter varieties are considered biennials.
  • There are many varieties. Spring radishes reach harvesting size 3-4 weeks after seed is planted, though some cultivars (sometimes called summer radishes) take a bit longer. Winter radishes, planted in late summer, take about 8 weeks to mature. They are often larger and more pungent than spring radishes. Oriental radishes (daikon and others) are discussed in a separate listing
  • Small plant, ranging from 6-16” high.
  • Plant spring and summer radish seeds directly into the garden starting 6 weeks before the average last frost date. Seeds germinate in less than a week if soil is at least 50 °F. Replant every 2 or 3 weeks continuing on until about 4 weeks after average last frost date or until temperatures average in the mid-60s. These varieties can also be planted in early fall as the weather cools. Time last planting so crop matures on average first frost date. Radishes are somewhat shade tolerant.
  • Plant winter radish varieties starting in July in northern IN, in August in southern IN. Several plantings can be made. Time the last planting so crop matures on average first frost date. Remember these varieties take 2 months or so to mature.
  • The first harvest of spring radishes can be made 3 weeks after planting. Small roots are sweet and mild. In general, harvest when roots reach 1-1.5” in diameter. The harvest window is short – radishes left too long become spongy (pithy) and hot. Many winter radish varieties are hot. Harvest when they reach the size for your variety. Winter radishes remain edible much longer than spring radishes. Estimated yield per 10 ft row is 10 bunches.

Plant radish seeds 1/4-1/2” deep. Thin to 1-3” for spring radishes, to about 6” for winter radishes (seedlings can be eaten). Make sure to thin. Crowded radishes do not produce good roots. If planting in rows, minimum row spacing is 12”, perhaps a bit wider for winter radishes. Spacing within a wide row is about 3”x3” for spring radishes. Because they mature so quickly, spring radishes are often planted with carrots and parsnips, between slowly growing cole crops, or between small tomato and pepper plants.