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.


Carrots

Daucus carotaCarrots (Daucus carota ssp. sativus.)

Family: Apiaceae
Related vegetables: Celery, fennel, parsley, parsnip

Snapshot

  • Cool season biennial. The enlarged root is harvested the first season of growth.
  • Carrot roots can be white, yellow, orange, red, purple, or purplish black. Shape varies from long and slender to short and plump. Select short varieties if your soil is heavy or shallow. Shape and color depend on temperature, age, and growing conditions as well as the characteristics of the variety you are growing. Droughty conditions produce longer roots. High temperatures result in shorter roots.
  • Short plant, about 12” high.
  • Plant seeds directly into the garden starting 2 weeks before average last frost date. Soil should be at least 45 °F. Spacing varies with variety, see “Planting” below. Since each plant produces only one carrot, replant every 2-3 weeks. Time the last planting to mature on the average first frost date (last planting will be 2-3 months before the average first frost date). Though carrots prefer cool weather they can be planted through most of the summer in northern Indiana. In southern Indiana, do not plant if the crop will mature in the heat of the summer. Temperatures over 75 °F as the roots mature result in poor quality carrots. Planting usually resumes in July. Carrots are somewhat shade tolerant.
  • For full-size carrots, harvest when tops of the carrots are 0.75-1.5” in diameter. Carrots are ready to harvest in about 60-85 days (less for finger carrots) and each planting can be harvested for about 4 weeks. Cut off all but 1” of the tops before storing. In fall, harvest or protect as temperatures dip into the upper 20s. Mulched carrots can be harvested until the ground freezes. Estimated yield per 10 ft row is 10 lb.

Make sure to till the soil deeply to prepare for planting. Remove stones and break up clods that could result in misshaped roots. Carrot varieties with long slender roots are usually not recommended for home gardens unless the soil is sandy. In early spring plant carrot seeds 1/4-1/2” deep. Later plantings can be deeper, 1/2-3/4”. Plant 2-3 seeds per inch in rows at least 12” apart. Carrot seeds take 2 weeks to germinate. Soil should be at least 45 °F before planting. Even at optimum temperature (about 80 °F) carrot seed can take more than a week to germinate.

Carrot seedlings are weak and may have trouble pushing through crusted soils. After covering seeds with soil, add a thin layer of fine mulch or compost to help prevent crusting. You can also mix radish and carrot seeds together. The radish seeds germinate quickly and will mark the location of the carrots. By pushing through the soil they prevent crusting. The radishes will be ready to harvest before the carrots have put on much growth. Keep the area watered so the seeds do not dry out before germination.

Thin seedlings when they are about an inch high. Different spacing is used for different varieties and uses. Leave 3 per inch if harvesting as finger carrots. Leave 1-2 per inch if harvesting young. Space carrots that will be allowed to grow to full size 1-2” apart. Spacing within a wide row is 3”x3”.


Beets

Beta vulgarisBeets (Beta vulgaris)

Family: Chenopodiaceae
Related vegetables: Swiss chard and spinach

Snapshot

  • Frost-tolerant, cool-season biennial. The swollen root and sometimes the leaves are harvested the first year of growth.
  • Leaves (often called tops) are eaten as greens. Enlarged roots, which come in several shapes and may be red, yellow, or white, are eaten as a vegetable.
  • Plants are short (12”-18”). • Plant seeds directly into garden starting 2-3 weeks before average last frost date. Sow thickly, then thin to 2-3”, rows a minimum of 12” apart, spacing within a wide row is 3”x3”. Harvest period is short, so plant repeatedly for continual harvest until mid-late summer, about 2 months before the average first frost date. Beets are somewhat shade tolerant.
  • Harvest at about 50 days for tops, 60 days for 1.5” roots. Beets will tolerate a light frost but do not allow to freeze in the ground. Harvest or protect if temperatures threaten to dip into the upper 20s. Estimated yield per 10 ft row is 10 lb.

As with all root crops, a well-prepared soil without stones will let the roots develop their natural size and shape. Purchased beet seed is usually fruit that contains several seeds. Some seed companies are now selling single, separated seed. Plant about 1” apart and about 1/2” deep. Cover seed with a thin layer of fine mulch or compost rather than garden soil to prevent soil crusting which can hinder seedling emergence. Beet seeds can be planted starting 2-3 weeks before average last frost date. They germinate best at 65-75 °F but will germinate at temperatures as low as 40 °F.

Don’t plant too early or an extended cold spell may induce plants to bolt. It’s best to let soil warm to 50 °F. Continue planting every 2-4 weeks to ensure continual harvest through the growing season. However, high temperatures can cause the roots to be woody, with alternating bands of light and dark red and low sugar content. Because of this, some gardeners plant spring and fall crops and avoid planting when roots will mature in the heat of summer.

Plantings after August 1 may be injured by frost before they mature. Note that seedlings establish more easily under cool, moist conditions. After emergence, thin seedlings to 3-4”. If you like, let plants get to 3” before thinning, then eat the greens and small swollen root. If not thinned, swollen roots may not develop properly.


Beans and Peas

Phaseolus vulgarisBeans, green snap and yellow wax (Phaseolus vulgaris)

Family: Fabaceae
Related vegetables: all other beans, peas

Snapshot

  • Warm-season annual grown for its immature fruit.
  • Green snap beans were previously called string beans because of stringy fibers that ran along the front and back of the pod. Modern cultivars no longer have strings. Yellow wax beans are a color variant of green snap beans with a slightly waxier pod. Purple beans (which turn green when cooked) and flat-pod beans (Romano beans) are also available.
  • Plant seeds directly in garden 1-2 weeks after average last frost date, soil at least 60 °F.
  • Bush type: short plants (18”); harvest period short, so plant repeatedly until mid-summer for continual harvest (min. 50 days needed before first frost); space 2-3”, rows a minimum of 18” apart, spacing within a wide row is 4”x4”; first harvest 50-60 days after seeds planted. Estimated yield per 10 ft row is 6 lb.
  • Pole type: tall plants, to height of support (6 ft+); longer harvest than bush types so only 1 or 2 plantings needed; space 4-6”, rows a minimum of 24” apart, both long linear and tepee-like supports can be used; first harvest 60-70 days after seeds planted. Estimated yield per 10 ft row is 3-4 lb.

Plant seeds directly in the soil after it has warmed to 60 °F usually 1-2 weeks after average last frost date. If soil is too cold, germination is slow and seed is likely to rot. Seeds can be purchased pre-treated with fungicide to minimize this problem. Plant 1” deep in heavy soils, 1.5” deep in sandy soils. Mulching lightly with compost or sand will help seedlings emerge in heavier soils. If using vertical supports, set when seeds are planted. Most soils contain the necessary nitrogen-fixing Rhizobium bacteria to support bean growth. If you are concerned that your soil does not, you can purchase a bacterial inoculum. Coat the seeds with the inoculum before planting. The bacteria will become established in the soil, ready to infect the roots of the beans and peas in future years. It is not necessary to use inoculum after the first year.