Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service
Charles W. Marr
Horticulturist, Vegetable Crops
Ted Carey
Horticulturist, Vegetable Crops
Raymond Cloyd
Megan Kennelly
Plant Pathologist
21 Seeding and Planting
When To Plant
Preparing the Seedbed
Producing Transplants
Planning a Garden
Selecting What to Grow
Optimizing Garden Space
Make a Sketch
Obtaining Seeds and Plants
Tools and Supplies
24 As the Garden Grows
Weeding and Cultivating
Staking and Tying
Chemistry of Compost
Getting Started
Making the Compost Pile
Quick Composting
Grass Clippings
Using Compost
Cautions in Using Compost
25 Watering the Garden
Watering Efficiently
Principles of Plant Water Use
Suggestions for Applying Water
Methods of Applying Water
Ten Ways to Improve Garden Water Use
13 Soil Improvement
Adding Organic Matter
Getting a Soil Test
Taking a Soil Sample
Controlling Soil pH
Fertilizing the Garden
Fertilizer Types
Calculating the Amount of Fertilizer
Getting the Most From Your Fertilizer
Some Useful Measures
Applying Fertilizers
30 Fall Gardens
What To Plant
When To Plant
Fertilizing and Soil Preparation
Establishing Vegetables in Summer Heat
Frosts and Freezes
33 Insect and Disease
Crop and Cultivar Selection
Maximize Yield
Garden Site Selection
Raised Beds
Other Forms of Protection
Low Tunnels
High Tunnels
48 Provide Shade
Chinese Cabbage
Lettuce and Other Leafy Greens
Onions and Onion Relatives
Sweet Corn
Sweet Potato
Turnip and Rutabaga
49 Harvesting and Storing
Checklist of Good Gardening Practices
Alternatives in Pest Control
Integrated Pest Management
Alternative Pesticides and Control
Methods for Specific Crops
40 Container Gardening
Soil Mixes
Culture and Care
What to Grow
43 Season Extension
Getting Started
Herbs in Containers
Annual Herbs
Perennial Herbs
Storage Conditions
Select the Best
Check Storage Areas Regularly
Storing Vegetables
Recommended Vegetable Storage
51 Vegetable Crops
Beet/Swiss Chard
Brussels Sprouts
75 Vegetable Crop
76 Vegetable Garden
Vegetables are an important part of our diet, and millions
of Americans are home gardeners. In Kansas, home
gardeners produce $15–$20 million worth of vegetables
every year.
Gardening is an excellent 4-H or youth project. It can provide a source of income as well as
an outlet for energy.
The garden is also an excellent laboratory
for experimenting with plants. Everyone can
learn from simple experiments in the world of
plant science.
Successful gardens are the result of careful
planning, watchful care, and good management. With a few simple tools, a little land,
and a desire to nurture plant growth, anyone
can become a home gardener. This garden
guide will assist in achieving a successful
home garden.
A well-planned and properly tended garden
can provide food for a family throughout the
year. Most home gardeners agree that home
grown produce has the ultimate in vegetable
flavor. Surplus vegetables can be frozen,
canned, or stored, making the home garden
enjoyable year-round. These vegetables not
only provide food budget savings but also
make a valuable contribution to nutrition.
The food from a vegetable garden is only
one of the many benefits of home gardening.
The relaxation and enjoyment derived from
gardening is well known to all home gardeners. A garden allows even the youngest family
member to help in gathering food.
Planning a Garden
Planning a Garden
Locate the garden in an area that will not interfere with
the home landscape. A sunny, level area away from
large trees is preferable because tree roots compete for
soil nutrients and water. A source of water should be
accessible for periods when irrigation is necessary.
In many Kansas locations, protection from
wind is desirable. Take advantage of fences,
small shrubs, or buildings that provide a
experiment with unfamiliar vegetables, but
plan to be able to use most of the vegetables
you produce.
Most home gardeners have too much produce maturing at the same time. This is desirable if you plan to can or freeze the vegetables.
For table use, it is best to stagger plantings.
Plant a few radishes every 4–5 days instead of
all at once. This will provide a steady supply of
radishes of ideal maturity over a longer time.
Also stagger plantings of lettuce, beans, sweet
corn, and peas.
Vegetables grow best in well-drained, fertile
soil. Sandy loam soils are ideal for vegetables.
Most home gardens, however, do not have this
soil composition. Compost or manure spread
over the garden and worked in with a garden
tiller will improve not only fertility but also
soil tilth. Adding organic material such as
manure or compost is an important practice in
successful gardening.
Optimizing Garden Space
Use the Vegetable Garden Calendar in the
back of this book to plan your garden space.
Spinach, lettuce, radishes, peas, and green
onions can be harvested early in the season.
The same space is then available for lateseason crops of beans, eggplant, tomatoes, or
potatoes. Plant lettuce, radishes, or spinach
between potatoes, cabbage, or other cole crops.
Before the potatoes or cole crops get very large,
the other vegetables will have been harvested.
Select a place along one side of the garden
for crops such as rhubarb, asparagus, strawberries, or bush fruits. These perennials will
continue to grow next year without replanting.
Selecting What to Grow
A wide variety of vegetables can be grown
in Kansas. Space available and individual
preferences play an important part in deciding
what to grow. Beans, beets, summer squash,
peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, radishes,
and turnips are well adapted for growth when
space is limited.
Sweet corn, vine squash, cucumbers,
pumpkins, and melons require more space
for growth and should be considered only if
adequate space is available. Don’t be afraid to
Planning a Garden
If planted in the garden, they will be in the
way during tilling operations.
• Ask your local K-State Research and
Extension agent for the publication,
Recommended Vegetable Varieties for Kansas,
L41, or order from Production Services by
sending an e-mail to orderpub@k-state.edu.
• Use varieties that have performed well for
you or other gardeners.
• If you plan a special use for a particular
vegetable, such as freezing, exhibiting, or
canning, check with your local agent or
study seed catalog recommendations.
• Check with your local seed store or garden
center for advice on what to plant.
If you do not have a seed starting structure,
you may want to buy vegetable transplants for
crops that require transplanting to the garden.
These can be obtained from local greenhouses
or seed and garden centers. Again, make sure
the varieties are what you want to produce.
Plan, then purchase the seeds and plants
you want so you will have them when you
need them for your garden.
Make a Sketch
Draw a scale model of your garden space
and plan the garden using the above information. Allow everyone involved to participate
by suggesting their favorite vegetables. Make
notes on the plan and save it as a reference for
next year’s garden. You can also use this plan
when ordering seeds and plants.
Obtaining Seeds and Plants
In choosing varieties for the home garden,
consider factors such as disease resistance,
yield, maturity date, size, shape, color, and
flavor. Seed companies and state agricultural
research stations are constantly developing
and testing improved vegetable varieties and
procedures. The following sources of information are useful when choosing varieties:
Planning a Garden
Tools and Supplies
Family Garden (between 100 and
1,000 sq ft)
While several items are essential to raise
a garden, it is not necessary to have a lot of
equipment. If your friends have gardens,
you might share equipment and supplies.
Select supplies according to the size garden
you want.
Mini-Garden (less than 100 sq ft)
Spading fork or shovel
Small sprayer or duster
Pointed stakes and labels
String and yardstick
Fungicides and insecticides as desired
Sprinkling can
Compost, manure, peat moss, sawdust,
or vermiculite
Garden tiller
Hoe and trowel
Small sprayer
Pointed stakes and labels
String and yardstick
Fungicides and insecticides as desired
Compost, manure, peat moss, sawdust,
or vermiculite
Large Garden (more than 1,000 sq ft)
Garden tractor
Sprayer or duster
Wheel cultivator
Fertilizer spreader
Pointed stakes and labels
String and yardstick
Fungicides and insecticides as desired
Compost, manure, peat moss, sawdust,
or vermiculite
Compost is a mixture of soil and decayed organic matter
or humus that is used to improve garden and potting
soil. Properly prepared compost is free from weed seeds
and offensive odors and rich in nutrients that plants
need. It may be applied as a mulch or mixed into the soil
in vegetable gardens. Compost is produced in piles or
pits from organic waste such as leaves, grass clippings,
manures, straw, hay, and garden refuse.
As residue is decomposed, temperature
decreases, fungi disappear, and millions of
bacteria continue gradual breakdown of
organic materials into rich, dark, crumbly
humus. In regions with acid soils, wood ashes
or limestone may hasten decay and prevent
excess acidity and sourness.
One of the greatest benefits of making compost is that it allows us to recycle garden and
yard waste into a valuable, usable product,
reducing the amount of solid waste going into
landfills. Converting your garden, fruit, and
vegetable wastes to compost is something you
can do to improve the environment. Neighborhood composting facilities or shared family
compost piles are options. Composting small
prunings and twigs and encouraging municipalities to shred large prunings and downed
limbs allows reuse of damaged or overgrown
plants in the landscape.
Getting Started
Locate the compost heap in an area where
water will not stand. Many gardeners use an
out-of-the-way, accessible location near the
garden or refuse disposal site for convenience.
The compost may be made using a belowground pit or an above-ground method that
does not require laborious digging. Although
it is possible to simply accumulate the compost in a loose pile, an enclosure of some type
is desirable. Several materials can be used for
this purpose.
Chemistry of Compost
The conversion of organic wastes to rich
humus involves several types of bacteria and
fungi. Bacteria begin the process of breaking
down sugars, proteins and other complex molecules in the residue. Bacteria increase rapidly
in a new compost pile. The temperature inside
the pile may rise to 150–160°F, inactivating
weed seeds and harmful disease organisms.
Woven wire or wood slat fence.
Various types of woven wire are available—
from reinforcing wire to fencing wire. Heavy
gauge wire that is self-supporting is preferable;
however, finer wire supported by rods or posts
could be used. Lining the fence with a layer of
plastic will speed decomposition by retaining
moisture necessary for microbial activity. In
order to maintain adequate drainage and aeration, do not line the bottom.
Cement blocks or bricks. Mortar is
not necessary because the weight of the blocks
will hold the pile in place.
Scrap lumber. Don’t use good lumber
because the damp compost may ruin the
boards. If a permanent enclosure is desired,
use redwood or cypress. Old pallets frequently
can be obtained free of charge, and strapping
four or five of these together to form a cube
makes an excellent compost bin.
The size of a compost pile varies, depending on the quantity of organic material available and the amount of compost needed.
Rectangular or square shapes may be slightly
easier to work with than round ones. Round
enclosures made of wire bent into a cylinder
have the least amount of surface area to dry
out and work well. Either shape can be used
successfully. For most households, a pile 5 feet
wide by 5 feet long or a circular pile about
5 feet in diameter is sufficient. The height of
the pile will fluctuate as organic material is
added. If you have a lot of yard materials to
compost, it is a good idea to have two or three
piles or bins, one for the finished compost from
last year, and the others for this year’s fresh
Several kinds of plant materials can be used
in the compost pile. These include leaves,
grass clippings, weeds, garden refuse, fine
hedge clippings, straw, corn cobs, cold wood
ashes, sawdust, old unusable hay, and mulch
raked from around flower or vegetable gardens. Avoid using severely diseased vegetable
or flower plants. Kitchen scraps such as egg
shells, peelings, or plant residues can be added
to the pile if covered to prevent flies, but avoid
using meat scraps or bones that may attract
dogs or other animals.
Making the Compost Pile
Start with a layer of soil or sand 2–3 inches
deep on the bottom. Then add a layer of organic materials. For fine materials such as thin
grass clippings use only a 2- to 3-inch layer; for
coarser materials such as straw, use 6- to 8-inch
layers. To hasten decomposition, add a small
quantity of commercial garden fertilizer—l–2
cups per square yard of area. You may substitute an inch or two of manure. The purpose
of the fertilizer or manure is to provide a
source of nutrients for microorganisms that
must build up in the compost pile to ensure
Repeat this sequence of soil or sand, organic
materials, and fertilizer in layers as organic
materials become available. Water each layer
as it is added.
The top of the compost pile should be dishshaped or slightly lower in the center than on
the sides. This allows rainfall to soak into the
pile rather than run off. Because of extremely
high temperatures generated by the composting process, a dry compost pile oxidizes too
rapidly and the overheated, feathery compost
A three compartment
composter is easy to
construct. The cover
keeps things looking neat.
Removable front boards
allow access for turning
and removing compost.
that results is of little value. In dry weather, a
weekly soaking of the pile is desirable to keep
it sufficiently moist.
The rate of decomposition can be hastened
by turning the pile — slicing through the
layers and turning them upside down. This
action is similar to spading garden soil when it
is turned over. This mixing should be followed
by reforming the “dish” at the top of the pile
and watering. Compost should be ready to use
4–6 months after starting the pile, but most
gardeners prefer to keep two piles or one pile
divided into two sections. Materials can be
accumulated in one while last year’s finished
compost is available for use from the other.
As your compost pile progresses, these
signs will indicate whether all is going well:
• In 2–3 weeks, the pile should shrink or
sink. If it has not, loosen the pile with a
shovel or fork to provide more aeration, or
add moisture if the compost is dry.
• Check for a strong ammonia or offensive
odor. This may be caused by overwatering, or an imbalance of materials. Aerate
as above. Ammonia odors often come
from composting a lot of fresh, green plant
material, especially grass clippings.
• After 4–5 weeks, or less than a week for
“quick composting,” it should be hot deep
within the pile. Push a wire or stick deep
into the pile, pull it out and touch it to
check temperature.
• In 3–4 months, the pile should be about
half its original height. The compost will
be dark, moist and crumbly. It should
have the odor of moldy leaves or a rich
earthy odor.
them useful. For those who do not wish to
purchase a grinder or shredder, a rotary lawn
mower can be used to pulverize or shred
leaves and prunings. For mowers with bagging
attachments, collect the organic materials in
the bag. With discharge mowers, blow shredded materials into a central pile by turning in
a circle.
Mix and add shredded organic materials,
soil, and fertilizer or manure in proportions
similar to those used for the slow composting
method. It is not necessary to turn the pile. It
should be ready for use in 2–3 weeks in warm
weather or 5–6 weeks in cooler weather. The
compost may be stored for longer periods if
not needed immediately.
Quick Composting
Grass Clippings
In recent years, the emphasis has been
on quick composting. Materials are finely
shredded, premixed with soil and fertilizer,
moistened, and placed in an enclosed bag or
bin. The resulting compost—in a month or
so rather than 4–6 months—is comparable in
quality to that of slow composting. It does,
however, require slightly more effort.
Several commercial bins can be purchased
for use in quick composting processes, and
each comes with operating instructions.
You can use containers such as plastic bags
or garbage cans for the same purpose. Sheet
plastic and a standard enclosure work as well.
Begin by lining the enclosure with sheet plastic. Next, finely shred the organic material with
a soil shredder, compost grinder, or coarse
hammermill. These devices are costly for most
gardeners, but the serious gardener may find
A common waste, clippings caught in grasscatcher attachments on lawn mowers comprise
a large part of yard wastes and are excellent
material for use in compost piles. However,
recent research indicates it is beneficial to leave
clippings from regularly mowed lawns spread
over the lawn or mulched into it. Unless you
are intent on collecting clippings to add to
your compost pile, allow grass clippings to fall
back onto the lawn.
Using Compost
Many gardeners follow the steps to make
compost without understanding how compost can be used around the home. Compost
can be beneficial in a variety of horticultural
A wire container used to
accumulate yard waste,
which will slowly
decompose over time.
Not everyone builds a
perfect compost pile.
Soil improvement and fertilization.
Mulching. One of the most beneficial practices for summer gardening in Kansas is using
mulch. Mulches hold moisture in the soil,
prevent weed growth, and reduce soil crusting and splashing. Mulches also help to keep
the soil cooler during hot weather. A layer of
compost 2–3 inches thick along the row of garden vegetables and flowers or spread around
perennial flowers, trees, and shrubs reduces
moisture fluctuations and evaporation of water
from the soil surface. After the garden season,
simply till the mulch into the soil as a source of
organic material.
Potting mix for seedlings. Compost
that has been screened for large particles can
be mixed with soil or sand—in about equal
parts—and used as a plant growing medium.
The compost must be well deteriorated and
free of harmful disease organisms and insects
to ensure healthy seedling plants.
Addition of organic material improves looseness and workability of soil. Heavy, tight clay
soils benefit from the loosening effects of organic materials. But sandy soils benefit as well
from the improved water-holding capacity and
fertility that organic materials provide.
Compost also contains nutrients that plants
require. While the specific nutrient content of
compost varies with the type of materials composted and the amount of water in it, a general
recommendation is to apply compost at the
rate of 50–100 pounds per 100 square feet.
This generally is translated to 1–2 bushels of
material for every 10-foot by 10-foot area of the
garden. The best time for applying compost is
just before tillage—either in the spring or fall.
Tilling incorporates the compost throughout
the plant root zone. Many Kansans till garden
soils in the fall, and compost made early in the
season should be ready for use by then. If you
have a two-pile system, compost from last year
can be used.
Compost at planting. A band of compost in the bottom of a row trench or several
shovels full in the bottom of planting holes
can be added and mixed with the soil. This
is especially beneficial for tomato plants.
The slow nutrient release of compost works
through the early growth period. Compost can
also be used as a top dressing over the row to
prevent crusting of soil for seeded vegetables.
Compost can be mixed with water to form a
substitute for soluble fertilizers or starter solutions. As a rule, mix equal parts of compost
and water. The leftover compost can be added
to garden soil later.
Cautions in Using Compost
It is important to understand that compost
is not a cure-all for garden soils or concerns.
The benefits of composting certainly outweigh
the limits, but it is possible to overdo applications of compost.
Some composts may provide too much of
a nutrient if applications are excessive. Lush,
rapid growth—often at the expense of good
fruit production—can occur. Compost that
is not completely decomposed may continue
the process of decomposition when added to
soil in large amounts, removing or tying up
soil nutrients until decomposition slows. This
is a particular concern with compost applied
in spring and when it is incorporated into the
Creating a dark, cool environment at the soil
surface may provide an ideal area for certain
types of insects such as sowbugs or squash
bugs. Specific control measures for each of
these insects might be necessary. Consult your
local K-State Research and Extension agent
or garden center professional for information
about control measures.
Some types of compost applied to the soil
surface can pack into a dense layer that may be
almost impervious to water. This is frequently
an indication of poorly made compost. Using
more soil with the compost or mixing soil with
compost prior to use can correct this situation.
Mixing compost into the
soil at planting time.
Soil Improvement
All garden plants depend on the soil for nutrition. Soil
condition and fertility are primary considerations in
achieving a successful home garden.
Adding Organic Matter
¼–½ pound of superphosphate is beneficial.
• Rotted sawdust. Use sawdust in your
compost pile, then apply it to the garden.
Use 3–4 bushels per 100 square feet.
• Compost. Compost is decayed plant material. Apply 50–l00 pounds per 100 square
feet of garden space. (See “Using Compost” on page 11.)
• Feedlot manure. Use 10–20 pounds per
100 square feet. Adding ¼–½ pound of
superphosphate may be beneficial.
• If you use uncomposted manure, bear
in mind that this is a potential source of
microbial contamination that could lead to
food poisoning. Applying raw manure in
the fall allows adequate time for decomposition before crop harvest the following
Organic matter is an effective way of improving all kinds of soil. As mentioned earlier,
adding organic matter to the planned garden
area is recommended. It is also beneficial to
add organic matter every few years. Organic
matter serves the following purposes:
• It loosens tight clay soils.
• It increases water-holding capacity of
sandy soils.
• It makes soil easier to till.
• It provides nutrients.
One way of adding organic matter is to
seed a cover crop in fall and turn it under in
the spring. This should be done only if you
have equipment such as a heavy garden tiller or plow to turn the cover crop under in
the spring. Some recommended cover crops
include annual ryegrass (¼–1/5 pounds per 100
square feet) or rye (½–¾ pounds per 100 square
feet) seeded in mid-September. This cover protects the garden from erosion during winter.
It adds organic matter when the grass is 6–8
inches tall and is turned under in the spring.
However, most home gardeners prefer to
add organic matter by using one of the following materials:
• Stable manure. Use 50–100 pounds per
100 square feet. You may want to add
¼–½ pound of superphosphate as well.
• Poultry and sheep manure. Use 10–20
pounds per 100 square feet. Again, adding
Getting a Soil Test
The winter before you begin to garden you
will want to get a sample of your garden soil
tested to determine pH and nutrient content.
(See page 14.) The soil test provides a starting
place for a soil improvement program. Unless you know the deficiencies in your garden
soil, you are only guessing when you apply
fertilizer. The soil test will tell you how much
fertilizer you must add to your garden initially.
It is then much easier to maintain a high level
of fertility as you garden year after year.
Soil Improvement
Taking a Soil Sample
Use a soil probe, spade, or shovel to sample
the soil profile to a depth of 8-12 inches. It is
important to obtain a representative sample of
the soil in the root zone rather than from the
surface soil.
It is advisable to take at least 10 samples around
your garden area, then combine these in a clean
bucket or pail. This provides a representative
sample of the entire garden area.
From the bucket or pail, select about a pint of
soil. Special soil sample containers are available
from your local K-State Research and Extension office or a fertilizer supplier.You may use a
clean milk carton, ice cream container, or similar
package. Label it with your name, address, and
information on the garden crops to be grown. If
you send more than one sample, be sure to label
each plainly.
Your local agriculture or horticulture agent will
either test the sample in the county soil lab or
send it to the Kansas State University soil testing
laboratory. The agent will make recommendations on the amounts of fertilizer to use on your
garden. Rely on your local agent for information
and advice concerning your garden.
Check with your local K-State Research and
Extension agent for soil testing information.
Check your phone directory for County Extension Council.
agent can recommend the amount of lime or
other material needed to correct the soil pH.
Correcting soil pH can be as important in improving plant growth as adding fertilizers.
Controlling Soil pH
Fertilizing the Garden
The pH of the soil is a measure of acidity or
alkalinity. Most plants grow best in a soil that
is neither too acid nor too alkaline. Extremes
of acidity or alkalinity are possible in Kansas soils. These extremes may make the soil
nutrients unavailable to plants. Because of the
parent rock materials, previous fertilizer use,
cropping sequence, or other factors, the pH of
the soil may differ from the desirable range.
One part of the soil test is measurement of
the pH and, if needed, a recommendation of
the amount of lime necessary to reduce soil
acidity. Some people refer to liming as “sweetening the soil.” Sulfur or other materials may
be used on alkaline soils to reduce soil pH to
the desired level.
Most eastern and central Kansas gardens
may have soils that become too acid, while the
soils of western Kansas tend to be alkaline.
Your local K-State Research and Extension
Fertilizing is an important practice, but it is
not a cure-all. Fertilization cannot compensate
for these problems:
• poor soil structure that does not allow for
adequate drainage or aeration
• undesirable soil pH or salt content of the
• poor seeds, diseased or unhealthy plants
• shade trees or tree roots in or around the
garden area.
The addition of organic matter will ensure
that some fertilizer nutrients are in the soil.
You may need to add commercial fertilizer as
well. Most chemical fertilizers are simply rock
or mineral materials rich in nutrient elements.
Fertilizer Types
The nutrient elements that plants require
can be supplied by either organic or commer14
Optimum pH Range for Vegetable Crops*
Sweet Corn
Snap Beans
Lima Beans
Hubbard Squash
Summer Squash
* Information from Liming Vegetable Crops, University of Illinois Cooperative Extension Service.
cial fertilizers. All plants require 16 nutrient
elements for growth. Thirteen of these come
from the soil. When organic fertilizers are
used, they must break down to release these
basic fertilizer elements in the soil before the
plants can use them.
Regardless of the form of fertilizer—organic
or chemical— the plant makes no distinction as
long as the nutrients are there. However, large
quantities of organic materials must be used
compared with more concentrated commercial
Organic fertilizers. Organic matter is
a vital part of any soil and benefits the soil in
several ways. When incorporated into the soil,
decaying organic residue serves several useful
• loosens tight clay soils to provide better
• provides for better soil aeration, which is
necessary for good root growth
• increases water-holding capacity of all
soils—especially helpful on sandy soils
• makes soil easier to till and easier for plant
roots to penetrate
• supplies nutrients for plant growth.
Chemical fertilizers. Nutrients most
frequently lacking for growth are nitrogen (N),
phosphorus (P), and potassium (K).
• N (Nitrogen)—This nutrient element
provides dark green color in plants. It
promotes rapid vegetative growth. Plants
deficient in nitrogen have thin, spindly
Soil Improvement
Materials to Add to Correct Soil pH
Lime (to increase pH)
pH level from soil test (increase to 6.5)
Lb Ground Limestone/100 sq ft
Sandy Soil
Loam Soil
Clay Soil
Sulfur (to lower pH)
pH level from soil test (decrease to 7.0)
Lb Sulfur (95%)/100 sq ft
Sandy Soil
Loam Soil
Clay Soil
Add all materials to soil and incorporate to a depth of 6 inches with soil tillage when no crops are growing in the
garden area.
Note: Specific recommendations by your local county agent may vary from these amounts based on local conditions
and knowledge of specific soil factors. Use your local recommendations in preference to this table if available.
stems, pale or yellow foliage, and smaller
than normal leaves.
• P (Phosphorus)—This nutrient promotes
early root formation, gives plants a rapid,
vigorous start, and hastens blooming and
maturity. Plants deficient in this element
have thin, shortened stems, and leaves
often develop a purplish color.
• K (Potassium)—Potassium or potash
hastens ripening of fruit. Plant disease resistance as well as general plant health depend on this element. It is also important
in developing plump, full seeds. Plants
deficient in this element have graying
or browning on the outer edges of older
The content of N, P, and K is specified
on bags of chemical fertilizers. The analysis
or grade refers to the percent by weight of
nitrogen, phosphate, and potash in that order.
Thus, a 10-10-10 fertilizer contains 10 percent
nitrogen (N), 10 percent phosphate (P205) and
10 percent potash (K20).
Calculating the Amount
of Fertilizer Needed
To calculate the amount of fertilizer needed
for an area, consider the recommendation for
the particular nutrient needed and the analysis.
Levels of major plant nutrients are printed on fertilizer bags.
Approximate Composition of Some Organic Fertilizers
Nitrogen (N)
Phosphorus (P)
Potassium (K)
Bat Guano
Blood Meal
Alfalfa Meal
Cottonseed Meal
Feather Meal
Coffee Grounds
Cow Manure, Fresh
Cow Manure, Dried
Poultry Mature, Dried
Feedlot Manure, Dried
Bone Meal
Worm Castings
Wood Ashes
Other commercial or processed fertilizers may be available. Consult label for variation in nutrient content by
brands/sources. Organic materials should be incorporated into the soil and allowed to decompose if full fertilizer
value is to be available.
Recommendations for Fertilizer Additions
Based on K-State Soil Test Results
Soil test interpretation
(Available nitrogen from lawn and
garden soil test)
0–25 ppm ­­– low
25–50 ppm – medium
50–80 ppm – high
(P from soil test results)
0–25 ppm – low
25–100 ppm – medium
100+ ppm – high
(K from soil test results)
0–125 ppm – low
125–250 ppm – medium
250+ ppm – high
See table on previous page for materials and
amounts to correct pH.
*If you do not have soil test results, follow recommendations for a medium application level.
Pounds of Actual Element to Add per 100 sq ft
Intensive or small
gardens with successive
plantings from spring,
summer, and fall
Standard or large
gardens with wider
row spacings
Soil Improvement
Fertilizer Sources with Concentrations of Specific Elements
Nitrogen sources
Sulfur sources
Iron sources*
Ammonium sulfate
Nitrate of soda
Nitrate of potash
Monoammonium phosphate
Diammonium phosphate
Elemental sulfur
98% sulfur
Copper sulfate
20% sulfur
Ammonium sulfate
24% sulfur
Iron chelate
6%, 10%, or 12% iron for
foliar or soil application
Iron sulfate
Zinc sulfate
36% zinc
Zinc chelates
Magnesium sources**
Epsom salts (Mg S04)
10.4% Mg
Boron sources*
11.3% boron
Zinc sources*
*Other commercial sources may be available. Consult the label for content.
** Some types of limestone (dolomitic) will also be sources of magnesium.
Suggestions for Nutrients as Foliar Fertilizers
oz/3 gal water
per 100 sq ft
Iron chelate
Follow package
Iron deficiency found
when pH is above 6.8
Magnesium sulfate
(Epsom salts)
Use more than one
Most crops
Calcium chloride
Direct at the growing
Manganese sulfate
May be needed in
soils with high pH
If you need to add 0.l pound of N per 100
square feet and you have 10-10-10 fertilizer,
which contains 10 percent N, you will have to
add 1 pound of this material per 100 square
feet to achieve the needed amount of N.
The relationship of N, P, and K to each other,
sometimes referred to as the ratio, indicates
the proportion of each element. For example
1-1-1 means there are equal proportions of
N, P205, and K20 as does 10-10-10. However,
a 2-1-1 ratio means there is twice as much N
as P205 and K20, as is true for 10-5-5. The ratio
does not indicate the weight of the elements in
the fertilizer bag, but only their relationship to
each other.
In addition to N, P, and K, 10 other elements
that plants require come from the soil. Generally, it is not necessary to add these elements
because they are present in sufficient quantities
in Kansas soils. However, on occasion addition
of one or more of these micronutrients may be
required. A common micronutrient element
found lacking in high pH soils commonly
found in western Kansas is iron. The symptom
of iron deficiency is a pale yellow color that
develops in plants. This can be corrected by
a foliar application of iron or by reducing the
soil pH.
• Measure the area of your garden: For
example, suppose your garden is 10 feet
wide by 20 feet long. Your garden area is
200 square feet.
• Determine the nutrient you need to add
per 100 square feet from the table below:
For example, suppose your test results
indicate that you need .1 pound N, 0.1
pound P, and 0.05 pound K. Multiply the
amount you need by the number of hundred square feet units in your garden. For
example, if your garden is 200 square feet,
you would need two times the amount
above or 0.2 pound N, 0.2 pound P, and
0.1 pound K.
• Because you need equal portions of N
and P but less of K, look for a fertilizer
that may have the ratio of nutrients in
this range. You might not be able to find
a fertilizer that provides exactly the ratio
you need, so try to get as close as you can.
For example, if you find a fertilizer that
has 10-10-5, this would provide the exact
ratio you need. To calculate how much of
this material to add, divide the amount
you need by the nutrient concentration
or analysis of the fertilizer and multiply
by 100 because the analysis represents a
Getting the Most
From Your Fertilizer
• Select sites with soil well adapted to crop
growth because fertilizer will prove more
profitable on good soil than on poor soil.
Well-adapted soil is well drained, deep,
and free from rocks or other debris.
It should be fairly level, especially for
• Get a soil test. Don’t guess about soil
fertility or other deficiencies. Find out
exactly what your soil needs.
• Add organic matter where practical. It can
provide benefits besides soil nutrients.
• Control weeds and use sound cultural
• Select only the best plants and seeds.
Some Useful Measures
1 acre = 43,560 sq ft
100 lb/acre = approximately 2 lb/1,000 sq ft
3 tablespoons (level) = 1 oz
8 ounces = l cup
2 cups = 1 pint (equals 1 lb of most dried
fertilizer materials)
percentage or fractional value of 100:
0.2 lb needed ÷ 10 x 100 = 2 lb of fertilizer material needed to provide the N
you need. This amount of fertilizer will
also supply the P and K you need.
Apply 2 pounds of 10-10-5 fertilizer
to your 200-square-foot garden.
Most fertilizers you find are complete fertilizers with proportions of each major fertilizer
element. Some sources supply specific concentrations of a single element only. Some of these
are listed in the table on page 18. Standard soil
tests analyze for N,P, K and pH, while additional soil tests can be made for other fertilizer elements that may be required in unusual
cases. Iron, zinc, magnesium, sulfur, or other
elements are seldom required to correct a particular soil fertility deficiency. Some of these
deficiencies might best be corrected with a
foliar application as described.
Soil Improvement
Applying Fertilizers
Row applications. This provides the
most efficient use of fertilizer for row garden
crops. As a general rule, use about 1–2 pounds
of the balanced analysis fertilizer per 100 feet
of row. The best method of applying fertilizer
is to dig a small trench 2–3 inches deep on
either side of the row before planting. Sprinkle
half the total amount of fertilizer in each
trench. Cover the trenches and plant in the
marked row.
An undesirable feature of row application
is that it requires a lot of work. If you do not
want to apply fertilizer to each row, you can
broadcast or spread fertilizer throughout the
garden area. Use 2–3 pounds of fertilizer per
100 square feet, spread uniformly over the
surface, and incorporate into the soil before
planting. For tomatoes, cabbage, or other
transplanted crops, as well as for melons or
cucumbers planted in hills, use about 2 tablespoons of fertilizer placed 2–3 inches below the
roots or seeds. Again, after placing the fertilizer, cover with soil and plant as usual.
Starter solutions. For transplanted
vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant
or cabbage, add a starter fertilizer to the water
used in setting the plants to get them off to a
faster start. Commercial starter fertilizers mix
with water or are water soluble. Follow label
directions, because mixing too much starter
fertilizer can burn the plant roots.
You can make your own starter fertilizer
solution by adding 2 tablespoons of ordinary
fertilizer, such as 5-10-10, 3-12-12, 10-10-10,
or similar material, to a gallon of water. Mix
well with a stick or stake. While some of the
larger fertilizer particles will settle out, enough
soluble material will remain in the water. Use
about 1 cup of this starter solution for each
plant. Commercial soluble fertilizers also
can be used as a plant starter. Follow label
Sidedressing. Nitrogen often leaches or
washes out of the reach of plant roots, particularly in years when rainfall is abundant and in
sandy garden soils. A sidedressing is simply an
application of a nitrogen-containing fertilizer
alongside the row of growing plants. Apply
when corn is 12–18 inches high, after first fruits
have set on tomatoes, or when plants lack a
healthy, dark-green appearance.
It is possible to apply too much nitrogen; use
fertilizer sparingly. Use ¼ pound of ammonium nitrate or 1/5 pound of urea per 100 feet
of row. If these materials are not available, use
an ordinary balanced fertilizer such as 5-10-10,
Side dressing is commonly done to ensure adequate
nitrogen availability for rapidly grown vegetable crops.
8-16-16, or others at the rate of 1–2 pounds per
100 feet of row. Don’t put the material directly
on the plant foliage and, when possible, water
after applying the fertilizer.
Foliar feeding. In an emergency, it may
be possible to add certain nutrients to a plant
by applying to the foliage when nutrient
deficiency symptoms develop. It is advisable
to make every attempt to add the necessary
nutrients to the soil before the symptoms
develop because foliar application should be
used only as an experimental or emergency
treatment. Unless the soil conditions causing
the symptoms are corrected, the symptoms
will reappear soon.
Using a commercial wetting agent or a few
drops of detergent in the solution provides better coverage of foliage. Apply sprays in early
morning or late afternoon on a cloudy day, or
soon after a rain. Mixing these elements with
one another or with a pest control spray may
be difficult. Do not attempt to mix foliar nutrients with pest control sprays.
Seeding and Planting
Seeding and Planting
Planting date is determined by local weather conditions
and the nature of the various garden vegetables. Some
vegetables require warm soil and air temperatures. Others
will grow in colder temperatures. Most home gardeners
are eager to have some vegetables early in the season.
When to Plant
Most gardeners plow or spade their soil in
the spring. In some areas with heavy soils, it
may be desirable to plow in the fall to allow
winter freezes to mellow the clods. Make
sure the soil crumbles well as it is plowed or
tilled. Working the soil when it is too wet will
cause a poor seedbed and poor soil conditions
throughout the season. As a rule, soil is too wet
to work if you can press a handful of it into a
muddy ball.
For tiny vegetable seeds such as lettuce and
carrots, it may be necessary to rake up a seedbed of very fine soil. For most vegetable seeds
or plants, it is usually better to have some
small surface clods.
Use the Vegetable Garden Calendar in the
back of this book as a guide for when to plant
various vegetables in your garden. Because
temperatures moderate earlier in the eastern
part of Kansas, use the map on the next page
to determine when to plant in your zone.
These dates are based on estimated average
temperatures in various locations. There may
be unusual years that are either much warmer
or much colder than the average. Each year is
unique. Use your judgment in evaluating the
weather each year.
Many vegetables can be planted so they
mature for use in the fall as well as in the
spring. Use the Vegetable Garden Calendar as
a guide for planting spring and fall vegetables.
Some vegetables are more tolerant of frost than
others. Use the last column of the Vegetable
Crop Information chart, page 75, to guide you
in making sure you are able to harvest before
Preparing the Seedbed
Use a garden trowel
to dig a hole for
transplanting. It is OK
to leave larger clods
in prepared soil.
The condition of the seedbed largely
depends on how you prepare it. Work the
seedbed as little as possible, but break up most
of the larger surface clods.
Seeding and Planting
Montgomery Labette
Zone I
Zone III
Zone II
Zone I
Zone II
Zone III
Average Frost-Free Days
Average First Frost (Fall)
October 5-9
October 11-14
October 17-21
Average Last Frost (Spring)
April 29-May 1
April 17-19
April 13-15
or the surface becomes hard after a heavy rain,
apply a light layer of sand over seeds.
Seeds should be obtained early in the year
so you can get the varieties you want. The
Vegetable Crop Information chart in the back
of this book will guide you on how much seed
to buy. Seeds can be obtained from local dealers and seed catalogs.
Avoid using seed from your previous crops
unless you have a special interest such as the
continued propagation of an unusual variety.
Commercially available seeds are treated for
disease and insect resistance and are stored
under conditions that ensure health and vigor.
It is possible to get atypical plants when you
save your own seeds and when the plants are
cross-pollinated or hybrid varieties.
Use a string to mark straight rows through
the garden. Use the Vegetable Crop Information chart to indicate proper spacing. If you
have a mechanical tiller or cultivator, be sure
to allow adequate space between rows for cultivating. After seeding at the proper rate and
depth, cover gently and water if the seedbed
is very dry. If your garden soil tends to crust
Producing Transplants
Most home gardeners obtain plants from
local plant growers or suppliers. In areas
where dealers are not available or where the
desired varieties cannot be obtained, gardeners
may need to produce their own plants.
Transplants are generally started by seeding vegetables in a small box or flat. In order
to prevent diseases, a disease-free material
such as sphagnum moss, vermiculite, or sand
should be used instead of soil. Sow thickly in
rows 2 inches apart. Cover lightly with a thin
layer of the planting medium and water gently.
Place the box or flat in a hotbed or sunny
window and keep it moist until the seeds
It will be 6–8 weeks from the time seeds are
sown until plants are ready for transplanting
to the garden. Use the Vegetable Garden Calendar to determine the garden planting date.
Seeding and Planting
• avoid fertilizing, especially with nitrogen.
If this hardening procedure is followed, the
plants will begin to grow soon after transplanting rather than suffer “transplant shock.”
After seedlings emerge and have 2–4 small
leaves, they should be replanted in small pots
and allowed to grow until transplanted to the
garden. Pots should contain soil mixed with
peat or sand to loosen it.
Various types of containers—paper cups,
milk cartons, clay pots, peat pots, flats, or other
packages can be used. A container must have a
drain hole. Fill containers with the soil mixture
and firm slightly. Lift the seedling plants from
the flat and grasp the leaves, not the stem, of
the small plants. Place one seedling in each
pot. Water gently and place in a sunny window or hotbed until transplanting time.
Before transplanting to the garden, plants
should be “hardened,” or conditioned to outside temperatures. About 10 days before the
transplanting date:
• gradually withhold watering so the plants
are not wilting but are getting less water
than normal
• gradually expose plants to the outside
temperatures by removing the hotbed lids
or placing the plants in a protected location outside
• Immediately before transplanting, water
plants well.
• Allow as much soil to adhere to the roots
as possible when transplanting.
• Water well after transplanting, using a
starter solution.
• After the water has soaked in, sprinkle
some dry soil over the moist soil around
the plant.
• Protect the young transplants for the first
few days.
When peat pots are used for transplanting, the entire pot can be planted to lessen the
transplanting shock. Make sure the pot is well
covered, however, because the exposed peat
pot acts as a wick to draw moisture from the
soil around the transplant.
Use a board with precut
notches to space plants
a proper distance
apart. Water newly set
As the Garden Grows
As the Garden Grows
A lot of effort goes into producing a successful garden.
There are many things to do between planting time and
harvest. Consider the following cultural practices.
garden tractor, or high wheel cultivator may be
used, but most people rely on the hoe.
Many small seeded crops need to be
thinned. For crops such as beets, carrots,
radishes, turnips, and direct-seeded tomatoes
or onions, it is necessary to thin some young
plants from the thickly seeded row. An advantage of this process is that you can select the
best of several plants and remove the poorer
ones. This should be done 1–2 weeks after
emergence of the seedlings. The average spacing between plants in a row is indicated in the
Vegetable Crop Information chart.
Removing some of the vegetative growth
on certain plants will admit more light to
the plant, improve plant growth habit, and
promote early fruit ripening. With tomatoes
grown on stakes, it is a common practice to
prune suckers or shoots that develop in the
angle between the stem and branches. Remove
suckers as they form and before they are 1–2
inches long.
Weeding and Cultivating
Weeds are a natural garden competitor.
They compete with vegetable plants for water,
nutrients, and space. The use of mulches and
cultivation will help control weeds. Don’t allow weeds to get a start. Control them when
they are small. Mulching can reduce the time
spent in cultivating.
Loosening the soil with a tiller or hoe accomplishes several things:
• It provides for air penetration.
• It promotes better water retention.
• It kills weeds that compete for water and
Because most vegetables have roots near the
soil surface, use care when cultivating around
or near plants. A light surface scraping is sufficient around plants. Deeper tilling should
be reserved for areas between rows. A tiller,
Staking and Tying
Most home gardeners have limited garden
space. Training plants on stakes or trellises
makes more efficient use of space. Tomatoes
are generally staked. Cucumbers and cantaloupe can be trained to a trellis or wire frame.
Pole lima beans and pole snap beans also can
be trained to a stake or trellis. Drive the stakes
soon after plants have been set rather than
waiting until they are established.
An effective trellis for home gardens can be
made from hoops of concrete reinforcement
wire or hog wire. Use hoops about 2 feet in diameter for tomatoes and 1–1½ feet in diameter
for cucumbers and cantaloupe. You may need
to put a stake or rod alongside the hoop to prevent it from turning over in strong winds.
Watering the Garden
Watering the Garden
Reducing home water use has become a major concern.
Outdoor water use makes up more than half the water
consumed by the average household. With careful
planning, proper soil preparation, efficient watering, and
use of mulches you can make the most of every drop of
water for your garden.
Watering Efficiently
Principles of Plant Water Use
Two factors influence the general practice of
watering: the water available in the soil environment, and the rate the plant is using water.
The first depends primarily on the soil’s waterholding capacity as well as the root mass. The
second depends on some special characteristics
of plants that allow them to retard water use
and, more importantly, on weather conditions
such as temperature, wind, and humidity.
The type of soil you have influences its
capacity for holding water. Soil is composed
of small particles, the largest particles being
classified as sand; medium-sized particles as
silt; and fine particles as clay. Varying amounts
of each size particles in any soil determine its
Some soils may have different textures at
different depths. A layer of clay or hardpan
beneath a loamy soil can restrict drainage. The
soil texture in many garden areas has been
altered by construction activity including the
addition of fill soil.
Garden plants use water as part of the
photosynthetic process and to move nutrients
from the soil to upper parts of the plant. A
continuous flow of water moves from the
root system up through the plant where it
evaporates into the atmosphere. In hot, dry
conditions, the loss of water to the air is
greater than in cool or more humid conditions.
In addition, as the size and complexity of the
plant increase, there is a greater need for water.
In contrast to landscape plants, garden
plants need adequate water to encourage
vigorous growth. Crops should never be under
prolonged water stress because yield, quality,
and pest resistance may be sacrificed.
New seedling plants with a shallow, poorly
developed root system may require regular
shallow watering, while a mature plant with
its extensive root system can use water from a
larger area of the soil profile.
Garden crops differ in the size and complexity of their root system. Consider the type of
plant root system when determining which
water practice would be most efficient.
Watering the Garden
Water-Holding Capacity and Availability in Different Soil Textures
Coarse Soils
Mixed Coarse/
Fine Soils (Loam)
Fine Soils
½ gal
1 gal
Depth 1” of water penetrates
Infiltration in 1 hour
Water available (gal/cu ft)
Rooting Depths of Selected Vegetable Crops
Shallow (under 24”)
Moderate (36–48”)
Deep (over 48”)
Winter squash
Sweet potato
Summer squash
Periods of Critical Water Needs in Crops’ Life Cycle
Seedlings—especially summer and fall crops
Pod enlargement
Beans, peas
Head development
Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower
Root enlargement
Carrot, onion, potato, radish
Flowering to early fruit set
Corn, cucumbers, squash
Early fruit development
Uniform all season
Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant
over 48˝
Watering the Garden
The table at left shows average rooting
depths of selected vegetable crops. The development of the root system of garden crops is
such that most of the water is absorbed in the
upper half of the root system. Thus, if the effective rooting depth of tomatoes is 48 inches,
we could assume that most of the water is
absorbed in the upper 24 inches and attempt
to manage watering practices to keep an adequate supply in this 2-foot area.
to the soil surface. This can be done using a
trench or basin near each plant or by running
water down a furrow alongside each row.
This method works best in medium-textured soils that are fairly level. Water must
flow from one end of the garden to another
and must soak into the soil slowly in order to
continue to flow in the trench.
Crops are usually planted in a raised bed
when using this method so that water runs
alongside the bed or row, not down the row
Sprinkler. The sprinkler is by far the
most extensively used watering method in
home gardens. A sprinkler is inexpensive and
can be used to water a diversity of crops in a
small area. Distribution of water applied by
sprinklers should be considered because more
water is usually delivered to the center of the
sprinkled area. Placing a few cans in the area
to check for uniformity of water application
will give you an idea of the pattern of your
One of the disadvantages of sprinklers is
that they allow a considerable amount of water
to evaporate into the air. Using coarse droplets
and lower water pressure can reduce evaporation losses, especially on hot, windy days. Watering in cooler, less windy periods also helps.
When sprinkling garden crops, be sure to
apply water in a way that allows plant foliage
to dry as soon as possible after watering. Thus,
early morning and early evening watering is
preferable to late evening watering.
Drip/trickle irrigation. This method
of watering is designed to keep a portion of
the root zone well supplied by applying water
on a daily or every-other-day basis. Drip or
trickle tubes are usually laid to the side of the
row or between two rows. To wet a continuous
strip of soil, required by most vegetable crops,
you should have a hole or “dripper” in the
line every 10–12 inches. Many drip tapes come
with the holes at prepunched intervals. Other
types of drip tubing are designed to leak over
the length of the tube.
Drip systems are usually operated at low
pressures (5–15 PSI) and may require 1–3 hours
a day to supply the water lost from crops during stress periods. Because of the danger of
clogging the small pores of drip tape, water filtration is essential for this system. Most garden
center dealers have drip irrigation kits with
filters, pressure regulators, and water distribution lines. Most can offer assistance in design
and layout of a drip system.
At the end of the garden season, the system
can be flushed, dried, and stored in a protected
Suggestions for Applying
Some vegetables, such as lettuce and corn,
have especially sparse, less developed root systems. Other crops, such as pepper and tomato,
have fibrous root systems that more effectively
remove water from a given area of soil.
Cool-season vegetables, planted in spring or
fall, generally root to a shallower depth than
warm-season and perennial vegetables. These
crops may need watering more frequently in
stressful periods. Because fall and spring are
usually characterized by cooler temperatures
and more abundant rainfall, watering during
these times is usually of less concern.
In many direct-seeded crops, you must be
sure that adequate water is available in the
root zone to encourage germination of seeds
and allow for initial growth and development. It is often necessary to provide frequent
shallow watering during dry seasons until
the crop develops beyond the seedling stage.
This is especially true of crops planted for fall
With transplanted garden crops, providing
water at transplanting time is essential to support the plant until it is able to absorb water
from surrounding soil. In general, apply ½–1
cup of water with each transplanted vegetable.
Water slowly so it soaks into the area near the
plant, or water at the bottom of transplanting
A garden crop needs water throughout its
life cycle to survive and grow. There are several periods, however, when adequate water
is critical. During these periods, the plant may
respond to a lack of water by changes that are
irreversible during the remainder of its life. See
table at left.
Methods of Applying Water
The most popular methods of applying
water to the root systems of garden crops are
flood, sprinkle, and drip/trickle irrigation.
Flood. Many garden crops can be watered
by “flooding” or applying a flow of water
Watering the Garden
Drip tape can be laid
under plastic mulch in the
garden. Prepare soil well
to ensure good contact
with mulch. Bury edges
of mulch so it doesn't
blow away.
Watering the Garden
location for next year. It may be necessary to
replace thin drip tubing each year. Thicker tubing may last several seasons. Use care in hoeing near drip tubing, and avoid walking on it.
These activities may punch holes that interfere
with the normal slow dripping of the tape.
They are placed over the row or bed, the edges
covered with soil, and various sized holes cut
for the different crops. Black surfaces absorb
heat, warming the soil for earlier production.
Later, the foliage shades the plastic, reducing
the heating of the soil. These mulches work
best with warm-season crops such as tomatoes,
melons, peppers, and eggplant, which are usually established by transplant.
Black plastic is most widely available but
other colors such as red or green are available.
Thicker ‘fabric’ type plastics can be re-used in
other seasons. Some paper or plastic coated
paper mulches are becoming available as well.
Organic mulches. Common organic
materials used in gardens include compost,
old hay, straw, leaves, shredded newspapers,
peat moss, and grass clippings. Using coarse
materials requires a 3- to 4-inch layer while
fine materials can be applied in 1- to 2- inch
layers. Organic mulches serve as insulation,
reducing soil warming in the spring, so later
season use is recommended. They can be left in
place and tilled into the soil during the fall as
a source of organic matter. Organic materials
should be dried before use. Old or composted
materials are preferable. Fresh materials may
form molds or slime and repel water if used
when green. Also, make sure organic materials
do not contain weed seeds, insects, or disease
organisms that may spread to garden crops.
Mulching is an important practice that is
often overlooked. Mulching can reduce the
time spent in cultivating. A mulch can:
• conserve soil water
• control weed growth
• keep soil temperature uniform
• reduce frost damage to fruit.
One of the most effective ways of reducing the need to apply water to garden plants
and conserve natural rainfall is to use garden
mulches. Mulches are most appropriately used
on summer crops when periods of water use
are greatest.
Mulches provide a barrier that helps prevent moisture loss from the soil by evaporation. They also can be useful in maintaining
cooler soil temperatures, controlling weeds,
reducing soil compaction, and keeping produce cleaner.
Plastic mulches. Black polyethylene
mulch is preferred because clear plastic mulch
promotes weed growth underneath it. Plastics
usually are available in rolls 3–4 feet wide.
Ten Ways to Improve Garden Water Use
1. Water deeply, but no deeper than the root zone of the plant.
2. Water slowly. Reduce the flow.
3. Water infrequently, but thoroughly. Adjust sprinkler equipment for a larger water droplet size to
help reduce evaporation. Frequent shallow watering causes plant roots to concentrate close to the
surface, making the plant more susceptible to water fluctuations.
4. Loosen the soil surface and use mulches. Most mulches help to keep soil surfaces loose and receptive to water absorption.
5. Follow directions for operating and maintaining all irrigation systems. Check regularly for leaks,
malfunctions, or worn parts.
6. Keep your garden well weeded to eliminate competition for water. Consider removing surplus
plants from overcrowded beds to ease water demands.
7. Use wide rows with plants closer together, which reduces soil water evaporation.
8. Avoid watering during windy weather.
9. Water early in the morning when humidity is the highest for reduced evaporation.
10. Locate your garden away from trees that might compete for water.
Fall Gardens
Fall Gardens
Fall is an excellent time for gardening in Kansas. This
season is often overlooked in garden planning. A supply
of fresh vegetables late in the year extends the gardening
season, and the quality of many vegetables is better for
fresh use and preserving.
Vegetables maturing in the cool, crisp days
of fall are often better flavored than those maturing in the hot, dry days of late spring and
summer. Many vegetables can be left in the
garden and used as needed into the winter.
Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels
sprouts make excellent fall crops. Plant seed
rather than transplants. When young plants
are ½–¾ inch tall, thin them to one plant per
foot of row.
Beets and carrots require adequate moisture
until they emerge. A light cover of sand or
compost over the row may prevent soil crusting and improve emergence.
Freshly cut potato seed pieces will rot easily
in warm summer soils. Seed should be cut 3­–4
days prior to planting and held at room temperature to heal over. This will prevent seed
piece decay. Seed potatoes may be difficult to
find in midsummer. Potatoes just harvested
should not be used because they will not
sprout readily. If you are without a source of
seed potatoes, old potatoes from storage or
a supermarket can be used. Encourage your
plant supply dealer to provide seed potatoes
for next year’s fall crop planting season.
Various types of lettuce may experience
a marginal leaf burn with a light frost. The
center leaves may escape damage, allowing
lettuce—especially Bibb or head—to remain
past the first frost forecasted.
Many gardeners report success in “overwintering” spinach and kale by using leaves in the
fall without harvesting the entire plant. A light
What to Plant
Space available and preference will influence the choice of crops to plant for fall
production. With attention to watering and
pest control, many vegetables that are already
growing in the garden will continue to produce into fall. Some of these crops are tomatoes, okra, peppers, New Zealand spinach,
eggplant, and sweet potatoes.
Crops that are best adapted to fall culture
are mainly cool-season crops, although cucumbers, summer squash, and beans can be
grown as fall crops. Peas aren’t adaptable.
Most spring vegetables are adaptable to fall
gardening, but many Kansas gardeners report
little success in growing fall peas. Peas require
cool temperatures for germination and do not
seem to adapt to the warmer temperatures of
the summer planting period. You may want to
try peas—particularly snow peas—in a mid- to
late-August planting, but don’t expect complete success.
Fall Gardens
Establishing Vegetables in
Summer Heat
mulching through the winter should keep the
plants alive to begin growth in the spring without replanting a new crop.
Fall gardeners will find that establishing
a garden during the summer when soil temperatures are extremely high is difficult. One
way to avoid seeding in extremely adverse
conditions is to establish plants in containers
or pots for transplanting to the garden later in
the season as the weather begins to cool. Crops
such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Chinese
cabbage, and collards can be grown in a cooler
protected area, or under lights in a basement
growing area for 2–4 weeks prior to setting in
the garden.
It is important to acclimatize crops for several days before transplanting directly in the
garden. Place the flats in the direct sun, providing adequate water for 2–4 days to allow the
plants to become accustomed to the stronger
winds, hot sun, and the harsh environment of
the summer garden.
Crops that are seeded directly should be
planted slightly deeper than they would be
for a spring garden. This has two benefits—it
provides a slight cooling effect, as well as more
moisture available at the deeper soil depth. It
is probably wise to plant more seed than necessary and to do some thinning later to ensure
an adequate stand. With frequent watering and
heavy, tight soils, a crust may form in planting
fall gardens. This can be overcome by a light
sprinkling of peat moss, vermiculite, or compost directly over the row.
When to Plant
Planting dates are influenced by how long
it takes the crop to develop and how tolerant
the crop is of first frosts or freezes. Crops such
as potatoes or cabbage require a long period of
development, thus a mid-July planting date,
while crops such as lettuce or radishes can be
planted in early September.
Although it is difficult to predict an exact
date, the average first frost in the fall occurs
in mid-October in most of central and eastern
Kansas. It may occur several weeks earlier
in northwestern Kansas and several weeks
later in southeastern Kansas. The Vegetable
Garden Calendar in the back of this book lists
suggested planting dates for most of central
and eastern Kansas, with estimated harvest
periods. Northwestern Kansas gardeners may
need to vary these dates about 10 days to
2 weeks earlier; southeastern Kansas gardeners
10 days to 2 weeks later.
Fertilizing and Soil Preparation
Planting in space used for spring production may require additional fertilizer to
support fall crops. Large quantities of fertilizer may damage tender young plants, so use
it sparingly this time of year. In general, 1–2
pounds per 100 square feet of a low-analysis,
all-purpose garden fertilizer should be sufficient to produce a successful crop.
Although adding organic matter is an
excellent practice, it is not a good idea to add
quantities before fall planting because this may
loosen and dry out soils at a critical time. Save
organic matter for a late fall application.
Extensive soil preparation probably will not
be needed for fall planting. Avoid deep tillage
because it may dry out soil. A light surface cultivation will loosen soil to prepare the seedbed.
Additional amounts of fertilizer may be
needed later in the season to ensure maximum plant growth and production. Cabbage,
broccoli, cauliflower, collards, and kale, plus
lettuce, mustard, spinach, and turnip greens
will require about 4 tablespoons of a high-nitrogen, all-purpose garden fertilizer per 10 feet
of row. It should be sprinkled along the row
about 2 weeks after transplanting, or 4 weeks
after sowing the seed. This will ensure lush
vegetative growth before crop development
during cooler fall weather. Other vegetable
crops probably will not require any additional
As in the usual gardening season, the availability of water can influence the success of fall
gardening in Kansas. Many areas of the state
receive adequate rainfall for successful gardening from late August through September and
October. However, trying to establish young
seedlings in high temperatures during July
to mid-August is difficult without a readily
available source of water. Many vegetables
can develop a tolerance to a hot temperature,
but they cannot tolerate a lack of sufficient soil
moisture and cannot germinate without it.
Seedlings. Seeds need adequate moisture
to germinate. Germination can be accelerated
by soaking seeds overnight before planting.
Until seedlings begin to emerge, it may be
necessary to supply small quantities of water
frequently—perhaps as often as several times
a day. In warm summer soil, you will be surprised at how fast many seeds germinate and
start to grow. The period of intensive watering
lasts only several days.
Fall Gardens
Before planting a fall garden, apply water
until the soil is moist to a 10- to 12-inch depth.
This will require about 1–1½ inches of water—
equivalent to 1½ inches of rainfall—immediately prior to planting. Water can be applied by
sprinkling, flooding, or drip irrigation.
As seedlings emerge, you can gradually
reduce water because roots penetrate deeper
into the soil. In fact, reducing water gradually will encourage deeper rooting of young
seedlings, making them more drought tolerant.
In certain instances, a temporary wind screen
or windbreak may reduce water loss from soil
and protect tender seedlings.
Regardless of the system used, it is essential
to provide adequate amounts of water deep
into the soil for use by vegetables during the
critical period of growth.
Young plants. When plants are small,
they may require watering twice a week during dry periods. Try to allow the plants to
show slight stress—become slightly limp—before applying water. This will encourage deeper rooting. As plants grow, they will require
watering less frequently. In late August and
September, natural rain generally will replace
watering in most years. A general guideline to
follow is that plants will require about an inch
of water a week if not supplied by rainfall.
of Kansas, the weather forecast will indicate
when a frost that will freeze tender vegetation
is on the way. Many vegetables will have been
producing vigorously for 2–4 weeks prior to
this date; however, it may be possible to continue harvest for an even longer period of time.
Often, a few nights of low temperatures will
be followed by warmer weather for several
weeks. If you can protect tender vegetation
during these few cold nights, you can continue
harvesting vegetables. Some gardeners attempt
to gain more days of growing time by covering
plants with baskets, blankets, or plastic at the
first frost warning.
Concentrate on saving only the tender vegetables which will be easily damaged by a slight
frost. Other vegetables that may be growing
in the garden and need protection are peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, and sweetpotatoes.
Temporary coverings of polyethylene plastic,
blankets, or tarpaulins may be stretched over
the rows to provide frost protection. A small
light bulb burning underneath such coverings
can provide protection from freezes to around
25°F. Coverings should be anchored so that
they will not damage garden crops if a sudden wind develops. As little foliage as possible
should come in contact with the surface of
the covering because that foliage will freeze
rapidly. After the danger of frost has passed,
remove the coverings; be prepared to put them
on again if a sudden frost is forecast later.
Semi-hardy vegetables should be harvested
if temperatures in the mid- to upper twenties
are forecast and hardy vegetables harvested if
temperatures in the low twenties seem imminent. Root crops such as beets, carrots, potatoes, and turnips may be mulched and used as
needed until the soil begins to freeze, usually
in late November to December.
Frosts and Freezes
The first frost in the fall will damage some
frost sensitive crops. Others may be slightly
damaged but will continue to grow for several
weeks until a severe freeze kills them. Other
crops are hardy and will stand fairly low temperatures. These can be used into the winter
months as needed.
Vegetables can be harvested as they mature. From mid- to late October in most areas
Sensitivity of Fall-Planted Vegetables to Freezing Temperatures
Tender Crops
Semi-hardy Crops
Hardy Crops
Damaged by First Frost
Can Stand Light Frost
Can Stand Several Frosts,
but Should Be Used Before
Low 20°F Temperatures
Summer squash
Chinese cabbage
Irish potatoes
Bibb lettuce
Swiss chard
Leaf lettuce
Brussels sprouts
Insect and Disease Control
Insect and Disease Control
Control of insect and mite pests and diseases is essential
for successful home gardening and part of general
management practices for your vegetable garden. Plant
symptoms may reflect disease injury from fungi, bacteria,
nematodes, or viruses; insect or mite injury; chemical or
herbicide injury; or physical or environmental damage
caused by growing conditions, location, or soil fertility
deficiencies or excesses.
excess nitrogen or phosphorus can promote insect and disease problems and can
lead to run-off issues. Add organic matter
to the soil each year in the form of soil
amendments or mulch.
Your local K-State Research and Extension
agent or garden center professional can provide assistance in identifying or recognizing
specific symptoms in your garden. It is best to
provide a large, representative sample along
with information on the variety, when symptoms first appeared, unusual recent weather or
growing conditions, and general condition of
other vegetables in the neighborhood.
• Choose pest-resistant or tolerant
varieties. Nursery and garden catalogs
often identify such varieties. Additional
information is available in the Extension
publication Recommended Vegetable Varieties for Kansas, L-41.
• Start with quality seeds and
healthy plants. Purchase stocky, darkgreen transplants, and buy certified virusfree seed potatoes.
• Eliminate competition. Remove
weeds and grass from the growing site
because they compete for nutrients and
water. Keep plants growing vigorously.
Rapidly growing vegetables can better
tolerate or outgrow insect, mite and disease damage, but they also quickly use up
available nutrients. Applying fertilizer and
Checklist of Good Gardening
• Create a “healthy” soil. In the
rush to plant, this important step is often
overlooked, yet it can make the difference
between a productive and a so-so garden.
Many insects are attracted to stressed
plants. Poorly growing plants also recover
more slowly from insect and/or mite
injury. Conduct a soil test and follow the
recommendations to supply appropriate
nutrients as needed. Adding extra fertilizer won’t create healthy soil, because
Insect and Disease Control
• Plant at the proper time. Seeds
planted too early are more susceptible
to rot. Delay planting until the soil has
warmed to allow rapid germination of
seeds and growth of young plants.
• Get to know the major insect and
water at critical times during maximum
plant growth is essential for producing
pest- and disease-resistant plants. Refer to
the Soil Improvement section on page 13.
• Keep it clean. Remove infected plants
during the season to prevent spread within the garden, and remove plant debris
after harvest to avoid harboring insects,
mites and diseases. Remove weeds, which
may serve as a reservoir for pests. Dispose
of or burn diseased plants, fruits, and vegetables. Composting is seldom thorough
enough to eliminate disease-causing fungi
and bacteria.
• Rotate crops. Planting the same crop
in the same place year after year invites
losses due to soilborne diseases and
overwintering insect pests. Follow a crop
rotation of at least 3 years for the four
major vegetable plant families—solanum
(tomato, potato, pepper, and eggplant);
cucurbit (melons, squash, and cucumbers);
cruciferous (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage,
and Brussels sprouts); and allium (onion,
garlic, and leeks).
• Choose a sunny location away
from large trees. Eight to 10 hours
of direct sunlight a day are necessary for
proper growth, flowering, and fruiting of
most vegetable crops. Sunlight also helps
to dry foliage and reduce infection by
many fungal and bacterial diseases.
• Water properly. Plants receiving
either too much or not enough water will
be less vigorous and more susceptible
to insect and mite pests and diseases.
Consider using a form of drip irrigation,
which will keep foliage dry and prevent
foliar diseases while at the same time using water more efficiently. If using a hose,
direct the water towards the ground and
avoid wetting the foliage.
• Use mulch. Mulch helps control weeds
and reduces moisture evaporation from
the soil surface. Much also helps prevent
rot caused when fruit is in contact with
bare soil. When tilled under, organic
mulches become valuable soil amendments. (Refer to Mulches and Living Organisms, MF-2900, for more information.)
• Provide good air circulation.
Overcrowding plants can result in weak
growth and an increase in foliar diseases.
Stakes, cages, trellises, and pruning all
help to increase air circulation.
mite pests and plant diseases in
your area. Learn their life cycle, their
habits, and stages they are most easily
controlled. Refrain from using any pesticide until you have correctly identified
a given pest and determined the proper
time for control. (You might identify a
pest or disease but the window of opportunity for control has passed.) Your local
K-State Research and Extension agent can
help with identification. Some insect and
mite pests and disease symptoms resemble improper cultural practices.
• Grow crops that have few pest
problems. Plants that have few insect,
mite and disease problems include looseleaf lettuce, rhubarb, Swiss chard, garlic,
cos lettuce, leeks, parsley, sweetpotatoes,
okra, beets, snap peas, parsnips, carrots,
onions, and kale.
• Put up bird feeders and bird
houses. Birds are predators of insects.
For instance, more than a dozen species of
birds are known to feed on various moth
• Inspect the entire garden at least
weekly. Check the undersides of plant
leaves. Detect symptoms when they first
develop so that pest problems can be more
easily controlled.
• Use chemical pesticides as a last
resort, carefully and judiciously.
Several general-use insect pest and disease control measures are available that
provide effective control with minimal environmental disturbance. Always read the
label carefully and follow use directions.
• If you use pesticides, apply them
properly. Thorough coverage of all
plant parts is required. (Apply liquids
to the point of run-off.) The use of a fine
spray mist directed to all plant surfaces
usually is the most effective way to ensure
proper pesticide action while using or
wasting as little material as possible.
• Be realistic in your expectations.
Accept the fact that there may be some
damage from pests and even an occasional
crop failure.
Insect and Disease Control
Alternatives in Pest Control
Botanical insecticides: Neem
rotenone, pyrethrum
Rapid breakdown; rapid action; low toxicity to mammals
and plants. Rotenone is highly
toxic to fish.
Rapid breakdown, requiring more precise timing of and/or more frequent application; cost and
availability; lack of test data; lack of state registration of some materials.
Microbial insecticides:
Bacillus thuringensis (Bt),
(Dipel, Thuricide, Attack,
Caterpillar Killer), M-One
Selective; nontoxic to wildlife
and humans; may establish
and provide control in the
Controls only one species or group of insects;
timing is critical; special storage and application
procedures may be necessary.
Insecticidal soaps: Safer’s
Insecticidal Soap
Rapid breakdown; rapid action; low toxicity to mammals
and other animals; low toxicity to most plants; selective,
doesn’t harm most beneficial
Rapid breakdown—effective only against insects
that come into direct contact with the spray before
it dries; phytotoxic to some ornamental plants and
Attractants: Pheromones,
Nonhazardous to humans or
other animals; no residues;
target specific insects while
leaving beneficials unharmed.
Variable results due to weather, locations; effectiveness limited to specific adult insect populations; expensive, more useful for monitoring the
presence of insects than for control in most cases.
Beneficials: ladybugs, green
lacewings, syrphid flies,
trichogramma wasps, praying
Nontoxic to mammals and
wildlife. If established, may
provide control in subsequent
pest generations or seasons.
Variable results; careful handling required; some
beneficials are limited in the kind of insects they
will eat; some pests must be allowed to remain in
order to provide a food supply for the beneficials.
Fungicides: sulphur, copper,
Bourdeaux mixture
Provide fungicidal action and
disease control.
Toxic to mammals, wildlife, and many beneficials.
Timing of application is critical. Sulphur should
not be used within a month of oil sprays or when
temperature is above 80–85oF. Unsafe levels may
build up in soil after years of use.
Oils: dormant oils, horticultural superior oils, Volck
No residues on fruit when
applied prebloom; effectively
control many overwintering
Must be applied while tree is dormant, though
lighter weight oils are being developed for use in
spring and summer. Must be applied when temperatures are above 40oF but below 80oF for several
hours to avoid injury.
Traps: Tanglefoot, sticky
yellow or white boards
No residues, nontoxic to
mammals, wildlife, and
Can trap both pests and beneficials; some traps
are expensive; must be maintained, cleaned, and
recoated periodically; effectiveness varies.
Physical barriers: Row covers, Nontoxic, no residues. Allow
Row covers prevent pollination of fruits and
water, air, and sunlight to pass vegetables by insects; durability varies from 1–3
seasons; considerable damage may result from
pests that emerge under row covers.
Minerals: Diatomacious earth, Nontoxic to mammals and
kaolinite clay
birds; works by presenting a
physical barrier rather than
poisoning; contains beneficial
trace minerals.
Cultivation and hand
The least expensive of all control practices.
Affects beneficials such as ladybugs; complete application required; less effective in humid weather.
Must be used long before pest damage becomes
apparent and at the proper stage of development
of the insect.
Insect and Disease Control
Integrated Pest Management
A concept of pest control or regulation emphasizes integrating preventive management,
alternative pest control measures, and chemical controls to deal with the wide variety of
pest concerns associated with growing vegetables. Chemicals are used only when necessary.
Pest problems are often specific to one type of
vegetable or vegetable types. It is difficult to
generalize about specific insect, mite or disease
problems because each is distinctly different. As such, integrated pest management
requires knowledge of the pest, including the
• Life cycle and population dynamics.
• Level of plant damage that can be
• Susceptible crops that may be damaged.
• Environmental factors such as temperature and relative humidity that may influence the pest and control measures.
With knowledge of the pest, specific control
measures can be undertaken. Chemical controls should be reserved for difficult-to-manage pests that can spread to other plants.
A pesticide is a substance or mixture of
substances intended to prevent, destroy, repel,
or mitigate certain insects, mites, rodents,
nematodes, fungi, weeds, or other organisms
considered pests.
Chemical pesticides provide many benefits
in regards to food production and nutrition,
but they also pose some hazards. Some chemical pesticides may leave undesirable residues
on food, in water, and contaminate the environment when not used properly. Many conventional pesticides are toxic to humans and
other animals. As a result, many homeowners
and growers are seeking less hazardous alternatives to conventional chemical pesticides.
Interest in using alternative pest control
methods has increased due to environmental
and food safety concerns. A variety of “organic” pest control methods are available for
vegetables commonly grown in Kansas. These
methods require regular monitoring and familiarity with life cycles (e.g. egg, larvae, pupae
and adult) of different insect and mite pests
in order to appropriately time applications of
pest control stragegies.
Remember, pesticides are just one option
available to effectively manage pests. Before
using any pesticide or control measure, consult
the checklist of good gardening practices. By
first adopting these practices, you can greatly
reduce or eliminate the need for pesticide use.
Insect and Disease Control
Alternative Pesticides and Control Methods for Specific Crops
Various crops
Aphids, spider mites, other
soft-bodied pests
Insecticidal soaps. Effective only through direct contact with
insect before soap dries. Some foliar burn may occur at high
temperatures with too concentrated a soap mixture; apply to
a few test plants first.
Various crops
Flea beetle
Spray or dust with rotenone when damage is first noticed.
Use row covers.
Asparagus beetle
Hand pick. Use rotenone during cutting season.
Choose resistant varieties like Jersey Giant or UC 157.
Bean leaf beetle
Spray or dust with rotenone on underside of leaves. Use row
Improve air circulation with proper spacing. Water early in
the day so that foliage will dry quickly.
Root rots
Rotate crops. Plant in well-drained sites when soil is warm.
Avoid wetting foliage. Use drip or soaker hoses to irrigate.
Insect and Disease Control
Alternative Pesticides and Control Methods for Specific Crops
Cabbage, broccoli,
cauliflower, Brussels
Cabbage looper, imported
cabbage worm, diamondback moth
Spray or dust thoroughly with Bacillus thuringensis (Bt).
Begin when worms are small and repeat as needed throughout the season. Use row covers.
Black rot
Use disease-free seeds and plants. Do not work with wet
plants. Use 3- to 4-year rotation. Destroy plants after harvest.
Some resistant varieties are available.
Corn earworm
Apply a few drops of mineral oil to the silks just inside the
tip of each ear before the silks have wilted and started to
brown. Bt is not effective.
Maize dwarf mosiac
Avoid planting near Johnsongrass, as aphids carry virus to
corn. Control weeds. Choose tolerant varieties.
Remove and destroy galls before they break open. Do not
compost. Rotate crops. Plant tolerant varieties (Apache,
Bellringer, Quicksilver, Seneca, Scout).
Cucumber beetle, striped or
Apply rotenone at 5-day intervals, repeating after a rain.
Squash bugs
Hand pick. Trap under shingles placed beneath the plant.
Remove the copper-colored eggs.
Choose resistant varieties. Use 3-year rotation. Do not save
seed. Avoid working with wet plants.
Cucumber, melons,
Insect and Disease Control
Alternative Pesticides and Control Methods for Specific Crops
Bacterial wilt
Remove and destroy entire infected plant along with surrounding soil and soil clinging to roots. Clean up plants
in autumn. Control cucumber beetle, which transmits the
Powdery mildew
Improve air circulation with proper spacing. Clean up in
autumn. Plant resistant varieties.
Onion thrip
Insecticidal soaps. Use row covers.
Powdery mildew
Water early in the day. Improve air circulation by proper
spacing and weed control. Clean up in autumn. At first sign
of disease, spray or dust with sulphur.
Root rot
Practice crop rotation. Plant seed as early as possible. Avoid
wet soil and improve soil drainage.
Colorado potato beetle
Apply rotenone when beetle adults or larvae first appear.
Repeat as needed. Hand pick. Use row covers. New formulations of Bacillus thuringensis for potato beetle control are
relatively unavailable to home gardeners.
Early blight
Water early in the day. Improve air circulation by proper
spacing. Clean up in autumn and destroy plant residues.
Practice crop rotation.
Use certified seed. Practice crop rotation. Lower soil pH to
5.2–5.5 with sulphur. Plant resistant varieties (Chieftain,
Norland, Russet Burbank, Superior). Avoid lime, manure,
and wood ash.
Blossom end rot
Water during drought. Mulch to keep moisture level constant. Grow on soil high in organic matter. Avoid cultivating
close to plants.
Grow recommended varieties. Provide adequate fertilizer
and water for vigorous growth.
Early blight
Practice crop rotation. Water early in the day. Improve air
circulation by proper spacing. Clean up plant residues in
Fusarium wilt
Practice crop rotation. Remove and destroy infected plants.
Plant resistant varieties (Mt. Spring, Mt. Fresh, Scarlet Red,
Celebrity, Red Defender, and others).
Septoria leaf spot
Water early in the day so that foliage can dry quickly.
Improve air circulation with cages, pruning, and proper
Container Gardening
Container Gardening
Container gardens are an option for persons with limited
space. Residents of apartments, condominiums, retirement
homes, or houses on small lots can still enjoy gardening.
Containers are mobile, allowing a gardener to take the
plants along or move them for an instant splash of color.
You can enjoy your plants more fully by
growing them on patios, balconies, and window boxes. Older gardeners can tend container
gardens when standard gardening becomes
too strenuous. And, what better way for children to observe the miracle of plant growth?
Container gardening involves special considerations, especially in Kansas. A container
plant growing in an exposed location is under
more stress, and requires more frequent watering. The effects of hot, dry winds may be more
severe than in conventional gardens. Large
containers can be expensive and are difficult
to move when filled with potting mix. But, the
advantages far outweigh these considerations.
You can purchase potting mix from nursery or garden centers under a variety of trade
names: Jiffy Mix, Pro Mix, Metro Mix, Pro Soil
and others. If you have only a few containers, you may want to take them to the local
greenhouse and fill them with the greenhouse
potting mix for a fee.
You also can make your own potting mix.
Remember, to keep it simple. You don’t need a
different mix for each type of plant. One common formula mixes 2 parts sandy loam soil, 1
part sphagnum peat moss, and 1 part perlite
or builders’ sand. There are many varieties of
this basic recipe. Potting mixes should be free
of disease organisms, insects, or weeds. Any
mix containing soil has not been pasteurized to
kill weeds or disease organisms, so use these
mixes for established plants.
Consult references in your local library or
K-State Research and Extension office for additional information on container gardening,
including recipes for making large quantities
of potting mix from a variety of ingredients.
Soil Mixes
When ordinary soil is saturated with water,
the air spaces are filled, removing essential air
from the roots. This is why a soil substitute,
often called potting mix, is recommended for
container gardening. The mix may contain
some soil—called soil mix—or no soil at all,
a soilless mix. Additional ingredients such
as peat moss, vermic-ulite, and perlite allow
rapid drainage but still hold sufficient water
for plant growth.
Containers come in a variety of styles and
sizes. You can recycle old buckets, cans, and
Container Gardening
similar containers. It is essential that the container have holes in the bottom for draining
excess water.
Plastic. Plastic containers are available in
various sizes, shapes, and styles. Many plastics
are breakable and may not hold up well over
several seasons.
Clay. This old favorite is preferred by
many gardeners for its earth-tone color. Clay is
porous and allows water loss from the sides of
the container. Clay pots are breakable and may
not hold up well if mobility is required.
Wood. Wood is a popular material for containers. Both redwood and cedar are relatively
rot resistant and can be used without staining or painting. Exterior grade plywood and
other types of wood also can be used. Avoid
using wood treated with creosote, penta, or
other phenolic compounds, because vapors
can injure some plants. Always use coppertreated lumber if preservative-treated lumber
is needed. Wooden containers are excellent
for portability and can be purchased or built
in various sizes and styles. Several container
garden references offer plans for building attractive containers.
How big should the container be? That depends on the type of plants you plan to grow.
There is a balance between the top growth
and root systems of plants. Small plants can
be grown in fairly small, shallow containers,
while larger plants need a larger container.
Plants in locations such as a hot patio exposed
to west or southwest winds, or in elevated
locations, may need a slightly larger container
than those in more protected areas.
Most small vegetables will grow in containers ranging from 5-inch pots to gallon-size.
Larger vegetables, such as dwarf tomatoes,
peppers, and cucumbers will require 1- to
3-gallon containers. Full-size tomatoes require
at least a 3-gallon container.
watering, use only one-fourth the recommended rate unless the instructions state otherwise
for continuous feeding.
Controlled-release or time-release fertilizers
also are widely available. These are pellets
designed to release fertilizer gradually over
a long period of time. Use these according to
label directions.
Since containers are usually placed in an exposed location, water is lost from the containers quickly. Smaller containers have a smaller
reservoir for holding water until needed. There
is no rule of thumb on how often to water
because it varies with the type of plant, potting
mix, weather, and type of container.
You may find that daily watering is needed
during hot, dry periods. One advantage of using a potting mix is that it is nearly impossible
to over-water, as the water quickly drains from
the container. Check your plants regularly and
look for signs of wilting to indicate a need for
water. Another method is to stick your finger
into the upper inch or so of the potting mix to
feel the dryness. Always apply sufficient water
to allow a small amount to come out of the bottom drain hole. This indicates the container is
thoroughly saturated with water.
Potting mixes can be easily washed out of a
container, so never water with a direct stream
of water from a hose. Always use a “breaker”
nozzle to break up the stream of water or a
sprinkling can to apply water. A sprinkling can
is handy for applying fertilizer as you water.
Because regular watering is required, you
will need to arrange for plant care when you
vacation. Grouping plants will reduce water
use. The most reliable method of plant watering while you are away is to arrange for someone to care for your plants. They can water
plants as well as check for problems that may
Culture and Care
Since potting mixes drain water rapidly,
causing fertilizer to be washed out of the containers as you water, you will need to replace
lost fertilizer. Lighter mixes will require more
frequent fertilizing than heavier mixes containing soil. Remember, you are growing a plant
with a small, constricted root system so regular
fertilizing and watering is important.
Many gardeners prefer to apply a dilute fertilizer solution at every other watering. Several
water-soluble fertilizers, including Rapid Gro,
Hyponex, and Miracle Grow, are available at
garden centers. If you fertilize at every other
Plants need care and attention throughout
the season. Insects and disease can be concerns because plants are growing under more
stress and with limited root systems. Control
measures are similar to those for conventional
gardening (see page 33). Contact your local
K-State Research and Extension office for additional information or publications dealing with
garden pest problems.
Container Gardening
What To Grow
Butterhead lettuce (6-inch spacing):
Tom Thumb, Bibb, Buttercrunch
Onion (2- to 3-inch spacing): Use any standard variety; best grown for green onions
Radish (3-inch spacing): Cherry Belle,
Champion, White Icicle
Vegetables require sunny locations and will
vary in productivity depending on the type
of crop. Check seed catalogs for new varieties
developed for container gardens. There are
also several types of “ornamental” vegetables
adapted for growing in containers. Flowering
cabbage and flowering kale are attractive relatives of standard varieties. Lettuce is available in a variety of colors and leaf textures.
Red chard is another popular container plant
because of its bright red stalks.
Many gardeners grow herbs near the
kitchen to use in cooking. Basil, chives, marjoram, and thyme are all easy to grow in containers. Many gardeners keep mint in containers
as it is an aggressive plant that spreads. Some
herbs are perennial and can be moved indoors
for winter use or held in the container until
next year. Many gardeners dig a hole in the
garden to store pots of perennial herbs until
next season.
Vegetables for Summer
(Plant after danger of frost is past.)
Bean (4-inch spacing; Pole beans yield
more per area — trellis them): Blue Lake,
Kentucky Wonder, Fortex
Cucumber (8-inch spacing): Bush Whopper, Salad Bush, Patio Pickle, Spacemaster,
Bush Champion
Eggplant (12-inch spacing): Fairy Tale,
Bambino, most standard varieties
Muskmelon (12-inch spacing): Minnesota
Midget, Sweet ‘n Early
Pepper (12-inch spacing): Sweet, hot
or banana varieties can be grown in larger
Squash (1 per pot): Golden Nugget, Gold
Rush, various zucchini hybrids
Tomato (Dwarf; 12-inch spacing): Patio,
Pixie, Orange Pixie, Tiny Tim, Small Fry,
Tumbling Tom
Tomato (Small-Vined; 1 per pot): Mountain Belle (cherry), Mountain Glory, Celebrity,
Watermelon (1 per pot): Sugar Bush
Vegetables for Spring/Fall
Beets (3-inch spacing): Detroit Dark Red,
Early Wonder, Red Ace
Carrot (3-inch spacing): Little Finger,
Short ‘n Sweet, Royal Chantenay, Red Cored
Chantenay, Thumbelina
Leaf lettuce (6-inch spacing): Grand Rapids, Oakleaf, Salad Bowl, Ruby
Season Extension
Season Extension
Each crop in the garden has its production season when,
if all goes well, gardeners enjoy abundant harvests and may
have surplus to store or preserve. A number of techniques
ensure continuous production of many crops beginning
well before the usual production season, and extending
through the normal season, into the fall, and in some
cases, continuing production year-round.
spring, fall and winter, but these crops must
be provided with the warmth they require for
growth, and be protected from freezing.
Varieties (cultivars) of crops may vary in
both the number of days to maturity (earliness)
and tolerance to heat or cold temperatures.
One way of ensuring an extended harvest, particularly of crops that tend to produce during
a brief harvest period, is to plant both earlier
and later maturing cultivars at the same time.
Seed catalogs and packets almost always
indicate the number of days to maturity. Seed
catalogs may also identify cold or heat tolerant
cultivars. For example, some lettuce and spinach cultivars are identified as slower to bolt
(flower and produce seed), and these would be
choices for growing into the hot summer. Cold
tolerant cultivars of some warm season crops,
such as beans and sweet corn would be choices
for an early first planting.
This chapter provides a brief overview of
techniques that can be used for season extension, ranging from using appropriate varieties and planting dates, to selecting planting
locations, to modifying the environment using
materials such as mulches and floating row
covers, and structures such as cold frames and
high tunnels.
Crop and Cultivar Selection
Peak production for cool season crops typically comes in the spring and fall. Warm season crops, which are frost sensitive, produce in
the summer. The natural length of the harvest
season varies by crop, with some crops, such
as tomatoes, producing over many weeks,
and others such as sweet corn, broccoli, and
radishes, providing a relatively brief period
of harvest from a planting. Cool season crops
vary in their capacity to tolerate temperatures
below freezing, but a number, including leafy
greens, carrots and beets, can easily be grown
throughout the winter in an unheated cold
frame or high tunnel. The season for warm
season crops can also be extended into the
Maximize Yield
Small, successive plantings. Sequential planting is another way to ensure a continuous harvest of many crops, particularly
Season Extension
those that produce only over a brief period.
This works well with quick cool season crops,
such as radish, lettuce and spinach, and also
for warm season crops, such as bush beans and
sweet corn. The first planting of sweet corn
will often include both early and later maturing, main season varieties, which will then be
planted successively approximately every two
weeks through the planting season.
The planting season for warm season crops
typically ends when there is no longer time for
a crop to mature between the time of planting
and the anticipated date of frost. If using structures such as cold frames or high tunnels, the
planting season for cool season crops extends
well beyond the normal season, but short days
limit crop establishment and growth as winter
Well-established crops such as spinach,
lettuce and carrots can continue to produce
throughout the winter, but they need to be
planted early enough to give them time to
grow before days become very short from
November through January.
Harvest promptly. A timely harvest
also helps ensure a long harvest period for
many crops. Harvesting crops when they are
ready can stimulate continued production
through thinning the stand (for example, radishes, beets, green onions, lettuce), and removal of immature fruit (summer squash). Timely
harvest also improves crop health through the
removal of diseased, rotting, or overly mature
fruits and other plant parts, and can contribute
to air flow in the crop, reducing humid conditions favorable for disease development and
Use transplants. Using transplants is
a further way to ensure early production of
many crops by allowing the gardener to take
relatively large, rapidly growing plants to the
field when conditions are favorable. Transplants of warm season crops are produced in
a controlled environment, such as a heated
greenhouse, hot bed (see below), or under
lights in the house so that they can be ready
to plant out after danger of frost has passed.
Care should be taken, particularly with the
warm season crops, such as peppers, to ensure
they are planted in soil that is warm enough.
It is a common error to plant peppers in soils
that are cold (below 55°F) and wet, resulting
in root rots, which can kill the plant or delay
tion of the slope (the aspect) of land in the garden, as well as hedgerows and fences, which
can act as windbreaks or sources of shade, can
have effects on the earliness and productivity
of crops. Gardens in low lying areas or hollows
called frost pockets are likely to be more prone
to frosts than those on slopes which allow for
air drainage.
A garden with a northern aspect will warm
up more slowly in the spring than will a
southern facing garden. Western and southern
facing slopes will capture the sun’s warmth
and may be advantageous for production early
in the spring or late in the fall, but may be too
hot and dry when baking under the heat of the
summer sun.
Northern facing slopes are often considered
desirable for fruit production, as they warm up
slowly and delay flowering till danger of frost
has passed. Crops that require full sunlight
need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day,
but may benefit from a bit of shade during the
heat of the summer. A crop with an eastern exposure may benefit from the morning sun, but
be protected somewhat from the harsh afternoon sun. Gardeners in Kansas have reported
an extended rhubarb harvest with plants
receiving morning sun but afternoon shade.
Wind protection. Wind can be very
damaging to vegetable crop productivity,
resulting in damaged plants, both from the
physical stress of the wind and from abrasion
by sand particles being blown over the land.
Hedgerows and fences can serve as effective
windbreaks, protecting crops from prevailing
winds and allowing for an extended season
of production of higher quality vegetables in
windy locations. Plants in a windbreak can
compete with garden plants for water, so leave
space between the garden and hedgerow or
trees in order to avoid this.
Raised Beds
Raised beds or ridges can help not only with
season extension, but with general crop health,
contributing to good drainage and soil aeration for healthy root growth. These can be permanent or made annually, with hoes or with
an implement on a tractor or rototiller. Because
they are raised above the surface of the soil,
beds can warm up more rapidly in the spring
than the rest of the garden, helping to produce
earlier crops. Just as raised beds can warm up
rapidly in the spring, they may also cool off
rapidly in the winter. Thus, if poor drainage,
is not a concern, a flat surface or even a slight
trench may help to conserve heat for crops
grown in a protected structure such as a high
Garden Site Selection
Various features of the garden can influence
the potential for season extension. The orienta44
Season Extension
from year to year. After preparing the soil, it
can be placed in the garden where it will help
warm soil for early planting while controlling
weeds and conserving moisture. It is probably
best to take up weed barrier from year to year,
or it will likely become covered with soil and
become a messy nuisance.
tunnel or cold frame (see below) during the
depths of winter.
Mulches are materials placed in the garden
to cover the soil and can help with season
extension by cooling or warming the soil and
by conserving soil moisture and preventing the
growth of weeds that can compete with crops.
Mulches may be synthetic, including plastic
films and weed barrier, or natural, including
paper, straw, and wood chips.
Types. Plastic film mulches are commonly
used by commercial growers, and are increasingly available to home gardeners through
catalogs and garden centers. They are also
almost always used in combination with drip
or micro-irrigation for efficient delivery of water to the roots of plants. Black plastic mulch
is the most common type, typically coming in
3- or 4-foot widths that commercial growers
lay over raised beds using specialized mulch
laying equipment.
Installation. In the home garden, mulch
can be laid by hand. For soil warming, it is
important for the plastic mulch to be in direct
contact with the soil so that heat can be transferred from the plastic to the soil. Warm soil
under mulches can lead to earlier and extended crop production. Plastic mulch comes in a
number of other colors, including clear (which
can warm soil much faster, but also grows
weeds), red (which tomatoes particularly like),
infrared transmitting (which acts like clear
mulch but won’t allow weeds to grow), white
(white on one side and black on the other to
prevent weed growth; white mulch keeps soil
cool and is often used for mid-summer plantings); and reflective, aluminized (which also
cools the soil and is repellent to whiteflies and
Disposal. One problem with plastic mulch
is clean up and waste disposal. Biodegradable
mulches made out of modified starch or other
bio-based polymers are also available and will
probably become increasingly available in the
future. These biodegradable mulches can be
tilled in or left to decompose naturally after
use. Natural biodegradable mulches, including paper, straw, hay and wood chips, are also
well-known and excellent mulches. They help
to keep the soil cool in the heat of summer,
conserve moisture and control weeds. Organic
mulches slow soil warm-up in the early spring,
so for early plantings, they should be pulled
back to allow the soil to warm up.
A further option for soil covering is the use
of weed barrier fabric, which can be reused
Other Forms of Protection
Row covers. Floating row cover is fabric,
which as the name implies, can be placed directly over crops to protect them. It is usually
made of spun-bonded polyester or polypropylene material, and comes in various thicknesses (for example, 0.55 or 1.5 oz per square
yard), rated to provide varying degrees of frost
protection to crops. It comes in widths ranging
from 5 to 50 feet and a range of lengths, and
can be secured at the edges with weights such
as sandbags, or with metal sod staples.
Floating row cover can be useful in the garden, not only for short-term frost protection,
but also to provide longer-term protection for
overwintering crops such as spinach or strawberry, or for providing protection from insect
attack and a warm and protected environment
to many crops in the garden.
While it is called floating row cover, it can
be abrasive to some crops such as tomato, pepper and zucchini, particularly in windy situations. Gardeners often fashion low tunnels (see
below) using bent wire or plastic hoops placed
over beds to keep the floating row cover from
touching the crop.
Floating row covers can be particularly
valuable for exclusion of serious insect pests
such as cucumber beetles on cucurbits and
flea beetles on eggplant or certain cole crops.
It can be left to cover crops such as zucchini
until they begin to flower, but then needs to
removed to allow for pollination. Floating
row cover is often used to provide additional
protection to crops grown in high tunnels
during the winter. Hoops or other supportive
structures are used to avoid damaging leaves
that can freeze to the floating row cover when
temperatures drop.
Structures. Cold frames and hot beds
are typically low wooden boxes or frames with
glass (often old storm windows), polycarbonate or polyethylene film covers, which are set
in the soil or over beds in the garden. Cold
frames may be used for winter production of
cold tolerant greens such as spinach, for late
fall and early spring production of a range
of cool season crops, and to harden off transplants before taking them to the open field for
planting. Cold frames are often constructed
Season Extension
Fabric low tunnels can
provide a warm environment while eliminating
Hot beds are basically heated cold frames,
which, because they stay warm, provide a
favorable environment for rapid production of
crops, including transplants. Traditionally, decomposing manure was used to heat beds. This
is still possible, though care should be taken
to avoid contact between crops and manure,
which may contain human pathogens. Other
methods of heating the soil include using
electrical heating cable or running warm water
through pipes in the soil. Hot beds are not
used much any more because of their relative
complexity, cost, hazard potential, and availability of more convenient alternatives such as
greenhouses or lighted indoor environments.
Hot caps, cloches, and other devices are
used to protect individual plants in the garden.
Like cold frames, these enclosed structures
can heat up rapidly and cook plants in hot
weather, so they need to be vented or removed
during bright days. They are typically used for
protecting transplants early in the season.
Paper hot caps are commercially available.
Plastic hot caps can be made by cutting the
bottoms off of milk containers, and placing the
hot cap over the plant, with the base pressed
into the soil. Glass bell jars called cloches were
used in the past. They are rarely used today
because they are expensive and cumbersome
to handle.
Clear plastic, double-walled protectors that
provide protection from frost and a warm,
protected environment for very early tomatoes
are available through retail stores and garden
suppliers. The space between the walls is filled
with water, which provides great frost protection because it releases heat before freezing. In
fact, commercial growers often use irrigation
as emergency protection against unexpected
freezes, particularly for fruit production.
with a sloping top, and set facing the south so
as to capture the most winter sun. Tops may
also be peaked or arched with hoops that support a polyethylene film covering. Polyethylene film is the same thing as plastic sheeting,
but for applications such as cold frames and
high tunnels, special greenhouse film is used,
which is typically 6 mils thick and treated with
a UV blocking material so that it will last at
least 4 years. Untreated polyethylene film will
break down in less than a year and probably
should not be used.
If the weather is at all mild and the sun is
out, cold frames can heat up rapidly, and need
to be vented. In the case of a cold frame with
a hoop-type top, it is possible to replace the
polyethylene film with floating row cover material when the season warms up, eliminating
the need for manual venting, and providing a
protected environment that may be used into
the summer.
Low Tunnels
Low tunnels (left) are hoop-supported
row covers, too low to walk in. Tunnels high
enough to walk in are called high tunnels (see
next section). Low tunnels may be covered
with polyethylene film or floating row cover
and may vary in width to span a single row or
one or more beds in the garden.
Hoops to form the tunnel structure may
be made of bent wire (usually 9 or 10 gauge
galvanized wire), PVC (½-inch schedule 40 or
flexible black pipe), galvanized electrical conduit (bent to form an arch), or other inexpensive materials. The length of hoops depends
on the width of the bed, and typically varies
between 5 and 10 feet. The distance between
hoops can vary depending on the load tunnels
Season Extension
A low tunnel of
polyethylene plastic held
on by ropes between
hoops extends a fall
garden into winter.
Floating row covers can
also protect crops.
may be expected to bear. Hoops are pressed
firmly into the soil, which anchors them. If
used to support floating row cover, and in a
location protected from the wind, hoops may
be spaced up to 10 feet apart. If polyethylene
film is placed over hoops to protect crops from
ice and snow in the winter, hoops should be
spaced 3 feet apart.
Vegetable farmers use special thin polyethylene row cover with slits or holes for ventilation to cover early season or winter crops
in some areas. The plastic, which is slitted to
allow ventilation and prevent overheating on
warm, sunny days, may not be practical in the
average home garden in Kansas. Edges of the
plastic are typically buried using specialized
equipment so the cover will not blow away,
and crops can easily overheat if temperatures
rise too high.
Another option is floating row cover of
varying weights that can be used during much
of the year and can be complemented by polyethylene film during the winter. Lighter row
cover can be used during the spring and summer, and heavier row cover can be used in the
late and early winter for freeze protection.
For covering in the winter, greenhouse polyethylene is preferred because it can be saved,
and reused from year to year, but standard
6 mil polyethylene may be easier to obtain.
Because it is not treated to resist ultraviolet
radiation, it may only be expected to last one
The edges of row cover over low tunnels
can be held in place using earth staples or
similar anchors, or with sand bags, bricks,
boards or other weights. Polyethylene presents
a greater challenge to keep in place, since it
acts as a sail. A good approach is to secure the
ends, bunching the plastic together and tying it
off to a stake or t-post. Rope tie downs running
from stakes on either side of the low tunnel
can then be used to hold the plastic in place
between hoops. The edges of the polyethylene
may be further secured with sand bags or other weights. On hot days, if venting is required,
the edges of the plastic may be pushed up and
held in place by the ropes. This same principle
is used to keep the polyethylene on some types
of homemade high tunnels.
High Tunnels
High tunnels, also called hoop houses, are
essentially unheated polyethylene-covered
greenhouses. They are passively heated and
ventilated, and range from homemade field
tunnels large enough to walk in (which distinguishes them from low tunnels), to more permanent structures, often sold by greenhouse
manufacturers as high tunnels or cold frames.
Standard sizes of commercial high tunnels
are typically too large for the home garden,
but greenhouse manufacturers are increasingly targeting the home garden market as the
benefits of high tunnels are recognized and
demand for them increases. Rather expensive
mini-greenhouses are commercially available
to home gardeners, but do not exactly fit the
description of high tunnels because crops in
high tunnels are usually grown in the soil.
Plans for homemade high tunnels are available
from various university extension services,
including Kansas State University
Season Extension
Crops, including vegetables, fruit, flowers
and herbs benefit in a number of ways from
the protective environment provided by high
tunnels and other structures. They often grow
quicker, larger and produce higher quality
harvests than field grown crops. During the
spring fall and winter, crops benefit from daily
warming of the air and soil, leading to earlier
and extended harvests.
High tunnels protect crops from severe
weather, including wind, rain, hail and snow.
Because rain does not leach fertilizer from the
soil in high tunnels, crops can make more efficient use of fertilizer. Also, sunlight reaching
plants in high tunnels is diffused and lower in
ultraviolet radiation, probably contributing to
lush crop growth.
Pests and diseases. With adequate
ventilation, and the exclusion of rain, fungal
diseases on crops, such as foliar fungal diseases of tomatoes, tend to be reduced compared
to the open field. The dry high tunnel environment can be favorable for a number of pests
such as aphids, mites and whiteflies, but these
may be controlled by natural enemies that may
already be present, or may be purchased and
Crop spacing and other cultural practices
in high tunnels are similar to those used in
the open field. Gardeners should avoid the
temptation to plant crops such as tomatoes too
densely because crops will grow more vigorously than in the open field, which can result
in an impenetrable disease-prone mass of
Ventilation. Ventilation in high tunnels
is typically achieved by raising the sides to
allow fresh air to enter. In structures with end
walls, it is beneficial to be able to ventilate at
the gable peak to let the hot air out. This can be
done by installing a vent or by completely removing the end wall covering during the summer. There are numerous ways side venting
can be done, including rolling up the plastic on
a length of metal or pvc pipe, dropping down
sides using a system developed for chicken
houses, and simply tying up the sides at each
hoop. For field tunnels, where the poly is held
on by ropes over top of the plastic between
bows, the poly can simply be propped open to
vent the tunnel.
Watering. Because high tunnels exclude
rain, crops grown in them have to be watered.
A simple garden hose and sprinkler wand is
one option, as is sprinkler irrigation, which
works well for some crops. Drip or other micro
irrigation is the most efficient way to irrigate
crops and also provides moisture to the roots
of crops without moistening foliage, which can
contribute to disease development. Because
high tunnels exclude rain, it is also possible for
salts from fertilizer, animal manure or irrigation water to build up in soil. Gardeners can
monitor possible salt build up in high tunnels
by soil testing. If a salinity problem develops,
salts can be leached through heavy irrigation
or by removing the polyethylene cover for sufficient time to allow rainfall to leach out salts.
Provide Shade
Shade cloth is an underutilized tool for
keeping things cool in the Kansas garden in
the middle of summer. Shade cloth comes in a
range of colors and percentages of shading. It
can be used as a low tunnel covering or a high
tunnel covering. It is commonly used over
the polyethylene cover on high tunnels, thus
providing cooling shade while maintaining the
rain shelter benefit of the film covering.
By limiting the amount of sunlight entering the tunnel and striking the soil, shade
cloth helps to keep both the air and soil under
it cool. Fifty percent shade cloth placed over
a determinate tomato crop in a high tunnel
when temperatures start to rise in May, stimulates the tomato crop to produce continuously
throughout the summer and into the fall.
Harvesting and Storing
Harvesting and Storing
Vegetables from home gardens have the benefits of being
harvested just before use. Providing conditions to slow
deterioration in quality after harvest is important.
Storage Conditions
products are stored. Produce must be handled
carefully to avoid surface damage, skinning,
or bruising. All these types of injury provide
entry points for bacteria or fungi that may rot
the produce and reduce storage intervals.
Cold, moist. Many vegetables keep best
if storage temperatures are low and the humidity level is high. Respiration is kept as low
as possible, and crispness is maintained by
preventing water loss. Early spring vegetables
and leafy green vegetables are in this category.
Cool, moist. Some crops suffer internal
damage if the storage temperatures are too
low. They are best kept in a cool storage location—between 40-50°F—with high humidity.
Many fruits such as cucumbers, melons, peppers, ripe tomatoes, and related crops are in
this category. A storage temperature in the thirties may shorten the life, resulting in discoloration of the product and disagreeable flavors.
Cool, dry. Onions require a cool storage
location with low humidity. Onions store best
in open mesh bags so that excess humidity
does not build up near the product.
Warm. Crops such as sweet potatoes,
winter squash, and pumpkins store best at cool
basement temperatures around 55°F. These
crops are subject to internal injury when storage temperatures drop too low. The damage,
called “chilling injury,” is as serious as many
other types of physical damage.
Check Storage Areas Regularly
Frequently check on vegetables in storage
and discard any that are starting to rot or discolor by gently removing them from the basket
or box. Areas that are used for storage, including boxes or baskets used to hold produce,
should be disinfected prior to use. Placing the
containers or storage racks in bright sunlight
for several days is effective. Wiping them with
a dilute bleach/water solution using about 1
part laundry bleach to 10 parts water can disinfect as well. Allow containers or racks to dry
thoroughly before using. Individual harvesting
and storage suggestions are provided in the
text for individual crops.
Storing Vegetables
When storing vegetables for later use, follow recommendations in the Vegetable Storage
Conditions table on the next page. Vegetables
in the cold-moist and cool-moist groups may
be stored in an old-fashioned outdoor pit or an
underground cellar. Vegetables in the cold-dry
and warm groups may be stored in a cool area
in a heated basement. Avoid dripping water
from pipes. Do not allow vegetables to freeze.
Select the Best
Nothing improves in storage, and defective produce should be discarded or used
immediately so only the best quality, soundest
Harvesting and Storing
Recommended Vegetable Storage Conditions
2 weeks
Beet (tops removed)
1–3 months
3 weeks
Brussels sprouts
1 month
2–3 months
Carrot (tops removed)
4–6 months
2–3 weeks
2–3 weeks
1–3 months
2 weeks
Onion, green or scallion
2–3 weeks
2–6 months
2–3 weeks
Sweet corn
4–8 days
Turnip, greens
2–3 weeks
Turnip, roots
4–5 months
Bean, snap or lima
1 week
10–14 days
1 week
2–3 weeks
4–6 months
Squash, summer
7–10 days
Sweet potato (after curing
80–90°F for 10 days)
4–6 months
Tomato (firm, colored)
4–7 days
Tomato (mature, green)
1–4 weeks
2–3 weeks
Onion, dry
2–8 months
6–8 months
2 months
Squash, winter
2–4 months
Cold–moist group
Cool–moist group
Cold–dry group
Warm group
Vegetable Crops
Vegetable Crops
Vegetables represent plants that are unique in their origin,
plant type, cultural requirements, and associated concerns.
This section of the guide provides additional details on the
culture or growing requirements of a selected group of
common vegetables.
Care. Asparagus produces a large, vigorous root system and is fairly resistant to stress
conditions. Well-drained soil and a full sun location are necessary. Soak the area well in very
dry weather. Spear production in the spring
depends on vigorous growth the previous season. Spears begin to emerge in early April and
may be damaged by a few spring freezes. Cut
and destroy frozen spears, and the plant will
rapidly send up new spears to replace them.
Do not harvest the first year. In subsequent
years, harvest until the spear size decreases
to thinner than a pencil, usually 6–7 weeks in
a mature planting. Fertilize in
the early spring so that fertilizer can be carried into the root
zone with spring rain. Weeds
are a particular concern in this
perennial plant. Control weeds
with mulching, hoeing, or spot
chemical treatment because
weeds can invade over time. In
the fall, you can remove dead
ferns after they are completely
brown or leave them in place
through the winter to catch
moisture and prevent soil loss.
Asparagus is a hardy perennial that will
last for 30 years or more in the garden. Plant
asparagus near the side or edge of the garden
where it will not interfere with annual tillage.
Asparagus is one of the first crops harvested in
the spring.
Varieties. California 157 (UC157),
Jersey Giant, Jersey Knight, Jersey King, Jersey
Supreme, Atlas, and Purple Passion (purple
When to plant. Asparagus can be
planted in early spring (mid-March to
mid-April) or in the fall (early
October to mid-November).
Purchase fresh plump crowns
from a local garden center or
plant seedling transplants.
Spacing. Plant crowns or
transplants so buds of the crown
are 7–8 inches below ground
level. Cover with a few inches
of soil initially, and add soil as
the season progresses. After
the trench is filled and the soil
settles, crown buds should be
about 6 inches below soil level.
Vegetable Crops
Harvesting. Snap spears at the breaking point ½–¾ inch above the soil level, or cut
slightly below the soil level with a sharp knife.
When spears are more than 10–13 inches long,
they become tough and woody. Heat will cause
the tips of the spears to open and become
loose—called “feathered tips”—later in the
season unless harvested frequently. Asparagus
deteriorates rapidly after harvest; store in a
cold, moist location and use quickly.
plant every 3–5 inches is desirable, so drop
seed about every 2–4 inches. Plant pole beans
6–12 inches apart.
Care. Do not soak bean seed before planting. Moisten the soil to provide moisture for
germination, but do not water to form a tight
crust. Beans have a shallow root system and
require careful cultivation, good weed control,
and water in dry periods. Beans are sensitive to soil salts; avoid alkali spots or “salty”
Harvesting. Harvest snap beans when
the pod is crisp and before the seeds enlarge
significantly. Do not harvest in early morning
when dew is on the plants as this may spread
bacterial blight. Most newer varieties of beans
are developed to set a large number of pods
at one time for a more concentrated harvest.
Harvest lima beans and horticultural beans
when the pods are fully formed and seeds
have enlarged to the degree you desire.
Common concerns
• asparagus beetles
Beans are a tender, warmseason crop that is popular in
Kansas gardens as either a
spring crop or a fall crop.
Snap or green beans are
grown for their tender
immature pods. Some beans
can be allowed to fill, and the
bean seeds can be harvested for
later use. Some beans are “pole” types that
require a large trellis to climb.
Varieties. Contender, Provider, Tendercrop, Strike, Blue Lake, and Dusky are common green bush type beans. Cherokee Wax,
Majestic, and Goldcrop are yellow bush type
beans. Kentucky Wonder and Pole Blue Lake
are large vined, pole beans. Broad, flat ‘Italian
or Romano’ beans include Roma, Greencrop,
or Bush Romano.
Lima beans are difficult to grow
in Kansas because they require a
longer period to develop and
tend to drop blossoms in hot,
dry weather. Choose an early
variety such as Baby Bush, Fordhook, Henderson, Thorogreen, or
a similar early maturing variety.
Other types of beans grown primarily for their seeds include French
horticultural types, cranberry, pinto,
great northern, red kidney and
similar varieties.
When to plant. Beans are
sensitive to cold temperatures. Soil
temperatures should be 55–60°F
with danger of freezes well past
before planting. Fall beans can be
planted in early August. You can have
a continuous supply by planting at intervals
several weeks apart. However, beans planted
to bloom in hot, dry weather frequently will
be of poor quality.
Spacing. Plant seeds about an inch
deep in rows that are 18 inches apart. A
Common concerns
• bacterial blight
• bean leaf beetle (black/yellow spotted
• poor stands from salt injury or soil
Beet/Swiss Chard
Beets are a popular vegetable and can be
grown as a spring or fall crop in Kansas. Tops
can be used as a cooked green rich in
vitamin A, and roots are a good source
of vitamin C. Roots may be canned or
pickled and are served diced, sliced,
whole, and in strips. Beet juice is the
basic ingredient of borscht. Swiss
chard is a close relative of the beet
and produces foliage rather than an
enlarged root. Nutritional value and
uses are similar to those for beets.
Varieties. Red round
varieties include Detroit Dark
red, Early Wonder, Ruby
Queen, Little Ball, Red Ace,
Asgrow Wonder, and Warrior. Elongated varieties
include Cylindra and Long
Red Blood.Varieties of Swiss
Chard include Burgandy, Ruby,
Fordhook, Lucullus, Perpetual
and Bright Lights (multicolored).
When to plant. Beets and chard
are fairly frost hardy and can be planted
in early to mid-April in many areas of
Kansas. Irrigate carefully to avoid soil crusting, which prevents good germination. Plant
fall beets or chard in early August.
Vegetable Crops
Spacing. The beet “seed” is actually a
cluster of seeds in a dried fruit (one variety—
Monogem—has a single seed per cluster).
Plant the seeds about an inch apart and about
½ inch deep. Hand thinning is usually necessary to provide a uniform stand of beets properly spaced 2–3 inches apart. Poorly thinned
stands will have an abundance of tops with
few or small roots.
Care. Beets and chard compete poorly
with weeds, so frequent shallow cultivations
are necessary. Beet plants require a fertile wellwatered location. Hand thin the plants when
they are 1­–2 inches tall to avoid damage to
surrounding plants.
Harvest. Select beets of the diameter you
prefer. Roots larger than 2–2½ inches in diameter are often tough and woody. Beets for baby
beets or whole canning should be harvested
smaller. Trim the tops of beets or chard to
½–1 inch above the roots and store in plastic bags in a refrigerator before use. Mulch
fall-planted beets to prolong the fresh harvest
season, but use them before they freeze.
Cut the outer leaves of chard when they are
young and tender or about 8–10 inches long.
The inner leaves will continue to grow for additional harvests until hot weather (for spring
crop) or a severe freeze (for fall crop) stops the
plant growth.
Sprinkle additional fertilizer—side dress—along the
row every 2–3 weeks as the
crop develops. Provide adequate water
as the head starts to develop.
Harvesting. Harvest the head before the
flowers start to open or before yellow centers
of the flowers start to show. Usually 4–5 inches
of the stem is also tender and can be used with
the head. Continue to cut small side heads
until hot weather causes them to be strongly
Common concerns
• cabbage worms
• aphids
Common concerns
Brussels Sprouts
• Cercospora leaf spot
Brussels sprouts gets its name from Brussels, Belgium. The plant is a close relative of
cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower, but is slower growing. Best success in Kansas is to grow
the “sprouts”—small heads that grow along
the stem and resemble small cabbage heads—
in the fall season by planting in early July.
Varieties. Jade Cross, Oliver, and Prince
Marvel as well as other early maturing
When to plant. Spring-planted crops
should be set in late March. Fall crops, more
reliable in Kansas, should be started in early
Spacing. Set plants about 2 feet apart in
rows at least 3 feet apart. Plant seeds closer
and thin to a strong, vigorous plant every
2 feet for a fall crop.
Care. Like cabbage, Brussels sprouts
require regular watering and fertilizing. Some
gardeners remove the leaves from the side of
the plant after the sprouts start to develop, but
this is not necessary. Topping or cutting the
terminal bud from the plant when the plant is
2–2½ feet tall will speed the development of
Broccoli has increased in popularity considerably in recent years. This vegetable, sometimes known as Italian sprouting broccoli, is
a cluster of undeveloped flower buds. Two
crops—spring and fall—can be grown in Kansas. Small secondary heads can be harvested
for several weeks following the cutting of the
large central head.
Varieties. Green Comet, Premium Crop,
Emperor, Green Valiant, and Packman are
popular green-headed varieties.
When to plant. Set plants in the garden
in late March to early April, before the danger
of frost has passsed. Early planting is essential
so that plant heads can develop before the
onset of hot weather. Plant fall broccoli plants
in early August or direct seed in early July.
Care. Select broccoli plants that are small
and stocky. Avoid tall, spindly plants. Weak,
tall plants often “bolt” or produce a premature
head, which will never enlarge. Broccoli
requires a lot of fertilizer to produce a large
plant and a large head. Fertilize at planting.
Vegetable Crops
Harvesting. Snap or cut the sprouts from
the stem when they are an inch in diameter.
More sprouts will develop on the stem above.
The plant is quite freeze hardy and can be
left in the garden until late November or early
December many years for continued harvest.
Sprouts developing in hot weather will often
be loose and of poor quality.
are a hardy,
cool-season crop that
grows in the spring or fall
in Kansas. Carrots harvested in
cooler weather will be tender and sweet.
Carrots are an excellent source of vitamin A.
The roots grow best in loose or sandy soils.
Long slender varieties are not well adapted
to growing in our heavier, tighter soils.
Varieties. Short fat varieties include Red
Cored Chantenay, Royal Chantenay. Moderate length varieties include Danvers, Scarlet
Nantes, Nantes. Miniature or very small carrots (baby carrots) include Little Finger, and
Gold Nugget.
When to plant. Plant carrots in mid- to
late April before the last freeze, because carrots
can tolerate a light freeze. Make sure the soil is
well tilled or loosened to an 8- to 9- inch depth
before planting. Fall carrots are excellent for
growing in Kansas. Plant seeds in late July to
early August.
Spacing. Plant seeds ¼–½ inch deep—
deeper for fall planting—in moist soil. Rows
may be as close as 12 inches apart with plants
every 1–2 inches in the row. Carefully sprinkle
seeds so that excessive plants do not emerge.
Thin carrots to the desired spacing when the
plants are small.
Care. Until carrots germinate, avoid heavy
watering that could form a crust on the soil
surface. Germination may be slow and uneven in early spring. Young carrot plants are
weak and spindly. Weeds compete with young
plants, so careful weeding is necessary. Water
is required as roots are enlarging. Carrots that
develop in hard, compacted soils will be misshapen or forked.
Harvesting. Dig or pull the roots when
they are the desired diameter. Most carrot
varieties require 55­–60 days from seeding to
mature. Fall-planted carrots can be mulched
with straw and harvested as needed until the
ground freezes solid in mid- December. After
harvesting, cut the tops to within ½ inch of the
root top and store in plastic bags in a refrigerator until ready to use. Carrots can be stored for
long periods.
Common concerns
• cabbage worms
Cabbage is a hardy, easy-to-grow
vegetable that can be grown in
the spring or fall in Kansas. Most
varieties are green, but some
produce a red head. It can be
stored for long periods or made
into sauerkraut. Cabbage is
intolerant of our summer heat.
Varieties. These include Conquest, Headstart,
Cheers, Green Boy Golden Acre,
Dynasty(series), and similar early varieties. Green headed varieties with crinkled
or savoyed leaves include Savoy King and
Vanguard. Red headed varieties include Red
Head, Red Acre, Regal Red, and Red Dynasty.
When to plant. Set cabbage plants in
late March to early April or in early August for
a fall planting. Direct-seeded cabbage can be
planted in early July. Cabbage is easily transplanted by choosing stocky, dark green plants
with strong root systems.
Spacing. Cabbage plants should be spaced
12–18 inches apart in at least 3- to 4-foot rows.
Closer spacing will result in smaller, but more
numerous heads.
Care. Fertilize cabbage with a starter fertilizer when setting out plants, and side dress
every 2–3 weeks during the growing season.
Cultivate carefully to avoid damaging shallow roots. Irrigation is critical when heads are
small and enlarging.
Harvest. Cabbage is ready for harvest
when the head is fully formed and dense. This
can be judged by pressing or squeezing the
head to indicate firmness. Waiting too long
may result in heads that split, especially after
rainfall or irrigation.
Common concerns
Common concerns
• carrot weevil
• black rot
• blackleg (choose resistant varieties)
• cabbage yellows (choose resistant
• cabbage worms
• aphids
This cool-season vegetable is a close relative
of cabbage. However, cauliflower takes longer
to develop and is not as cold hardy as cabbage
Vegetable Crops
and broccoli. Therefore, cauliflower often is
considered more difficult to grow. It is also
fairly intolerant of summer heat and drought.
Varieties. Choose early maturing varieties such as Snow Crown, Early Snowball, or
Snowball Y. Later maturing varieties, including
the self-blanch types, usually take too long for
our shortened spring and fall seasons.
When to plant. Set transplants in early
to mid-April for a spring crop or in early
August for a fall crop. Cauliflower is difficult
to direct seed most years in Kansas.
Spacing. Space plants 1½–2 feet apart in
rows at least 3 feet apart. The plant is larger
than cabbage or broccoli and needs more space.
Care. Use starter fertilizer when setting
plants and provide additional fertilizer every
2–3 weeks during the growing season. Provide
water during dry periods. When the heads
are about the size of a quarter, blanch them by
pulling a few leaves over the head to shade
them from the hot sun. Secure the leaves with
a rubber band, clothespin, or string. Check the
development of the head by peeking through
the leaves.
Harvesting. Cut heads when they are
fully formed but before they are overmature,
as indicated by a rough spiny appearance of
the curds. This condition—called riciness—
indicates that the head will be strong flavored
and tough. In cool conditions, a slight purplish
color may prevail in the heads and is normal.
Some varieties also may produce a few leaves
that will protrude through the head. Store cauliflower in a cold, moist location for 2–3 weeks.
types include China Pride, Blues, and WR60.
Nonheading types include Pak Choi varieties
and are harvested for their white leaf stalks
with bright-green leaves.
When to plant. Chinese cabbage is
difficult to plant in the spring because of a
tendency for transplanted crops to bolt or go to
seed. Select small, stocky plants and set them
in early to mid-April, or direct seed by planting in the garden at the same time. Fall is an
excellent season for growing Chinese cabbage
in Kansas. Direct seed in early to mid-July, or
transplant in early August.
Spacing. Space plants 10–12 inches apart
in rows 2–3 feet apart. If you are direct seeding, plant seeds about ½ inch deep.
Care. Like its cabbage family relatives,
Chinese cabbage needs a starter fertilizer at
transplanting and regular fertilizing every
2–3 weeks during the growing season. Critical
periods when water is necessary are during
head formation and enlargement.
Harvesting. Heads of Chinese cabbage
will be looser than cabbage. Feel through the
dense leaves for the head, and cut it when the
head has a distinct shape. The tender inner
leaves may be used as a salad green. Once seed
stalks start to appear, all head development
ceases; if bolting occurs, harvest and salvage
what you can of the crop.
Common concerns
• cabbage worms
• aphids
Common concerns
Cucumbers are warmseason crops that traditionally have required
a lot of garden space.
With a trellis and
newer compact varieties, cucumbers may
be grown in small
spaces and even in
Varieties. Slicing cucumbers are long
and slender, with a darkgreen skin. Improved new
hybrid varieties include
Dasher, Sprint, Raider,
Burpee Hy, and Marketmore. Sweet Slice is a long,
mild-flavored variety as
is Sweet Success. Pickling
varieties are short and blocky
in shape, with a firm flesh that
• cabbage worms
• aphids
This relative of
cabbage is sometimes known as
celery cabbage, Wong
Bok, or Bok Choi. It is
an old oriental crop that
is popular in oriental and
stir-fry cooking.
Varieties. The heading types of Chinese cabbage
form heads that may be blocky
to elongated in shape, depending on the variety. Elongated
types include Rocket and Michili.
Medium-shaped heads include Jade
Pagoda, while blocky short-headed
Vegetable Crops
Common concerns
• cucumber beetles (transmit bacterial
• powdery mildew
Eggplant is a unique vegetable that is a
close relative of pepper and tomato. It requires
warm weather to grow well. Eggplant primarily is used in several international dishes, and
the crop is not as popular in gardens as many
other vegetables. Many newer small-fruited or
elongated varieties are now available.
Varieties. Large, dark-purple, oval varieties include Black Beauty, Black Magic, Burpee
Hybrid, and White Beauty. Elongated types
include Dusky (very early but small), Ichiban,
Long Tom, Slim Jim, and Long Purple.
When to plant. Eggplant is usually
transplanted about the time peppers are set
into the garden—1–2 weeks later than tomatoes or in early to mid-May in most of Kansas.
Eggplant is sensitive to cold temperatures and
will not grow well in cool conditions.
Spacing. Eggplant is usually set 2 feet
apart in rows at least 3 feet apart.
Care. Eggplant will thrive in hot dry
conditions better than many of its relatives.
However, a good soaking in hot weather is
beneficial to keep it productive. A strong plant
is necessary to support fruit and to protect it
from sunburning. Insects are especially damaging to eggplant foliage. Many leaf-feeding
insects will nearly defoliate the plants in a
short time; regular inspection and insect control measures are usually necessary.
Harvesting. Select firm, fully sized fruit
that have a slightly soft touch with a bright
and glossy skin. Because the stem that attaches
the fruit to the plant is tough and woody, use
a pruning shears to cut the fruit loose. Pick off
and discard overgrown fruit to keep plants
makes a crisp pickle. Spartan Dawn, Liberty,
Pioneer and SMR-8 are suggested varieties.
Burpless—soft mild-flavored types—include
Burpless Hy as well as Sweet Slice mentioned
before. Dwarf types include Patio Pik, Patio
Pickle, and Spacemaster. Another novelty
variety, Lemon, produces round, yellow fruit
resembling a lemon.
When to plant. Cucumbers require
warm conditions with no danger of frost for
best results. Soil temperatures should be
approaching 60°F, which occurs in early May
in most of Kansas. Using black plastic mulch
to warm soil is a way of producing cucumbers
Spacing. Cucumbers are usually spaced 2
feet apart in rows 5–6 feet apart. However, new
dwarf types may be grown in 3-foot rows with
plants 2 feet apart. Cucumbers may be transplanted by starting seeds in large containers
and moving them carefully to the garden area.
Care. Cucumbers are fairly shallow rooted
and require caution at initial cultivation. One
application of fertilizer along the row when
the vines are 6–12 inches long will improve
production into the bearing season. Cucumbers can be grown on a fence or cage, but you
may have to help the vines get started up the
trellis. Avoid areas where strong winds may
damage vines, because cucumbers on a trellis are much more subject to injury than are
tomatoes. Like other members of the vine crop
family—muskmelon, watermelon, pumpkin,
squash and gourds—cucumbers have separate
male and female flowers on the same plant.
Male flowers predominate and usually appear
before female flowers start to develop. Many
newer cucumber varieties are of the gynecious
type or have a larger number of female flowers
for higher yields. Bees are required to transfer
pollen from male to female flowers for the fruit
to develop.
Harvesting. Select firm, dark-colored
cucumbers developed before the seeds have
a hard seed coat and while the skin is tender.
Small cucumbers may be harvested for pickles
at any stage. Removing large, overgrown fruits
will keep vines productive longer.
Common concerns
• flea beetles and other leaf-feeding
Vegetable Crops
When to plant. Kale is cold tolerant
and can be planted in early to mid-March for a
spring crop or in early August for a fall crop.
Spacing. Plant seeds ¼–½ inch deep and
thin seedlings to a plant every 8–12 inches in
the row. Rows can be up to 15 inches apart.
Harvesting. Pick older, lower leaves
when they are full sized and tender. Cold
weather improves the flavor. Kale can be left in
the garden and used until a severe freeze damages the crop, usually in early December.
Endive is a hardy, leafy vegetable similar to
lettuce in growth habit and use. Endive has a
crinkled leaf, while escarole has a broad, flat
leaf. The flavor is stronger than lettuce, but
both make an excellent addition to a mixed
green salad.
Varieties. Endive varieties include Green
Curled and Salad King. Escarole varieties
include Broad Leaved Batavian, Florida Deep
Heart, and Full Heart Batavian.
When to plant. These leafy green
vegetables do not like hot weather and must
be planted early in the spring for best results.
Starting seedlings indoors and setting out
transplants in early April
is advisable. Direct seeding in mid-July or setting
out transplants in early
August is suitable for
growing fall crops.
Care. These
leafy crops are hardy and can withstand freezes in
the fall. Like most
leafy greens, they
require consistent
watering and are
fairly shallow
rooted. They also
require fairly rich or
well-fertilized soil.
Harvest. Cut the
entire plant at ground
level and discard the
dark- green outer leaves.
The most desirable part of the plant is the
bleached light green/yellow leaves near the
center. Store leaves in plastic bags in a refrigerator for several weeks.
Common concerns
• aphids
Kohlrabi is a close relative of cabbage and
broccoli. It produces a large, swollen stem
resembling a turnip, with leaves protruding
like spokes.
Varieties. Grand Duke (green),
Early White Vienna (white) and Purple
Vienna (purple).
When to plant. Sow seeds
in mid-March or late July for a fall
crop. The crop will thrive only in
cooler periods of the year.
Spacing. Plant seeds 2–3
inches apart and thin to a plant
every 4–6 inches for best results.
Rows can be 12–15 inches apart.
Harvesting. The flavor
is best when the kohlrabi is
small—less than 2 inches in
diameter. Larger ones often
become tough. You can cook the
leaves like spinach, and peel and
use the swollen stem as you would
a turnip eaten fresh or cooked.
Common concerns
• aphids
• cabbage worms
Common concerns
• aphids
Lettuce and Other Leafy Greens
Lettuce is a cool-weather crop that is fairly
cold tolerant. However, the thin, fragile nature
of the leaves makes them susceptible to freezes
and drought. Lettuce is best grown as a spring
or fall crop. There are four distinct types of
• Leaf types—Leaves are loosely arranged
and colors may range from green to pale
red to deep red. Leaf lettuce matures rapidly and is the most reliable type of lettuce
to grow in Kansas, especially from seed.
•Romaine or cos—This lettuce forms a
loose or soft head with thick stronger flavored leaves. It is an excellent addition to
This relative of the cabbage family is used
for its crinkled leaves. It can be cooked or used
as garnish as a substitute for parsley. It is an
excellent source of vitamins A and C. Kale is
one of the most cold-hardy vegetables and can
withstand very low temperatures while maintaining its characteristic dark green to purplish
Varieties. Common varieties include
Dwarf Blue Curled Scotch, Vates, and Dwarf
Siberian. Many oriental varieties are available to produce ornamental foliage known as
flowering kale.
Vegetable Crops
a mixed salad and takes longer to develop
than leaf lettuce.
• Butterhead—Tender, rounded leaves that
form into a loose or soft head are characteristic of this succulent and delicious
lettuce. It takes longer to grow than leaf
lettuce and can be started and planted as
transplants as well as direct seeded.
• Head or crisphead—Head lettuce takes
nearly twice as long as leaf lettuce to
develop. It is most reliably grown using
transplants, and the fall season is the best
time to grow head lettuce in Kansas.
• Other leafy greens—A wide range of other
leafy greens can be grown in addition
to lettuce. Mixtures of lettuce and other
greens are often sold as mesclun. General
culture of most leafy greens is similar to
lettuce. Some require long periods of cool
weather, making them difficult to grow in
many years in Kansas, but many are quick
growing and will produce well both as
baby salad greens or as larger greens for
cooking. Greens crops include cress, red
russian kale, mizuna, pak choi (chinese
mustard), tatsoi, arugula, komatsuna,
orach, and sorrel.
When to plant. Sow lettuce seed in midMarch or set plants in early April. Sow seeds
for a fall crop in mid- to late August for leaf or
Bibb types, or in late July to early August for
head or romaine types. Lettuce grown
in hot weather will have a strong,
bitter flavor. You may improve the flavor by storing
lettuce in a plastic bag in a
refrigerator for several
Spacing. Sow
seeds thinly ¼ inch
deep, and water
consistently until the
lettuce emerges. Thin to a
plant every 6–8 inches, or set
transplants at this spacing. Rows
may be as close as 15 inches apart.
Care. Lettuce is shallow rooted, and the
root system is fairly spindly. Therefore, it will
require careful cultivation so as not to damage
roots. Regular watering and fertilizing are necessary. Overwatering in heavy soils can cause
root or head rots.
Harvesting. Cut the heads of heading
types slightly above ground level and remove
damaged, dirty, or excess leaves. Select fullsized leaves of leaf lettuce individually so that
the plant will continue to produce. Store lettuce in a plastic bag in a refrigerator
immediately after harvest because it will
become limp quickly.
Common concerns
• aphids
• tipburn (brown, dead edges of the
Muskmelons, also known as cantaloupe,
are a tender, warm-weather vegetable that
requires culture similar to that of cucumbers.
As the name implies, a strong yet slightly
musky odor is characteristic of melons in this
group. Muskmelons produce a sprawling vine
that takes up a lot of room in a small backyard
garden. Most traditional muskmelon varieties
produce a pale-yellow melon covered with a
netted surface and have orange-colored flesh.
Some newer muskmelon varieties have a lightgreen flesh. Other melons such as honeydew,
crenshaw, and casaba—often called winter
melons—have cultural practices nearly identical to that of muskmelons.
Varieties. Large sutured or ribbed varieties include Burpee, Supermarket, Pulsar, and
Saticoy. Small, solid non-sutured types include
Rocky Ford types such as PMR 45 or Four
Fifty. Green fleshed muskmelon include Eden
Gem, and Galileo. Honeydew types include
Earlidew and Moonshine.
When to plant. Muskmelons are injured
by light freezes; all danger of frost should be
past before setting plants. Consistent soil temperatures of 58-60°F are necessary to encourage good germination. Early May is a standard
planting date over most of Kansas.
Spacing. Muskmelon vines spread 6–8 feet
wide, so row spacings of 6 feet are necessary
with individual plants spaced every 18 inches
to 2 feet in the row.
Care. Muskmelons usually do not require
heavily fertilized soil. Normal maintenance
fertilizers should produce an adequate crop.
Mulching with black plastic warms soil,
improves early season growth, and makes
weed control easier. Use a starter fertilizer if
setting transplants. Dry weather as the melons
approach maturity is important to maintain
good vine vigor and sweet flavorful fruit. Like
cucumbers, muskmelons produce separate
male and female flowers and require bees to
pollinate them. Male flowers are more abundant and are present 1–2 weeks before female
flowers begin to develop. Muskmelons and
cucumbers will not cross pollinate.
Harvesting. Melons are ready for harvest when the stem slips easily and cleanly
Vegetable Crops
away from the end of the
melon, leaving a clean
dish-shaped scar.
Melons should
be slightly
soft and have
a pleasant aroma.
casaba, and
melons do
not slip from
the vine but do
develop a slight
softening at the
flower end opposite
the stem. Muskmelon fruit will not ripen off
the vine. They can be stored for only 3–4 days
when fully ripe.
Leaves harvested in hot weather will be strong
flavored and tough. Store leaves in a plastic
bag in a refrigerator for 2–3 weeks.
Common concerns
• aphids
Okra is a tall-growing, warm-weather vegetable that is easy to grow in Kansas gardens.
Okra is sometimes called gumbo, and the edible part of the plant is the young tender pods
that develop following flowering. The plant
will continue to bloom and produce pods up
the stalk as the season progresses.
Varieties. Clemson Spineless and Dwarf
Green are standard varieties. Emerald produces a smooth, non-ribbed pod. Annie Oakley
is a new hybrid variety that branches more
profusely. Burgundy is a red-podded variety.
Cajun Delight is an early maturing variety.
When to plant. Okra requires warm
weather, and early to mid-May is a desired
planting time. Soil temperatures should be
60°F, and all danger of frost should be past.
Okra may be transplanted or direct seeded.
Spacing. Plant seeds an inch deep and
thin to one plant every 10–12 inches in the row,
with rows no closer than 3 feet apart.
Okra will grow well in a wide variety of
soil types and requires only minimal levels of
fertilizer. It does fairly well in hot, dry seasons
with periodic thorough watering. Later in the
season after the plant is tall, you can cut it off
about 12 inches from the ground. Use pruners
or a saw because okra stalks are very tough.
The plant will send up a new stem for pod production into the late summer or fall season.
Harvesting. Cut the pods from the plant
when they are no longer than your finger to
ensure that they will be tender, not woody.
Harvesting every other day might be necessary. Okra pods can be stored in a plastic bag
in a refrigerator for a week or so. Pods can easily be frozen for later use.
Common concerns
• cucumber beetles (transmit bacterial
• aphids
• spider mites
Mustard greens are a cool-season crop. They
mature quickly and are easy to grow. Although
cooking greens is popular in the South, many
people recognize their high nutritional value,
and they are becoming more popular for use in
light cooking and stir frying.
Varieties. Green Wave, Tendergreen, and
Southern Giant Curled are common varieties.
When to plant. Mustard is normally
direct seeded in early April or can be direct
seeded in early August for a fall crop. Fall is a
preferred season for growing greens because of
the long, cool, harvest season.
Spacing. Seeds should be planted ½ inch
deep and plants thinned to a plant every 2–4
inches. Rows may be as close as 15 inches
apart, or you can plant mustard in a wide row
by scattering seeds in a band 5–6 inches wide.
Care. Mustard requires water during dry
periods to keep the tender foliage from becoming limp. Mustard that produces a large
plant too early may bolt or produce a seedstalk
with bright yellow flowers instead of producing only foliage. Once seedstalk development
starts, leaves should be quickly harvested and
Harvest. Cut the leaves when they are
young and tender. You can cut the entire
plant or individual leaves to allow the plant
to continue to grow and produce more leaves.
Common concerns
• few reported
Vegetable Crops
Onions and Onion Relatives
shaded location for 2–4 weeks until the tops
and necks are completely dry. After the tops
are dry, cut them, trim the roots, and store in
a cool dry location. Onions need cool storage,
but they should not be stored in a tight plastic bag. An open mesh bag is best for storage.
Mild-flavored onions keep for only a month or
so. Stronger flavored or more pungent onions
keep 3–4 months.
Onions are used primarily as a flavoring agent, although they are rich in vitamins
and minerals and low in calories. Onions are
grown from sets, plants, or seed. Sets are small
onion bulbs that are planted in the spring to
produce green onions—scallions—or bulbs
later in the season. Most onion sets for sale in
garden centers are usually poorly identified
by variety. Plants or transplants are sold in
bundles or growing in pots or trays and usually are identified by variety. Choose healthy,
fresh plants with good green color. Onions can
be grown from seed, but seed produces onions
latest in the season, and the small, weak onion
plant is difficult to weed or cultivate early in
the season.
Varieties. Onions can be yellow, white, or
red. Yellow varieties include Yellow Globe and
Early Globe (pungent flavor but good keepers), or improved mild-flavored types such
as Fiesta, Texas 1015 Y, Grano, and Granex.
Mildest flavored onions are the Bermuda
types—Yellow or White Bermuda—while the
largest bulbs are produced by Spanish types—
Yellow or White Spanish. Benny’s Red and Red
Burgundy are popular red varieties.
When to plant. Onions grow well in
cool or warm weather. They should be planted
early so that as much growth as possible
occurs before hot, dry weather. Plant sets in
mid-March or plants or seed in early April.
Spacing. Onions may be grown in rows
as close as 15 inches, with individual plants
spaced 2–4 inches in the row, depending on the
size of the bulb. Plant sets 1–1½ inches deep,
and plant transplants about the same depth.
Care. Onions have a shallow, inefficient
root system and need regular watering and fertilizing for best results. Onions compete poorly
with weeds and other crops. Weed control is
essential to reduce competition. Watering may
be reduced near the harvest period, but
regular timely watering until the tops
begin to fall over is needed. Large,
vigorous plants are essential for
large bulbs with high yields.
Harvesting. Onions are
ready for harvest when the
tops begin to weaken and
naturally fall
over. This is a
signal that the
bulbs are as big
as they will get.
Pull or dig the
onions and store
in a warm, dry,
Common concerns
• thrips
• bulb and neck rots
• smut
Onion relatives. Shallots are smaller
than onions and are grown by planting a division or clove. They can be dug in
midsummer for storage or used
as green onions in the spring.
• Garlic is a strong-flavored onion relative that
is also grown by planting
a division or clove in late
summer. After overwintering, the bulbs are ready
for harvest in early July when the
tops begin to turn yellow.
• Multiplier onions are also divided at the
base. They are normally used for green
onions in the spring because bulb development is poor and the flavor is strong.
• Chives are grown for the green foliage
in the spring, summer, and fall. They are
usually grown in clumps.
• Leeks require a long cool season for
best results. They are usually planted in
early spring and dug in late September to
Parsley is an easy-to-grow vegetable that
is commonly used as a garnish. However, the
nutritional value of parsley is excellent, and it
can be used as a salad green in several types of
recipes or added to soups, stews, and sauces.
It can easily be grown in containers indoors for
fresh use during the winter.
Varieties. Curled leaf types include Banquet, Deep Green, Forest Green, Moss Curled,
Minicurl, Perfection, and Triple Curled. Italian
parsley is not curled; it has a flat leaf. Some
varieties can be grown for a large, fleshy root
which has a strong parsley flavor.
When to plant. Parsley is a cool-weather crop that can be planted in mid-April, about
the same time as beets or carrots, or in early
August for a fall crop.
Vegetable Crops
Spacing. Parsley seed is small and needs a
fine seedbed because it must be planted ¼ inch
deep or less. Use fresh seed each year. Plants
should be 1–2 inches apart as the plant is fairly
small; rows may be 6–12 inches apart. You can
also grow parsley in a bed or mass planting
in a small area, especially in an herb garden
outside the back door where plants are handy
for use.
Care. Parsley grows quickly and is best
during cool periods. The plant is shallowrooted and requires regular fertilization and
watering for best results.
Harvesting. Clip or break off individual
leaves when they are full sized. Wash leaves
and store them in a plastic bag in a refrigerator
for up to 2 weeks. Parsley can be dried for later
use or leaves can be frozen easily. Freeze leaflets on a cookie sheet so they can be separated
for later use.
seeds need to be shelled. Several newer varieties produce thick, fleshy pods, and the pods as
well as seeds can be eaten. In addition, some
thin-podded oriental types produce tender
pods with only the pods used. Southern peas
or cowpeas are an entirely different crop and
are grown in much the same way as beans.
Varieties. Standard varieties include
Little Marvel, Green Arrow, Maestro, Knight,
Sparkle, and Burpeeana. Edible-podded types
include Sugar Ann, Sugar Bon, and Sugar
Snap. Oriental thin-podded types, often called
snow peas, include Dwarf Grey Sugar and
Mammoth Sugar.
When to plant. Plant seed in early to
mid-March when soil is dry enough to work.
Peas will germinate when soil conditions are
favorable. Peas are not well adapted for fall
gardens because seed usually fails to germinate well in warm soil.
Spacing. Plant seed 2–4 inches apart with
rows 12 inches apart. Peas usually do best
where 2–3 rows can be planted 4­­–6 inches
apart to allow the weak, spindly vines to support each other.
Care. Peas prefer cool soil and need water
during stress periods. They grow best in moderate- to well-fertilized soil. A trellis may be
needed to support the flimsy vines; short wire
mesh or string trellis works well.
Harvesting. When the
pods are swollen so that seeds
within are full sized but tender, pick and shell the peas
from the pods. Edible-podded
types should be picked and
used immediately after
harvest as they tend to dry
out readily. Harvest oriental
types when the pods are crisp
and tender but
before the seeds
begin to enlarge
significantly. Store
peas in a refrigerator
in a plastic bag for up
to a week. Peas are easily
frozen for later use.
Common concerns
• aphids
Parsnip is a hardy, cool-season crop that is
grown for its white, carrotlike root. Roots are
most flavorful when dug late in the season, as
sugars accumulate in the root.
Varieties. Hollow Crown, Model, and All
American are common varieties.
When to plant. Sow seed in early to
mid-April as beets or carrots are planted.
Using fresh seed is important.
Spacing. Plant seeds ½ inch deep with 2–4
inches between plants. Rows may be 15 inches
apart. Seed may be slow to germinate, so be
patient for the crop to emerge. Avoid heavy
watering that would create a crust and interfere with good germination, or sprinkle some
peat moss or sand over the row to prevent
Care. Parsnips need care similar to that
for beets or carrots. Prevent weed competition, and water during stressful periods. Allow
the crop to stand until late fall to early winter
before digging.
Harvest. Dig the roots in late November
to early December before the ground starts to
Common concerns
• root rots
• mildew
Common concerns
• few reported
Peppers are a close relative of the tomato;
but, peppers are more cold sensitive than
tomatoes and usually require more fertilization. Peppers are generally classified as sweet
Peas are one of the most cold tolerant plants
grown in Kansas gardens. They can be planted
about as early as soil can be prepared in the
spring. Most varieties produce pods and the
Vegetable Crops
or hot, with the most common sweet peppers
being large, blocky bell or mango varieties.
Hot peppers vary in shape and size as well as
degree of hotness. Peppers can be eaten either
when the fruit is full sized but immature or
when it changes to its mature color. A variety
of colors from green to red, yellow, orange,
purple, white, and brown (dull purple) are
Varieties. Green to red blocky bell types
include Ace, Bell Boy, Jupiter, Lady Bell, Keystone Resistant Giant, and improved California
Wonder varieties. Green to yellow varieties
include Honeybell, Marengo, and Golden
Bell. Gypsy and Canary are light yellow when
immature but red when mature. Valencia and
Oriole turn bright orange when mature. Purple
Bell and Purple Beauty turn purple at maturity.
Other sweet peppers include Sweet Cherry, Pimento, Sweet Banana, and Italian frying types.
Hot peppers include Jalapeño; Anaheim, used
for chiles relleños; El Paso, and Coronado. Tam
Jal is a milder flavored jalapeño. Small, hot
types include Serrano, Red Chili, and Super
Chili. Small orange Habanero types are among
the hottest peppers. Ornamental peppers vary
in flavor and hotness and can be enjoyed as
ornamental plants.
When to plant. Peppers are usually
set as transplants in the garden and should
be planted 1–2 weeks after setting tomatoes.
Peppers exposed to cold temperatures early in
the season will often drop their fruit, resulting
in a large, unproductive plant. Mid-May is a
safe time to plant peppers in most of central
Spacing. Set plants 18 inches to 2 feet
apart in rows 15 inches apart. Hot peppers
usually produce a larger, more sprawling plant and require more space.
Care. Peppers thrive in
well-drained fertile soil.
Water is required in
dry periods. Even,
consistent watering is preferred
as peppers can
develop blossom end rot, a
brown leathery
patch at the
base of the fruit.
Peppers require a
slightly more fertile
spot than tomatoes,
but gardeners should
avoid over-fertilization. Harvest
fruit when they are the desirable
size, to keep the plants producing more. Poorly
shaded fruit may be subject to sunburning in
hot summer conditions.
Harvesting. Carefully pick or cut peppers from the plants. Avoid pulling on the fruit
as you can easily break the plant. Peppers that
have begun to turn color usually will continue
after harvest. Hot peppers produce an oil that
will penetrate the skin and cause discomfort if
you get it in your eyes or other sensitive areas
of the body. Use rubber gloves to harvest very
hot peppers. Sweet peppers can be chopped
and frozen for later use; hot peppers can be
frozen or dried. Store peppers for up to a week
in a refrigerator.
Common concerns
• aphids
• tobacco mosaic virus (distorted, misshapen leaves; transmitted by aphids)
Potatoes, often called Irish potatoes, are one
of the most important world food crops and
a staple for many large gardens. Potatoes are
tubers, or swollen underground stems that
form as a storage location for starch. Tubers
form best at temperatures of 60–70°F; therefore, early spring planting or fall planting is
preferable in Kansas. Potatoes are grown from
cut pieces of tubers grown in northern areas
the previous season, usually referred to as seed
Varieties. Skin color can be white, red, or
russet (brown). Common red-skinned varieties
include Red Norland, La Rouge, Viking, and
Reddale. White-skinned varieties include Superior, Norchip, Crystal, Kennebec, and Irish
Cobbler. Russet-skinned varieties include Norgold and Norkotah. Varieties differ in texture
as well. The russet varieties are particularly
good for baking as they have a mealy, crumbly
texture when baked. White or red varieties are
usually preferred for boiling or mashing. Consult your local K-State Research and Extension
office for additional variety information.
Cutting and preparing seed. Select
firm, solid seed potatoes with a blue tag on the
bag (inspected to be free of diseases). Cut the
tubers into 1½- to 2-ounce pieces. An averagesized potato is cut into four pieces, while a
large potato is cut into six. Store the cut seed in
a warm, humid location for 2–3 days to allow
the freshly cut surface to “heal.” This prevents
the seed piece from rotting when planted.
Always purchase new potato seed. Do not use
your own tubers for seed as reductions in yield
and vigor will result.
Vegetable Crops
roasted seeds. Immature flowers can be stir
fried and small pumpkins used as summer
Varieties. Pumpkins produce
large, sprawling vines that take up
a lot of space in the garden. Some
pumpkin varieties are bush or
semivining types that take less
space but still spread.
• Small. Small Sugar Pie and
Spookie are 8–10 lb size, while
Baby Pam is smaller. Jack Be
Little and Munchkin are miniature
• Medium. Spirit (compact vine),
Cinderella (compact vine), and Youngs
• Large. Connecticut Field, Howden, Jackpot (semivining), and Ghost Rider are
jack-o-lantern types. Big Autumn and
Autumn Gold colors quickly and
• Huge. Big Max, Atlantic Giant, and Big
Moon are specimen types.
When to plant. Pumpkins can be safely
planted after all danger of frost is past in early
to mid-May. However, most growers prefer to
plant in early to mid-June to ensure that pumpkins do not mature too early. June-planted
pumpkins are ready for harvest in early October.
Spacing. Pumpkin vines need 50–60
square feet per hill—1–2 plants—and standard
vining types should be planted about 4–5 feet
apart in 12-foot rows. Small or semivining
types can be planted 3–4 feet apart in 6-foot
rows. Plant seed about an inch deep.
Care. Provide shallow cultivation to keep
weeds from developing in areas where vines
will spread, because weeds will be difficult
to remove later. Water thoroughly as the fruit
start to develop. Only female flowers develop
into fruit; male flowers outnumber female
flowers and appear first. Bees transfer pollen
from male to female flowers, requiring care
in application of pesticides that
may kill bee populations.
Harvest. Pumpkins
are ready for harvest
when the skin is
tough and hard and
the stem no longer
“leaks” when cut
from the vine.
Cut the stem with
a sharp knife or
pruning shears to
leave a “handle”
attached to each
When to plant. MidMarch—St. Patrick’s Day—is a traditional time to plant spring potatoes in Kansas,
while early to mid-July is the time to plant for
a fall harvest.
Spacing. Plant seed 12 inches apart in
rows 3 feet apart. Plant the seed less than
2 inches deep in the spring, or 4–5 inches deep
for a fall planting.
Care. Potatoes develop along the main
stem of the plant, above the seed piece. To
encourage large yields and to prevent sunburning, potatoes should be hilled or ridged,
pulling loose soil along the row as the crop is
growing. This ridge or hill eventually should
be 8–12 inches tall. Potatoes like a fertile
well-drained location with loose, friable soil.
Potatoes need regular, consistent watering, especially during development when the plants
are 6–12 inches tall. Irregular watering lowers
yields and may result in rough knobs on the
tubers. Mulches can be useful in holding moisture near the plant.
Harvest. Early or new potatoes can be
harvested as the plants are growing by gently
removing some plants in the row. Begin digging potatoes when the vines are about half
dead. Remove excess vines and carefully dig
the tubers. Allow them to surface dry out of
the sun for a day or more to toughen the skin
and prevent sunburning. Then move potatoes
into a cold, dark location for storage. Ideal
storage temperature is below 40°F.
Common concerns
scab (use certified seed)
Colorado potato beetles
early blight
Pumpkin is a warm-season crop used
primarily for Halloween decoration; it also
is used for pies, breads, cookies, soup, and
Vegetable Crops
fruit. Store pumpkins in a warm, dry location for 2–3 weeks to further dry and cure
the fruit. Storage temperatures of 50–60°F
in a dry location out of direct sunlight will
maintain pumpkins’ bright color.
Common concerns
• powdery mildew
• squash bugs
Crossing Squash and Pumpkins.
September for a fall crop. Make
successive plantings so that you will have a
continuous supply over a longer period of
time. A special type of radish such as the large
winter radish or oriental radish might require
as long to mature as beets or carrots and requires the same culture.
Spacing. Radishes can be grown in narrow
15-inch rows, and in bed or wide-row plantings. Each radish needs 1–2 inches to enlarge
its root, so thin thickly planted seedlings to
this spacing. Plant seeds ¼–½ inch deep.
Care. Radishes require loose, well-drained
soil and need regular frequent watering for
a good crop. Excessive nitrogen fertilizer can
encourage lush tops with poor-sized radishes.
Control weeds while they are small, and be
careful not to damage the shallow root system
of this spring crop.
Harvesting. In loose soil, radishes can
easily be pulled, especially if the soil is moist.
For elongated radishes in heavy soil, a spading
fork may be necessary. Store excess radishes by
removing the tops and placing in plastic bags
in a refrigerator. Radishes will remain good for
a week or more.
Pumpkins, squash, and gourds are closely
related crops that are members of the Cucurbit
or vine crop family. There are four species of
the genus Cucurbita used as vegetables, and
crossing can occur within species only. Cross
pollination, however, will only influence the
crop if you save your own seed for next year’s
crop. The term “pumpkin” is used for anything that is round and orange, while the term
“squash” is used for an edible fruit of some
other shape or color. The term “gourd” is used
for various shapes and sizes of fruit used for
The four species are listed below with some
common varieties for each species. Only varieties within species will cross with each other.
• Cucurbita pepo, true pumpkins. Most
jack-o-lantern pumpkins, zucchini, yellow summer squash, scallop or patty pan
squash, acorn squash, most small, yellowflowered gourds.
• Cucurbita maxima, true squash. Large
pumpkins (Big Max, Atlantic Giant), hubbard squash, buttercup squash, delicious
squash, Turk’s Turban squash.
• Cucurbita moschata. Dickinson field (pie
pumpkins), Kentucky field, butternut
• Cucurbita mixta. Green-striped cushaw, sweetpotato squash, Japanese pie
Common concerns
• flea beetles
• root maggots
Rhubarb is a perennial crop grown for its
red stalk that has an acid flavor. Rhubarb
often is mixed with fruits. It is among the first
vegetables ready for use in spring. Because
your planting may last a number of years,
locate plants in full sun at the edge or end of
the garden area to avoid damaging them with
annual tillage.
Varieties. The most common red-stalked
variety is Canada Red; others are McDonald,
Ruby, Valentine, Cherry Red, and Strawberry
When to plant. Rhubarb is best established in early spring—March to April—by
planting a plump, healthy “crown” consisting
of a portion of the woody root system with
some buds in a shallow trench. Dig an old
plant and divide the root into 4–8 pieces for
Radishes, a cool-weather vegetable, are
among the first vegetables that can be used
from the garden. Radishes need a sunny location and can be grown in early spring and as a
fall crop. As the weather gets hot, however, the
flavor of radishes becomes strong and hot.
Varieties. Round red varieties include
Cherry Belle, Scarlet Globe, Red Prince, Red
Boy, and Comet. White radishes include Icicle
and Round White. Multicolored (white to pink
to red) varieties include Easter Egg. White and
multicolored varieties generally require longer
to mature.
When to plant. Plant radishes in
mid- to late March for a spring crop or early
Vegetable Crops
replanting, or purchase rhubarb roots from a
garden center.
Spacing. Plant rhubarb about 2 feet apart
in rows at least 3 feet apart. The crowns should
be planted in a well-drained location with a
slightly raised bed to encourage good drainage
away from the center of the plant. The roots
should be planted 1–2 inches deep.
Care. Fertilize rhubarb plantings in the
spring so that spring rainfall will carry fertilizer into the root system, encouraging early
summer growth. Rhubarb survives by producing vigorous leaves that produce food reserves
stored in the root system, especially in the
fall season. Rhubarb thrives in cool locations
and is fairly hardy in severe winters. Always
provide good drainage; never allow water to
stand over the row.
Harvesting. Rhubarb must be established
for a season before it can be harvested. Pull
leaves as soon as they are large enough to
use in the spring, and continue the harvest as
long as the leaf stalks are large and thick—up
to 7–8 weeks in the spring. After late May to
early June, it is time to stop harvesting and
allow the plant to produce summer growth
for continued bearing the following season.
In some seasons, rhubarb will produce seed
stalks. These should be cut and discarded immediately as rhubarb that produces seed also
produces less foliage, resulting in less vigorous
crop the next year. Rhubarb dries out quickly.
Trim the large leaves and place the leafstalks in
plastic bags in a refrigerator to store for a week
or more. Excess rhubarb can be frozen easily
for later use.
each plant after thinning. Rows may be as
close as 15 inches.
Care. Salsify grows slowly in the early
season, and careful, shallow cultivation to keep
it well weeded is important. Once the plant is
established, it is drought hardy and not susceptible to common garden disease or insects.
Harvesting. The flavor of salsify does not
develop until several freezes have occurred
in the fall. The long, thin roots usually require
digging to remove them. You can dig salsify
during the winter as long as the ground is
not frozen, or it can be left in the ground for
digging the next spring before plant regrowth.
Store salsify in a plastic bag in a refrigerator
after trimming off the tops.
Common concerns
• few reported
Spinach is a hardy, cool-season crop that is
increasing in popularity as a salad green. It is
easy to grow and well adapted in small garden
areas. It will grow in spring or fall seasons, but
hot days in late spring cause spinach plants to
bolt or produce a seed stalk.
Varieties. Spinach varieties vary as to the
degree of “crinkle” in the leaves—called savoy.
An old, standard, heavily savoyed variety is
Long Standing Bloomsdale. Melody, Space,
and Avon are hybrid, semi-savoyed types that
produce well. Tyee is a type with smoother
leaves. Smoother leaf types are easier to wash
and clean if you have sandy soil that may get
into the cracks and crevices of the leaves. A
plant referred to as “New Zealand spinach” is
not related to spinach and is often called “hot
weather spinach” because it grows best during
the warm days of late spring. It is not planted
until later in the season and is harvested for
the young, tender leaves that develop through
late spring to early summer.
Common concerns
• crown rot
• curculio
Salsify is commonly known as oyster plant
because the flavor of the cooked roots is similar to that of oysters. The thick, fleshy root of
the plant, resembling a thin, white carrot, is
dug in the fall or allowed to stay in the
soil for digging throughout the winter.
Varieties. Mammoth Sandwich
When to plant. Plant salsify
about the same time as you would
parsnips, beets, or carrots in the
spring. Because it normally requires all season to develop, fall
plantings are rare.
Spacing. Plant seeds ½–¾ inch
deep and allow 2–3 inches between
Vegetable Crops
When to plant. Spinach can be
planted very early as it is cold
hardy. Mid- to late March is a
common planting time. Fall
spinach can be planted in
mid-August to early September. Fall-planted spinach will
usually overwinter if lightly
mulched and vigorously re-grow
in the spring. However, it will often ‘bolt’
(produce a seedstalk) early so spring-planted
spinach should still be planted to grow longer
into the spring season.
Spacing. Plant seeds about an inch apart
in rows as close as 5–6 inches, or you can
scatter seed uniformly about an inch apart in
a wide row or bed planting. Because spinach
germinates and grows early in the season,
weed control is easier in this crop than in many
planted this way.
Care. Spinach needs a fertile, well-drained
location. Because production occurs early in
the season, watering during stressful weather
is not normally a concern. Additional nitrogen may be required to keep the spinach dark
green and growing vigorously.
Harvest. Clip spinach leaves as soon
as they are big enough to use. If you clip
individual leaves, the plant will continue to
develop and produce more leaves. If you want
to harvest mature plants, cut the plant at the
soil level. This will be necessary as hot weather
approaches. Fall-planted spinach will often
overwinter; clip individual leaves for fall harvest but allow the plants to remain. Cover the
planting with mulch in mid- to late November and uncover early in the spring. You will
usually get an additional early spring crop of
spinach; however, this overwintered crop
produces seed stalks early in the season.
Store spinach in a plastic bag in a refrigerator for about a week.
and grow on trailing vines. The general culture and care are similar for both types.
Varieties. Summer Squash—Summer
Crookneck, Prolific Straightneck, zucchini
(several hybrid varieties vary, depending on
color and shape), Eldorado (yellow zucchini),
Goldrush, Sunburst (yellow scallop).
Winter Squash—Royal Acorn, Ebony Acorn,
and Table Queen, Butternut (several hybrid
varieties), Improved Green Hubbard, Pink
Banana, Striped Cushaw, Spaghetti Squash.
When to plant. Squash are warm- season crops that are damaged by freezes. Plant
after all danger of frost has passed; early
May is a traditional planting time. A planting
of summer squash for a fall harvest can be
made in early August. Fall plantings of winter
squash should be made in mid- to late May.
Spacing. Summer squash can be planted
2 feet apart in rows at least 3 feet apart. Winter
squash need more room for their sprawling
vines, with 3–4 feet between plants in rows at
least 6 feet apart.
Care. Weeds compete with squash plants,
making shallow cultivation essential, especially early in the season. Squash benefit from
the soil-warming and weed-control properties
of black plastic mulch. Once full vine spread
is achieved, little additional care is necessary.
When plants are established, squash are fairly
tolerant of drier soil conditions. Squash, like
other relatives such as cucumber, muskmelon,
and watermelon, have separate male and
female flowers on the same plant. Bees are required to transfer pollen from flower to flower.
Male flowers usually appear first, and there are
more male than female flowers.
Harvesting. Summer squash are harvested at an immature stage—before the skin
and seeds have toughened. Usually harvesting
when they are 6–10 inches long is preferable.
Squash develop quickly, and regular harvesting is important. Winter squash are harvested
at maturity—after the rind or skin is tough.
Check the development by trying to penetrate
the skin with your fingernail. Immediately af-
Common concerns
• few reported
Two main types of
squash are grown in
Kansas gardens. Summer squash are used
in their young or
immature stage
and grow on compact, nonsprawling
vines, while winter
squash are used at
their mature stage
Vegetable Crops
ter harvesting, allow winter squash to further
dry by storing them at 70–80°F in a dry location for 2–3 weeks before moving them to storage areas such as a basement where temperatures are 50–60°F. This “curing” process allows
squash rind to toughen. Winter squash can be
stored for 4–8 months. Summer squash should
be stored in a refrigerator for only a short time
because they are prone to drying out.
Make additional plantings when the previous
planting is ½–¾ inch tall.
Spacing. Plants should be 8–12 inches
apart in rows at least 3 feet apart. Do not
crowd plantings, as weak, spindly, unproductive plants will result. Plant the kernels an inch
deep. If many seeds fail to germinate, do not
attempt to replace missing plants; replant the
entire planting.
Care. Sweet corn requires wind to transfer pollen from the tassel (male) to the ear
(female). Plant corn in small blocks or several
short rows rather than a single row to encourage better pollination. Sweet corn pollinates
poorly in 100-degree weather, and ears with
missing kernels or gaps may result. Sweet corn
may be cross pollinated by other types of corn
such as field corn that pollinates at the same
time. If there is a danger of cross pollination, a
space of 40–50 feet may be needed as cross pollination can affect flavor. Sweet corn is a member of the grass family and needs considerably
more nitrogen fertilizer than other
garden plants. A sidedressing
of additional fertilizer
sprinkled along
the row every several
weeks is
Sweet corn
needs regular
watering as well
because its sparse,
inefficient root system
does not reach to deep
soil water. Apply 1–1½
inches of water per week. Weed
control is necessary, especially in
young plantings.
Harvest. Sweet corn is ready for harvest
when the juice in the kernel appears milky as
you puncture a kernel with your finger. The
ear should be well filled to the tip. This ideal
harvest stage lasts for only a few days in hot
weather, and regular checking for maturity is
important. The silks of mature ears are generally completely dry and brown. Twist and
pull the ear from the plant by bending the ear
down sharply. Use corn immediately or store
it in a cold place immediately after harvest.
Pick corn early in the morning when it is cool
outside. Store corn for only a few days in a
refrigerator before using. Corn is easily frozen
for later use.
Common concerns
• squash bugs
• powdery mildew
Sweet Corn
Ears of sweet corn are a popular addition to
summer meals. The flavor and quality of freshly picked sweet corn is outstanding. Sweet
corn does not adapt well to small garden areas
because closely spaced plants will produce
only 1–2 ears. Space is a major consideration if
you want to grow sweet corn.
Varieties. New hybrid varieties of sweet
corn are available. The colors range from
yellow to white to bicolor, yellow and white
kernels together on the same ear. Early varieties that require 65–75 days to mature produce
smaller stalks and ears, while later varieties
requiring 75 days or longer produce larger
plants and larger ears. New varieties are
available with resistance to several common
diseases such as maize dwarf mosaic, smut,
and bacterial wilt.
Sweet corn differs from field corn by a
single genetic factor called the “sugary” or Su
gene. Several new varieties that have higher
levels of sugar controlled by additional genes
have been developed. Varieties with the
shrunken-2 or Sh-2 gene are extremely sweet
and produce a more watery, crisper kernel but
must be isolated from other corn varieties that
may pollinate at the same time. A newer class
of varieties carrying the SE or sugary extender
gene are moderately sweeter, tender, and do
not require isolation.
Common yellow varieties include Gold
Cup, Merit, Miracle, Bodacious, Incredible,
Jubilee, Sweetie, Sugar Loaf, Sweet Time, and
Kandy Korn. White varieties include Quick Silver, Sugar Snow, Snow Belle, and Silver Queen.
Bicolor varieties include Carnival, Calico Belle,
Candy Store, Ambrosia, and Honey and Cream.
When to plant. Sweet corn is a warmseason crop and should be planted in mid- to
late April. New sweeter varieties have a
smaller, more shriveled seed and will rot in
cold soil; do not plant these types until early
May. Successive plantings of corn are important to spread the harvest over a longer period.
Common concerns
• corn earworm
• smut
Vegetable Crops
Sweet potato
up. Gently place roots in baskets or boxes to
avoid injury to the tender skin. Sweet potatoes
must be “cured” in a warm, humid location
for 1–2 weeks to improve keeping quality and
flavor. Place the baskets in an 80–90°F environment with high humidity for 7–10 days.
Then lower the temperature to around 55°F for
long-term storage. Never allow temperatures
to drop below 50°F as poor keeping quality,
flavors, and dark colors will result. If sweet
potatoes are washed before storing, make sure
they are handled carefully and dried before
Sweet potatoes are a warm-season crop
that is often overlooked as an easy-to-grow,
productive garden vegetable. They are tolerant
of hot, dry weather, with few pest concerns.
Sweet potatoes do sprawl
more than Irish
potatoes and need
plenty of room. Sweet
potatoes are nutritious and easy to store in
household conditions for
future use.
Varieties. Most common varieties are dark orange,
moist, and sweet and fall into
the Puerto Rican type varieties.
Jewel, Beauregard, Georgia Jet
(red skin), Centennial, and Travis
(red skin) are common varieties. Sweet potatoes are grown from
plants, usually called “slips,” that can be
purchased in bundles from your local garden
center. You can also grow your own by placing
a sweet potato root in a container filled with
moist sand and allowing it to sprout in a warm
location for about six weeks before setting
plants in the garden.
When to plant. Sweet potatoes can be
injured by any degree of cold weather. Wait
until mid- to late May before attempting to
plant. Sweet potatoes need to be planted on a
ridge or mound of loose soil about 8–12 inches
high to provide a bearing area for the fleshy
roots to develop later in the season.
Spacing. Plant about 12 inches apart in
rows at least 3 feet apart. Vines may spread to
6–8 feet wide.
Care. Avoid planting sweet potatoes in
excessively rich soils or highly fertilized soils.
The plants grow best in moderately fertile
soil. Sweet potatoes are adapted to grow well
in drier weather, but a thorough, deep watering in early August during dry periods will
improve yields. Hoe as needed early in the season to prevent weeds from developing; later in
the season, the dense vine growth
will suppress weeds.
Harvesting. Sweet potatoes continue to
develop throughout the season and do not
deteriorate in quality if they get too large.
It usually takes until mid-September to midOctober for the fleshy roots to enlarge to a
harvest stage. Dig before freezing weather
occurs. Cut or chop the vines a few days before
digging to make digging easier. After digging,
break the roots from the vine and allow them
to air dry for a few hours before picking them
Common concerns
• few reported
Tomatoes are the most popular vegetable
grown in Kansas gardens. They are easy to
grow, productive in small garden areas, and
used in a wide variety of ways. Tomatoes
require a location that is fairly fertile, welldrained, and sunny, getting at least a half day
of sun or more. Smaller vine tomatoes can be
grown in containers.
Varieties. Most modern tomato varieties
are hybrids with disease resistance. Certain
varieties produce well in our variable climate.
Fl91, Jet Star, Mt. Spring, Mt. Fresh, Celebrity,
Scarlet Red, Red Defender, Security28, Fabulous, and Fl 47 are adapted varieties as well
as several other hybrids. Whopper and Beefmaster are large “beefsteak” types. For canning, choose the productive and firm-fruited
LaRoma, Campbells, or Heinz varieties. Small
fruited or cherry varieties include Mt. Belle,
Red Cherry, Small Fry, Sweet 100, and Cherry
Grande. Patio, Pixie, and Tiny Tim are dwarf
varieties well suited to container growing.
When to plant. Plant tomatoes after all
danger of frost is past. Early
Vegetable Crops
May is the common spring planting time. For
a later harvest, tomatoes can be planted as late
as early June.
Spacing. Most garden tomatoes should be
spaced at least 18 inches to 2 feet apart in rows
3–5 feet apart. Dwarf varieties can be spaced
Care. Tomatoes are usually grown from
transplants. Choose a strong healthy transplant that has a dark green color and balance
between the size of the plant and the container.
Set the plant slightly deeper than the container
and firm soil well around the root system.
Water with a starter solution immediately
after planting. Tomatoes respond to mulching because they require stable soil moisture.
Black plastic mulch encourages early growth,
while organic mulches are excellent for summer when applied 2–3 weeks after planting.
Weeds compete with tomatoes for nutrients,
water, and light. Use shallow cultivation near
the plants to scrape away small weeds. A
sidedressing of fertilizer when the first fruit on
the plant are about the size of a walnut usually
will improve yields and lengthen the harvest
period. Cold nights early in the growth period
or hot, dry, windy weather may cause blossom
damage or blossom drop. Irregular shaped
fruit called “catfaced” fruit may develop from
early cold periods. Avoid excessive fertilization
as it may increase catfacing and blossom drop
as well as fruit deformities.
Harvesting. Tomatoes will ripen on or
off the plant when the fruit are full sized and
starting to show a slight tinge of color. Harvest
early to reduce the chances of cracking, fruit
rots, and other damage. Early harvest encourages additional production. Store ripening fruit
at 55°F for maximum storage life or place them
in a warmer location for quicker ripening. Red
pigments do not form in temperatures of 95°F
or above; therefore, deeper red color will result
from ripening off the vine in summer heat.
At the end of the season, harvest all full-sized
fruit and store them in a cool basement for
ripening to enjoy fresh tomatoes 1–2 months
after the last freeze.
root, top, or both. Rutabagas
are a relative of turnips
that require
more time
to develop.
Rutabagas are
best grown as a
fall crop in Kansas.
Purple Top White
Globe, Tokyo,
and Just Right
(white) are
common varieties grown for
the root and top.
Seven Top and
Shogoin are varieties best grown for tops
or greens. American
Purple Top, Laurentian, and Red Chief are
rutabaga varieties.
When to plant.
Plant spring turnips in mid- to
late March to allow roots to develop
before intense summer heat. Plant fall turnips
in late July to early August. Rutabagas should
be planted in mid-July.
Spacing. Plant seed about ½ inch deep
and about 2–4 inches apart in rows at least
15 inches apart. Use a slightly deeper planting
for fall crops. You can also plant turnips in a
bed or wide row planting by scattering seed to
produce a plant every 2–4 inches in each direction. Rutabagas may need 5–6 inches between
plants. It is common to scatter seed for fall
turnips over a section of the garden.
Care. Turnips need regular watering during their early development to ensure emergence and rapid growth. Weeds compete with
small plants and must be removed early, using
care to avoid damaging young, tender, turnip
Harvesting. When roots are 2–4 inches
in diameter, pull and trim the tops. Store turnip roots in plastic bags in a refrigerator for
2–3 weeks. Harvest the tops when they are
young and tender. Overmature tops or roots
will be strong flavored, and roots may be
tough. Rutabagas will be slightly larger—
about 3–5 inches in diameter at harvest
because the plant is larger. The roots have
a yellow interior.
Common concerns
• leaf blight diseases
• mites
• aphids
• blossom end rot
• fruit worms or hornworms
Turnip and Rutabaga
Common concerns
Turnip is a cool-season vegetable that can be
grown as a spring or fall crop in Kansas. Turnips are easy to grow and can be used for the
• flea beetles
• aphids
Vegetable Crops
hill—2–3 plants together. Plant 4–5 feet apart
in rows 10–12 feet apart. Small-vined icebox
varieties can be spaced closer together, using
2–3 feet between hills in rows 5–6 feet apart.
Plant seeds about an inch deep.
Care. Watermelons need a warm, sunny,
well-drained growing area. Weeds are difficult
to control in sprawling vines, making early
season weed control essential. Scrape weeds
using shallow cultivation close to the plants.
Watermelons can be grown as a transplant
and transferred to the garden. Use a fairly
large transplant or peat pot container for best
results. Like cucumbers, muskmelon, squash,
and pumpkin, watermelons have separate
male and female flowers on the same plant.
Bees are necessary to transfer pollen from the
male to female flowers.
Harvest. Watermelons are ready for
harvest when the underside of the fruit turns
a bright buttery yellow color and when the
small, curled tendril where the fruit attaches to
the vine has turned brown and died. Thumping larger fruited varieties produces a dull,
hollow sound when ripe; however, small icebox types are difficult to thump to determine
Watermelon is a native crop of Africa that
grows well in the warm, dry days of Kansas
summers. The plant grows best in deep, sandy
soils; however, small icebox-type watermelons
can be grown on upland shallow soils. Watermelons require a lot of room and are not
well adapted to small backyard gardens.
For small garden spaces, see varieties
listed in the Container Gardening
chapter on page 42.
Varieties. Round or elongated striped varieties include
Crimson Sweet, Royal Sweet,
Royal Jubilee, Mirage, Oasis,
Allsweet and Calsweet.
Round, dark green varieties include Blackstone and
Blue Bell. Elongated light
green varieties include
Sweet Princess, Summer
Flavor, and Prince Charles.
Icebox types include Sugar
Baby, Gold Baby (yellow).
When to plant. Watermelons thrive in warm soils,
and planting after all danger of
frost is past in early to mid-May is
Spacing. Standard watermelons
require about 50 square feet per plant or
Common concerns
• cucumber beetles
• aphids
Herbs are plants that are used as flavoring agents. Herbs
used in cooking are called “culinary” herbs. Mild or savory
herbs impart a delicate flavor to foods, while stronger or
pungent herbs add zest. A number of additional herbs are
used for medicinal, aromatic, or ornamental purposes.
This section focuses on the culinary herbs. These herbs are
attractive and varied, giving them ornamental value as well.
designs. This guide provides information for
proper spacing. Locate the tallest herbs at the
back of the plot.
Herb gardening is becoming popular
throughout Kansas. Enthusiasm for natural
foods has heightened this interest. Most food
recipes can be accentuated and livened with
proper use of culinary herbs.
The leaves of most herbs are the part of the
plant that is used, although seeds or roots of
some herbs also can be used. Herbs are used in
small quantities, and usually only a few plants
are needed to provide sufficient fresh and
dried herbs for an entire season.
Care for the herb garden will be similar to
that of a vegetable or flower garden. Select a
sunny well-drained location, apply a balanced
fertilizer, but avoid excessive use of nitrogen
fertilizers. Consult the Soil Improvement section of this guide for soil preparation, fertilization, and other garden cultural practices.
Water as necessary during dry periods.
Generally, you will need about an inch of water
per week, if not supplied by natural rainfall.
A mulch will help conserve soil moisture and
reduce weed growth as well. The mints prefer
moist soil and require more frequent watering.
The ornamental value of herbs makes them
useful in flower beds, borders, rock gardens,
and corner plantings. Some herbs are annuals,
while others are perennial and come up year
after year. You can plant annual herbs in your
annual flower or vegetable garden. Perennial herbs should be located at the edge of the
garden where they won’t interfere with next
year’s soil preparation.
Many gardeners establish a small herb
garden near the back door. Generally, a 6- to
10-foot square or rectangular area is sufficient,
but you also can use circular or free-form
Getting Started
Annual and biennial herbs can be established by planting the seed directly in the garden or starting seed indoors for transplanting
to the garden. You can save seed produced by
the herb plants for next year’s crop or obtain
seed from your local garden center or seed
To save your own seed, harvest the entire
seed head after it has dried on the plant. The
seeds should be allowed to dry in a protected
location that is cool and dry. After the seeds are
thoroughly dry, thresh the seed from the seed
heads and discard the trash. Store in labeled
jars in a dark, cool, dry location.
Some herb seeds such as dill, anise, caraway, and coriander can be used for flavoring.
Perennial herbs can be propagated by cuttings or division. Divide plants every 3–4 years
in the early spring. The plants should be dug
up and cut into several sections. You can also
cut 4- to 6-inch sections of the stem and root
them by placing the cuttings in moist sand in
a shady area. In 4–8 weeks, roots should form.
Herbs such as sage, winter savory, and thyme
can be propagated by cuttings. Chives, lovage,
and tarragon can be propagated by division of
the roots or crowns. Apple mint forms runners
or stems that run along the ground and can
easily be propagated by covering a portion of
the runner and allowing it to form roots.
mint, sage, summer savory, sweet marjoram,
tarragon, and winter savory are harvested just
before the plants start to bloom.
After harvesting, hang herbs in loosely tied
bundles in a well-ventilated room. You can
also spread the branches on a screen, cheesecloth, or hardware cloth. For herbs where
leaves only are needed, the leaves can be
spread on flat trays. Keep dust off the herbs
with a cloth or similar protective cover that
allows moisture to pass through.
It is generally best to dry naturally in a cool,
dark room rather than to use artificial heat.
This can be done commercially, but you may
lose flavor and quality by attempting to use
artificial heat.
When herbs are thoroughly dry, they should
be put in airtight containers such as sealed
fruit jars and stored in a cool dark location.
Any sign of moisture accumulating in the jars
indicates the herbs are not thoroughly dry.
Flower stalks should be pulverized before
putting them in the jars, but foliage herbs can
be stored either pulverized or as whole leaves,
depending on their intended use.
Leaves of many herbs such as parsley and
chives can be harvested for fresh seasonings.
You can gradually remove some of the leaves
as you need them, but don’t remove all the
foliage at one time. These plants will produce
over a long period of time if they are well
cared for.
Chervil and parsley leaves can be cut and
dried any time. Lovage leaves should be harvested early during the first flush of growth.
On rosemary and thyme, clip the tops when
the plants are in full bloom. Usually leaves and
flowers are harvested together. Basil, fennel,
Herbs in Containers
Some herbs can be placed in pots and
grown indoors during the winter. They should
be placed in a sunny south window and given
care similar to house plants. Herbs can either
be dug up toward the end of the growing
season and placed in pots or started from seed
Annual Herbs
Serrated leaves;
small, white flowers. Low spreading plant is a slowgrowing annual.
Moderately rich soil.
Likes full sun. Space
6-8 inches in rows 12-14
inches apart.
When seeds turn
brown or use
leaves while green.
candy, cookies, beverages, meat, soups.
Leaves—salad or
Leafy, light-green
foliage; white or
lavendar flowers. Fast-growing
Start seed indoors in early
April or seed in early
spring. Space 12 inches.
Prefers protected sunny
Harvest leaves just
before flowering
begins. Cut plants
4-6 inches above
stews, omelets, salads, meats, sauces.
Coarse, rough,
hairy leaves; lightblue flowers in
drooping clusters.
Seed directly in early
spring. Space 12 inches
apart. Seeds may be slow
to germinate.
Harvest the young
leaves and dry,
or cook fresh like
Flowers and leaf tips—
pickles, soups.
Carum cervi
Carrotlike leaf,
small, creamywhite flowers.
Seed directly in spring,
locate in full sun. Space
6 inches.
Harvest leaves
when mature.
Seeds will form
midway through
second season.
cakes, soups, sauces,
Similar to parsley;
light-green, lacy
leaves. Flowers
are small, white
Sow seed in moist, partially shaded location.
Space 6 inches.
Harvest mature
leaves and dry
or use fresh for
soup, meat, poultry,
Large, coarse
plant; white flowers. Also known
as cilantro or
Mexican parsley.
Sow seeds in full sun, thin Harvest seeds
to 10 inches.
when they begin to sauces, pickles,
turn brown. Seeds liquors.
are generally used
Tall plant with
feathery, green
leaves; open,
flower heads.
Seed directly and thin to
12 inches. If seeds mature
and fall, they come up
again next year.
Harvest mature
seed before it
drops. May use
small leaves as
Sprigs of seed head—
pickles, sauces,
meats, salads,
Fine, feathery
leaves with broad,
bulblike leaf base.
Sow in early spring and
thin to 12 inches.
Harvest either
young sprigs and
leaves or seeds.
Curled or plain
dark-green leaves.
Seed in early spring.
Space 6-8 inches. May be
slow to germinate.
Harvest mature
leaves as needed.
plant; white
Start seedlings in shade.
Mature plants prefer full
sun. Space 8-10 inches.
Harvest mature
soups, dressings.
Small gray-green
A tender annual; plant afleaves with purple ter danger of frost. Space
and white flowers. 6-9 inches.
Harvest mature
soups, dressings,
Perennial Herbs
Onion-type leaves; Can be grown in containround, purple
ers or outdoors in spring.
flower head.
Divide to increase. Space
5 inches.
Clip leaves as
salads, soups,
sauces, dips.
Garlic Chives 12-16
Similar to chives.
Same as chives.
Same as chives.
Substitute for garlic
Vigorous bushtype plant; purple
Prefers rich, moist soil.
Space 8-10 inches.
Harvest young or
mature leaves.
sauces, teas, jelly.
Sprigs—teas, sauces,
summer drinks.
Mentha spicta
Pointed, crinkled
Same as peppermint.
Same as
drinks, teas, mints,
Lemon Balm
Crinkled, dullgreen leaves;
white blossoms.
Vigorous grower.
Space 12 inches. Prefers
full sun.
Harvest mature
meats, teas, summer
Grows quite tall.
May start indoors and
move to sunny location.
Space 12-15 inches.
Harvest mature
Substitute for celery
Choose English
strains. Produces
pink flowers.
Plant in rich soil. Space
8-10 inches. Start in protected location and move
to full sun.
Harvest mature
roasts, stews, salads.
Dark-green foliage; small, blue
Start cutting in early
spring. Space 24 inches.
Harvest mature
Leaves and sprigs—
meats, sauces, soups.
Dried leaves—sachets
to hang in closet
with garments.
Shrublike plant
with gray leaves;
purple flowers.
Plant in well-drained
location. Space 30 inches.
Harvest leaves
before flowering.
teas, fish, dressings,
Select French tarragon. Fine, darkgreen leaves.
Prefers well-drained soil.
Space 12 inches.
Harvest mature
leaves or sprigs.
sauces, eggs, fish,
vegetables, chicken,
salad vinegar.
Narrow, darkgreen leaves.
Start seeds indoors.
Prefers full sun and welldrained soil. Space 10-12
Harvest leaves
and flower clusters
before first flowers
Leaves—soups, salads, dressings, omelets, gravy, breads,
Vegetable Crop Information
Temperature (F)
Depth of
Planting (In.)
Avg. Spacing
Within Row
Avg. Spacing
Between Rows
Type of Planting
Plants or Seeds
Per 100' Row
Perennial (Crowns)
Seed (Transplant)
2 oz.
Perennial (Crowns)
Beans Snap
½ Ib.
½ Ib.
2 oz.
Seed or Transplant
½ oz. or 75
Brussels Sprouts
Seed or Transplant
½ oz.or 100
Seed or Transplant
½ oz. or 75
Chinese Cabbage
¼ oz.
1 oz.
Seed or Transplant
½ oz.or 75
Seed or Plants
½ oz.
½ –1
Very Tender
50 plants
Very Tender
3 Ibs.
75–100 roots
1 oz.
Seed or Transplant
¼ oz.
Lettuce (Seed)
½ oz.
Lettuce (Plants)
100–200 plants
Head Lettuce
Seed or Transplants
1½ oz. or 75
Seed or Plants
½ oz.
Very Tender
Onion (Sets)
2 qts.
1½ –2
Onion (Plants)
300 plants
1½ –2
2 oz.
½ oz.
1 Ib.
50 plants
Tuber Pieces
10 Ibs.
1 oz.
1 oz.
½ oz.
1 oz.
2 oz.
1 oz.
Very Tender
1 oz.
Very Tender
Sweet Corn
½ Ib.
Sweet Potatoes
75–100 plants
Very Tender
Swiss Chard
1 oz.
30–60 plants
Direct Seeded
¼ oz.
1 oz.
1 oz.
Very Tender
( ) = Seeding information for hotbed; allow 6–8 weeks in hotbed or greenhouse.
Vegetable Garden Calendar
Beans (Snap)
Beans (Snap)
Beans (Snap)
Beans (Snap)
Beans (Lima)
Beans (Lima–Bush)
Beans (Lima)
Beans (Lima–Pole)
Green Onions
Sweet Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes
Sweet Corn
Sweet Corn
W. Squash
Winter Squash
Brand names appearing in this publication are for product identification purposes only. No endorsement is intended,
nor is criticism implied of similar products not mentioned.
Publications from Kansas State University are available on the World Wide Web at: www.ksre.ksu.edu
Publications are reviewed or revised annually by appropriate faculty to reflect current research and practice. Date shown is that
of publication or last revision.
Contents of this publication may be freely reproduced for educational purposes. All other rights reserved. In each case, credit
Charles W. Marr, Ted Carey, Raymond Cloyd, and Megan Kennelly, Kansas Garden Guide, Kansas State University, March 2010.
Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service
S-51 (Rev.)
March 2010
K-State Research and Extension is an equal opportunity provider and employer. Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension
Work, Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, as amended. Kansas State University, County Extension Councils, Extension Districts, and
United States Department of Agriculture Cooperating, Fred A. Cholick, Director.
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