Choosing which vegetables to grow

Favorite warm- and cool-season vegetables at a glance plus growing season basics


Thomas J. Story

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Vegetables are designated "warm-season" or "cool-season," depending on the weather they need for best growth.

Warm-season vegetables, such as peppers and tomatoes, are summer crops; they require both warm soil and high temperatures to grow and produce fruit. They are killed by frost. Plant them after the last frost in spring.

Cool-season vegetables grow steadily at average temperatures 10° to 15°F/6° to 8°C below those needed by warm-season types. They can be planted in very early spring for early summer harvest or in late summer for harvest in fall and (in mild regions) winter. Many will endure short spells of frost ― but in hot weather, they become bitter tasting and often bolt to seed rather than producing edible parts. In areas with short growing seasons (fewer than 100 days) or cool, foggy summers, cool-season vegetables can be grown in summer.

A few vegetables are perennials: you plant them once, then harvest crops year after year. Give them their own garden area, so they won't be disturbed when you prepare soil for annual crops. Fertilize and mulch each spring; water as needed during the season.


Beans, Snap. Snap beans (also called string or green beans) have tender, fleshy pods. Besides the familiar green sort, you'll find types with yellow or purple pods. You can choose self-supporting (bush) or climbing (pole) varieties. Plant seeds of bush types 2 inches apart, in rows spaced 2 to 3 feet apart; thin seedlings to 4 inches apart. For pole beans, space seeds 4 to 6 inches apart and allow 3 feet between rows; support the plants on a trellis or plant them around a tepee. Thin seedlings to 6 inches apart. Begin harvest 50 to 70 days after sowing seeds.

Corn. Most kinds of corn do best in hot-summer areas, but early-maturing hybrid varieties will grow even in regions with cool summers. You must plant corn in a series of parallel rows so that wind can distribute the pollen effectively. Sow seeds directly in the garden, spacing them 4 to 6 inches apart in rows 2½ to 3 feet apart. Thin seedlings to 1 to 1½ feet apart. Harvest 60 to 100 days after sowing.


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