Choosing Crops for our Climate

A quick glance through a seed catalog may seem overwhelming.  In the 'Carrot' section alone, you may find eight different varieties.  While it can be fun, it can also be a daunting task choosing which vegetable varieties to grow.   

Black Beauty eggplant, a reliable producer in 70-75 days

Black Beauty eggplant, a reliable producer in 70-75 days

One of the first steps is to know our Chicago climate.  Our growing season runs from approximately early April through mid-November.  Warm weather crops can be planted mid-late May and, depending on the crop, usually stop producing by mid-October.  Why is this important?  Seed catalogs and packets list the number of days until harvest.  In our shorter Chicago season, it is often helpful to look for crops with a shorter number of days to harvest.  Brandywine tomatoes are a large, delicious variety of tomato, but are also one of the later varieties to mature (about 85 days from transplant).  Not to say they aren’t worth growing.  It is helpful to plant them with shorter season varieties such as Early Girl or a cherry tomato such as Sungold, which mature around 60-70 days.  That provides tomatoes two weeks early than if growing Brandywine alone.  And by July, who isn't ready for those first sweet fruits of summer?

If you have any questions, we can help guide you through which crops grow well in the Chicago area, which varieties are more productive than others, and the subtle differences in taste.  We offer a wide selection of crops and vegetable varieties and are happy to provide you with a crop list and discuss options with you.

This year, we are excited to try Silvery Fir Tree tomatoes (a compact tomato perfect for growing in containers) and Red Cored Chantenay carrots (reportedly very tasty and stores well).