University of Illinois Extension

Planting

Dig in for the Garden Season

Garden soil can be tilled or spaded in the spring or fall. Don't work the garden when the soil is too wet. One test is to squeeze a handful of soil. It should not be sticky and should form a ball that will crumble easily.

Fertilizer may be applied before working the soil. Turn over the soil to a depth of about 6 to 8 inches. If added after working the soil, rake the fertilizer into the soil. Add about one pound of fertilizer for every 100 quare feet of garden area. Rake the soil just before planting to prevent the weeds from coming up before the vegetables.

Success Starts with Planting

The success of your garden depends on three factors. Vegetables must be planted at the right time, at the right depth and at the correct distance apart (see chart).

The planting time depends on the hardiness of the vegetables and the climate in your area. Some vegetables can withstand frost, others prefer warm weather.

When purchasing seeds, be sure to buy disease-free seeds. Some vegetables do better if transplants instead of seeds are planted in the garden. Transplants are young plants grown from seeds started indoors or bought from a store.

How to Plant

Plant in straight rows. This makes it easier to tell the weeds from the vegetables. Also cultivation and harvesting are more convenient. Drive two stakes into the ground at each end of the garden and draw a string taut between them.

Small seeds should be planted in shallow furrows (trenches). These can be made by drawing a hoe handle along the line indicated by the string. For larger seeds and deeper furrows use the corner of the hoe blade.

Seeds may be planted by the hilling or the drilling method. For the hilling method several seeds are placed in one spot at definite intervals in a row. Sweet corn, squash, melons and cucumbers can be planted in this way. Most seeds are sown by the drilling method. Seeds are spaced evenly down the row.

After planting, cover by firming the soil around the seeds. Plants should be thinned before they are over 2 inches tall. Remove the weakest plants.

Begin with the Best Plants

When buying transplants, avoid tall, spindly plants. Short, stocky transplants are preferable. If you grow your own transplants, about a week before planting, begin setting transplants outside each day for a few hours. This will get plants adjusted to the outdoors.

Vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, pepper and tomato are grown best from transplants.

Planting Transplants

Plants should be set in the garden on a cloudy day or in the evening. Water the plants about an hour before transplanting. Carefully remove plants from the pot without disturbing the roots. Keep a ball of soil around the roots. Some transplants are grown in peat pots. These pots can be planted directly into the garden.

Dig a hole large enough for the transplant to set slightly deeper than it grew in the container.

Plant roots should be covered with soil. Firm the soil around the plant.

Water directly after planting using a starter fertilizer solution. This is a fertilizer with a high phosphorous (middle number) content.

Plants may be protected from heat, wind or cold when necessary. Cups, jars, cartons or baskets can be placed over plants for protection on a short term basis. Be sure to remove the protector when the weather improves.

 

PLANTING DISTANCE (inches)
Vegetables
Planting Dates
In Rows After Thinning
Between Rows
Intensive** Between Rows
Beans, lima May 20 - June 15 3 to 4 18 to 24 6 to 12
Beans, snap May 20 - July 1 2 to 4 18 to 24 6 to 12
Beet April 20 - May 15
June 1 - July 15*
2 to 3 18 to 24 6 to 12
Broccoli, plants April 1 - May 10
June 1 - July 15*
9 to 12 30 12 to 18
Brussels sprouts, plants April 15 - May 25 18 to 24 30 18
Cabbage, plants May 1 - May 25
June 1 - July 15*
18 to 24 24 to 30 18
Carrots April 15 - May 25
June 15 - July 1*
1 to 2 18 to 24 6 to 12 or scatter on 2- by 8-inch bed and thin plants 1 to 2 inches apart
Cauliflower, plants May 1 - May 25
June 15 - July 5*
18 to 24 30 12 to 18
Corn, sweet May 1 - June 15
9 to 12 30 to 36 9 to 18
Cucumber May 20 - June 15
12 48 to 72 36 or trellis 12 inches apart
Eggplant, plant May 20 - June 10
18 to 24 24 to 30 18
Greens April 15 - May 15
Collard 6 to 12; mustard 1 to 6; turnip 2 to 6 12 to 18 6 to 12
Lettuce, leaf April 10 - May 15
July 15 - Aug. 15*
1 to 6 12 to 18 6 to 12
Muskmelon May 20 - June 15
36 to 48 48 to 60 36 or trellis 12 inches apart
Okra May 20 - June 15
12 to 15 24 to 30 9 to 12
Onions, sets or plants April 1 - April 20
1 to 4 12 to 18 6 to 12
Onions, seeded April 1 - April 20*
2 to 4 12 to 18 6 to 12
Pea, garden April 10 - April 25
July 1 - Aug. 1*
2 to 3 12 to 18 trellis or scatter and thin 1 to 2 inches apart
Pepper, plants May 20 - Jun 10
18 to 24 24 to 30 18
Radish April 15 - May 25
Aug. 1 - Sept. 1*
1 to 2 6 to 12 3 to 6 or scatter and thin within one week to 2 inches apart
Spinach April 15 - May 10
July 1 - Aug. 1*
3 to 6 12 to 18 6 to 12
Summer squash May 20 - July 1 36 to 48 36 to 48 18 to 36
Winter squash May 20 - June 15 48 to 60 60 to 72 48 to 60 or trellis small-fruited varieties
Tomato, plants May 20 - June 15 12 to 24 36 to 48 18 to 24
Watermelon May 20 - June 15 36 to 72 individual plants 72 to 96 36 to 60
Sweet potato, plants May 20 - June 15 12 to 18 36 12 to 24 on raised beds

*Planting dates for fall garden
**Intensive figures are for small garden plots.