A Season for Everything

A Season for Everything

It's helpful to divide garden plants into categories. There are cool-weather plants and heat-loving plants. Some plants require full sun and some will produce well in light shade. Some plants produce all summer, while others reach maturity and "go by" quickly. Get to know your plants’ characteristics, so you’ll know what to expect in the garden. Below are the preferences and characteristics of some
popular garden plants.

Temperature Preferences

Cool season plantsThese plants perform best in the cool weather of spring and fall (or winter in mild regions).

  • Vegetables: broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, peas, radishes, spinach
  • Flowers: calendula, pansies, primroses, snapdragons

Heat-loving plants. These plants thrive in the heat of midsummer.

  • Vegetables: beans, corn, cucumbers, peppers, squash, tomatoes
  • Flowers: marigolds, sunflowers, zinnias

Light Requirements

Need full sun. These plants require full sun to thrive.

  • Vegetables: beans, cucumbers, peppers, squash, and tomatoes
  • Flowers: cosmos, marigolds, petunias, sunflowers, zinnias

Somewhat shade tolerant. These plants will tolerate light shade during part of the day.

  • Vegetables: beets, carrots, lettuce, radishes, spinach
  • Flowers: cleome, New Guinea impatiens, pansies, snapdragons

Tolerant of relatively dense shade.

  • Vegetables: _________(Yes, this one’s blank on purpose!)
  • Flowers: impatiens, primroses, torenia

As a rule of thumb, vegetables that we grow for their leaves, such as lettuce, or their roots, such as carrots, can withstand a little shade. Plants that we grow for their fruit usually require full sun. Examples include beans, cucumbers, peas, peppers, squash, and tomatoes. (Botanically speaking, a fruit is a structure that protects and nourishes the seeds within.)

Growing Season and Length of Harvest

Long season. These vegetables produce over a long season, or require a long growing season to reach maturity. Plan to have these in your garden for most, if not all, of the growing season.

  • Vegetables: pole beans, cucumbers, peppers, winter squash, pumpkins, and tomatoes.
  • Flowers: marigolds, zinnias, petunias.

Fast-maturing. Some plants mature and "go by" in a relatively short time. You’ll be able to plant successive sowings of these crops, or, once they’ve gone by, use that garden space for another crop.

  • Vegetables: bush beans, broccoli, lettuce, peas, and radishes.
  • Flowers: pansies, primroses, bachelor's buttons, gypsophila (baby's breath).

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Broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower all prefer cool temperatures, and are best grown as spring and fall crops in most parts of the country.

Get children excited about gardening by letting them choose a few vegetables.

Children are curious by nature, so they may choose an unusual-looking vegetable that they've never tasted.

Who knows, maybe kohlrabi or 'Roly Poly' zucchini will become a family favorite!


Gardening Basics FAQ #1

What do the terms annual, perennial, and biennial mean?


Although primroses are technically perennial, many gardeners grow these cool-season favorites as annuals for a splash of color in the spring.

If you remove spent flowers, petunias will continue to bloom all summer. We'll discuss "deadheading" flowers in Class 5.

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