Chicago gardeners, how long can we grow plants before frost ends the growing season? The answer is until the first hard freeze, about two and a half months away. We can expect the first frost between Oct. 11 and Oct. 24. A hard freeze can be predicted between Oct. 24 and Nov. 3. That’s a long time to grow all kinds of stunning flowers, fruits and vegetables.
Frost appears when low temperatures reach 32°F. It appears in the form of crystals that look like fish scales, slender needles, dropped feathers or paper fans. It kills young plants but has little effect established vegetables. Plants can be covered to protect them over night.
A hard freeze occurs when low temperatures reach 28°F. It damages or kills most plants, especially young or less hardy plants. Some plants can survive with protection until the ground freezes but not many.
Location is also an important consideration in determining frost dates. The abundance of buildings in Chicago proper postpones frost and often plants near heated buildings also avoid the effects of frost. Open areas like fields, prairies and vacant lots usually experience frost first.
All this information means there are about 60 days left to plant a garden. Any flower, vegetable or fruit that matures in that time can be planted now. Check seed packets for maturity dates. Leafy lettuce, spinach, salad greens and many herbs will grow now. Root vegetables like baby carrots, radish, beets and turnip will reach maturity. Try bush, wax and snap beans. Summer squash, broccoli, eggplant, kohlrabi, peas and okra can be planted. You can even grow cherry and grape tomatoes and cucumber pickles now.
Chicago gardeners, the growing season isn’t over until the ground freezes.
Live long and well—garden.
Use this link to become an Examiner, http://exm.nr/Rv808C .