Planning a garden in Indiana can be tricky. However, with a little flexibility and foresight, it is possible to grow a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, and to experience the best each growing season has to offer. The landscape of the state varies from sandy shores along Lake Michigan to the floodplains along the Ohio River. Flat, open farmlands in the north become rolling forests in the south. Even in a state well known for its verdant fields, growing is not always a straightforward process.
Pay attention to the weather. While almanacs, frost dates and USDA Hardiness Zones are all helpful guides, gardeners have to be aware of the fluctuations in patterns that vary from year to year and community to community. The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service recommends that soil temperature may be the best guide for starting warm weather crops. In Indiana, last frost dates can be deceptive and an early spate of warm weather may quickly revert to below normal temperatures, even a hard freeze, damaging or killing tender plants.
Know your microclimate. Your neighbor a few miles away may be able to get plants in the ground days or even weeks before of you. Factors such as elevation, sun exposure, and proximity to a large body of water all make differences of hours or days to whether you can plant successfully. Keeping a garden journal can help you track the planting results and variation in your area across time. Then you need only attend to any jealous feelings you may have when others have blooms before yours begin to show.
Soils vary greatly across the state, from problematic clay to rich, black dirt packed with organic material. A basic soil test is a good place to begin, so that you know what nutrients your soil possesses and what it lacks, whether it is acidic and what drainage problems you may face. According to the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service, soil composition affects the ground's ability to retain warmth, influencing planting times and success rates for vegetables.
Take advantage of fall and spring gardening to extend your growing season. Cool weather crops give you the chance to enjoy a more varied selection of produce and to circumvent the setbacks that come when winter shows up early or overstays its welcome. The length of the cool weather growing season is equal to or greater than that of warm weather in the state. You can expand both your window of opportunity for gardening and your dinner menu by incorporating cole crops and other cold-tolerant selections into your garden space.