Indiana has a thriving population of gardeners. Because of the near ideal climate for vegetable growing, the state also has a productive agricultural industry. A few weather concerns, however, can hinder production and damage plants, such as late frosts, heavy spring rains and dry summers. By knowing the climate, what vegetables perform well and appropriate planting dates, growing vegetables in Indiana makes both a rewarding hobby and a profitable business.
Growing a successful vegetable garden requires an awareness of the seasons and frost dates. Being in USDA hardiness zones 5 and 6, Indiana can experience frosts as late as mid-May. The growing season lasts until early October in the north and later in the month in the south. Careful planning allows the gardener to plant crops in succession for increased harvests. Cool weather crops, such as peas and spinach, can produce in the spring and fall. Some vegetables, such as bush beans, grow rapidly and when planted every two weeks, provide a continuous harvest.
A Hoosier garden without tomatoes is rare. While Indiana may have a reputation for producing corn in agriculture, the state ranks third in tomatoes grown for processing in The U.S. That does not include the many home gardens scattered throughout the state. Other vegetables also grow well in Indiana. Squash, beans, carrots, peas, greens, cucumbers and potatoes all thrive. Melons and peppers do well if they get a head start indoors.
Vegetable plants require at least 1.5 inches of water a week. Vegetables often need supplemental watering during the summer. The roots will grow deeper and the plants will resist drought better with deep application of the water once per week, rather than daily. Mulching the vegetables with a 2- to 4-inch layer of organic material prevents weeds and keeps moisture in the soil. Grass clippings and straw make economical choices.
Most vegetables require a minimum of six hours of sunlight each day. Frost pockets, or low-lying areas, increase risk of frost damage, so a vegetable garden produces better in elevated areas. Some plants pose problems for vegetables. For example, the black walnut tree releases a compound that damages several types of vegetables. Avoid planting under or near trees and shrubs to minimize the problem.
Raised beds are a popular way to grow vegetables in Indiana. With sides between 6 and 12 inches high, raised beds have warmer soil earlier in the spring. This extends the growing season and alleviates problems with Indiana's occasional late frosts, giving a more productive garden. Raised planting beds provide the ideal soil for vegetables because it consists of mixed components: compost, peat, soil and fertilizer. The beds drain well, preventing damage during rainy spells.