We’re in the dog days of summer here in Chicago, and even with the occasional cold front, it is warm enough to produce classic fruit/vegetables favorites in your own backyard. Don’t have a green thumb? Here are a few tips to grow tomatoes, basil and peppers that make the process a little easier.
No edible garden is complete without tomatoes. They grow best between June and October and require roughly 6 to 8 hours of sunlight per day, so make sure to plant in optimal sun. Tomatoes can be directly seeded into the soil or transplanted depending on the gardener’s preference. Most tomato varieties like to grow tall rather than bushy, so trellising, staking or caging is almost always required. These different methods provide support to the plant as they grow upward, producing more and more fruit. While red tomatoes are fan favorites, tomatoes come in every color imaginable and add color to the garden.
Basil, a warm weather crop, goes as well with tomatoes in the garden as it does on the plate. These plants grow optimally between 80- to 90-degree weather and prefer rich, well-drained soil. When harvesting basil, gardeners can pinch single leaves from various parts of the plant, allowing time for it to recover and produce new leaves. Whether it's caprese salads, or pesto, basil always finds a way to spice up any meal it makes an appearance in.
While peppers vary from sweet and crisp to spicy and tear-inducing, they all prefer long, warm growing seasons. In Illinois, the season begins early July when the temperatures are consistently hot. Much like tomatoes, peppers are large fruits that sometimes make it difficult for the plant to support without additional stakes or cages. Staking with bamboo or a wire cage when the plant gets its first fruit will help the plant produce large quantities, without “breaking its back.”
This September Gourmet Gorilla will feature local bell peppers for “Harvest of the Month.” Look out for these fruits and vegetables on our menu!
-Johnny Sudekum, Sourcing and Customer Service Specialist