It is estimated that about 1,500 small-acreage producers grow well over 50 crops in Wisconsin. Information on many of the crops grown in Wisconsin and common pests is included on this page.
See also: Regional Information – Pests – Pollinators – Natural Enemies
Asparagus, or garden asparagus, scientific name Asparagus officinalis, is a spring vegetable, a flowering perennial plant species in the genus Asparagus.
It was once classified in the lily family, like the related Allium species, onions and garlic, but the Liliaceae have been split and the onion-like plants are now in the family Amaryllidaceae and asparagus in the Asparagaceae. Asparagus officinalis is native to most of Europe, northern Africa and western Asia, and is widely cultivated as a vegetable crop. Wikipedia
Permanent asparagus plantings in Wisconsin are usually started with year-old crowns. Direct seeding has had limited success in Wisconsin. Plug production of seedlings is also being done on a limited basis and will likely increase in future years as male hybrid seed becomes increasingly available.
Hybrid male cultivars cost more than the open-pollinated varieties, but yields are 1.5 to 2 times that of the traditional cultivars.
Phaseolus vulgaris, the common bean (also known as the string bean, field bean, flageolet bean, French bean, garden bean, green bean, haricot bean, pop bean, or snap bean), is a herbaceous annual plant grown worldwide for its edible dry seed (known as just “beans”) or unripe fruit (green beans).
The common bean is a highly variable species that has a long history of cultivation. All wild members of the species have a climbing habit, but many cultivars are classified as “bush beans” or “pole beans”, depending on their style of growth. These include the kidney bean, the navy bean, the pinto bean, and the wax bean. The other major types of commercially grown bean are the runner bean (Phaseolus coccineus) and the broad bean (Vicia faba). Wikipedia
Plant green beans from May 10–July 15. They prefer growing season temperatures of 60–70˚F and soil temperatures above 50˚F. Temperatures above 85˚F can result in poor pollination and “split set.” Plant navy and red kidney beans June 1–June 9. Lima beans germinate best at soil temperatures of 65˚F. All bean seeds are subject to planter damage. Select planter plates to fit seed and reduce planter speed to minimize cracking of seed coat.
Grow on well-drained soils. Beans should follow corn on farms that use a corn-oats forage rotation. Don’t use atrazine on the crop preceding the beans; it may leave a soil residue that will injure the beans. Select fields without major weed problems. On sandy soil, plow under rye cover crops before they deplete soil moisture. Allow at least 2 years between bean crops because disease organisms may live in the soil or on plant residue.
The beetroot is the taproot portion of the beet plant, usually known in North America as the beet, also table beet, garden beet, red beet, or golden beet. It is one of several of the cultivated varieties of Beta vulgaris grown for their edible taproots and their leaves (called beet greens). These varieties have been classified as B. vulgaris subsp. vulgaris Conditiva Group.
Other than as a food, beets have use as a food coloring and as a medicinal plant. Many beet products are made from other Beta vulgaris varieties, particularly sugar beet. Wikipedia
Plant in well-drained soil that is high in organic matter. Use minimum tillage to maintain good soil structure. Crusting seriously reduces seedling emergence. Rotating crops will help prevent damping-off.
The carrot (Daucus carota subsp. sativus) is a root vegetable, usually orange in color, though purple, black, red, white, and yellow varieties exist. Carrots are a domesticated form of the wild carrot, Daucus carota, native to Europe and southwestern Asia. The plant probably originated in Persia and originally cultivated for its leaves and seeds. The most commonly eaten part of the plant is the taproot, although the greens are sometimes eaten as well. The domestic carrot has been selectively bred for its greatly enlarged, more palatable, less woody-textured taproot. Wikipedia
Plant mid-April to early June. Choose deep, fertile soils and provide adequate drainage. Soils should not be subject to compaction or high water tables during growing season. Excess moisture can cause forked roots, reducing quality.
Carrots are susceptible to wind damage when first emerging from the soil. You can protect young seedlings by spreading oat seed over the soil just after planting. When carrots are several inches tall, use a selective post-emergence grass herbicide to kill the oats.
Celery (Apium graveolens), a marshland plant in the family Apiaceae, has been cultivated as a vegetable since antiquity. Celery has a long hairy stalk. Depending on location and cultivar, either its stalks, leaves, or hypocotyl are eaten and used in cooking. Celery seed is also used as a spice; its extracts are used in medicines. Wikipedia
Plant treated seed in late April or transplants in mid-May. Avoid early planting that would expose young plants to temperatures below 55˚F for a week or more. This can cause ‘‘bolting’’ (seed stalk development). Choose deep, fertile soils and provide adequate drainage. Celery needs abundant available moisture during the growing season. Rotate celery with other vegetable crops but not with carrots.
Cole crops: broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower
Cruciferous vegetables are vegetables of the family Brassicaceae (also called Cruciferae) with many genera, species, and cultivars being raised for food production such as cauliflower, cabbage, garden cress, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts and similar green leaf vegetables. The family takes its alternate name (Cruciferae, New Latin for “cross-bearing”) from the shape of their flowers, whose four petals resemble a cross.
Ten of the most common cruciferous vegetables eaten by people, known colloquially in North America as cole crops and in the British Isles as “brassicas”, are in a single species (Brassica oleracea); they are not distinguished from one another taxonomically, only by horticultural category of cultivar groups. Numerous other genera and species in the family are also edible. Cruciferous vegetables are one of the dominant food crops worldwide. They are high in vitamin C and soluble fiber and contain multiple nutrients and phytochemicals. Wikipedia
Cauliflower is relatively difficult to grow compared to cabbage. Failure to head properly and poor curd quality are common problems. Curds need to be protected from sunlight to ensure good color and quality. For success, cauliflower needs a fertile, moist soil relatively high in organic matter and nitrogen. Good soil drainage and a cool, humid climate are essential. If producing cauliflower on a light-textured soil, it must be irrigated to keep moisture continuously available to the crop. Broccoli and brussels sprouts are not as exacting in their requirements as cauliflower and, therefore, can be produced over a wider range of soil and climatic conditions. Cabbage is the most easily grown of the cole crops. It is adaptable but does best under a temperate climate, ample moisture, and good fertility with a relatively high nitrogen supply.
Cucumber (Cucumis sativus) is a widely cultivated plant in the gourd family, Cucurbitaceae. It is a creeping vine that bears cucumiform fruits that are used as vegetables. There are three main varieties of cucumber: slicing, pickling, and seedless. Within these varieties, several cultivars have been created. In North America, the term “wild cucumber” refers to plants in the genera Echinocystis and Marah, but these are not closely related. The cucumber is originally from South Asia, but now grows on most continents. Many different types of cucumber are traded on the global market. Wikipedia
Cucumbers will grow on a wide variety of soils if they are well drained and have a high fertility level. To use machine harvesting, the fields must be level and
stone-free. Avoid excessive tillage, which can cause moisture loss, soil compaction, and crusting. Cucumbers are a warm season crop and require growing temperatures of 60–75°F. They will not tolerate frost, so avoid fields that have frost pockets. Temperatures above 90°F or below 60°F slow growth.
Good seed germination requires soil temperatures of 55–95°F. Because of these requirements, do not plant seed in northern Wisconsin before June 1.
Eggplant (Solanum melongena), or aubergine, is a species of nightshade grown for its edible fruit. Eggplant is the common name in North America and Australia, but British English uses aubergine. It is known in South Asia, Southeast Asia and South Africa as brinjal.
The fruit is widely used in cooking. As a member of the genus Solanum, it is related to the tomato and the potato. It was originally domesticated from the wild nightshade species, the thorn or bitter apple, S. incanum, probably with two independent domestications, one in South Asia and one in East Asia. Wikipedia
Choose well-drained, moderately fertile, sandy loam soils. Seeds germinate best at soil temperatures of 75–90°F. Set medium-sized, vigorous 6- to 8-weekold plants outside about June 1, or after danger of frost and chilling. Before transplanting, harden the plants by holding them at 60–65°F for a few days or place them in covered beds outside the greenhouse. To lessen the shock from transplanting, use a starter solution high in phosphorus.
Hops are the flowers (also called seed cones or strobiles) of the hop plant Humulus lupulus. They are used primarily as a flavoring and stability agent in beer, to which they impart bitter, zesty, or citric flavors; though they are also used for various purposes in other beverages and herbal medicine. The hop plant is a vigorous, climbing, herbaceous perennial, usually trained to grow up strings in a field called a hopfield, hop garden (nomenclature in the South of England), or hop yard (in the West Country and U.S.) when grown commercially. Many different varieties of hops are grown by farmers around the world, with different types being used for particular styles of beer. Wikipedia
Hops are grown as a vegetatively propagated perennial on elaborate trellis systems. In Wisconsin, hop trellis height commonly ranges from 16–20 feet, though the optimal height has not been
empirically established for the region. New yards can be started with rhizomes or, more commonly, small plantlets generated from softwood cuttings. Individual
plants are spaced 30–36 inches apart with approximately 12 feet between rows.
Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana, syn. Cochlearia armoracia) is a perennial plant of the Brassicaceae family (which also includes mustard, wasabi, broccoli, and cabbage). It is a root vegetable used as a spice.
The plant is probably native to southeastern Europe and western Asia. It is now popular around the world. It grows up to 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) tall, and is cultivated primarily for its large, white, tapered root.
The intact horseradish root has hardly any aroma. When cut or grated, however, enzymes from the now-broken plant cells break down sinigrin (a glucosinolate) to produce allyl isothiocyanate (mustard oil), which irritates the mucous membranes of the sinuses and eyes. Grated mash should be used immediately or preserved in vinegar for best flavor. Once exposed to air or heat it will begin to lose its pungency, darken in color, and become unpleasantly bitter tasting over time. Wikipedia
Horseradish is usually grown commercially as an annual in Wisconsin. One year-old secondary roots are selected and detached from primary roots at harvest for planting the following year. When grown as a perennial, the main roots are harvested, and secondary roots broken off during harvest will provide root material for the next year’s crop. In Wisconsin, horseradish is grown on sands, sandy loams, and organic soils. Such soils should be well drained and
stone free. Irrigation is recommended for profitable horseradish production on very sandy soils.
Leaf vegetables, also called potherbs, greens, vegetable greens, leafy greens, or salad greens, are plant leaves eaten as a vegetable, sometimes accompanied by tender petioles and shoots. Although they come from a very wide variety of plants, most share a great deal with other leaf vegetables in nutrition and cooking methods. Nearly one thousand species of plants with edible leaves are known. Leaf vegetables most often come from short-lived herbaceous plants such as lettuce and spinach. Wikipedia
Make successive plantings from April to mid-July. Irrigate after seeding in dry weather. Choose deep, fertile soils with an abundance of available moisture during the growing season. Rotate leafy greens with other vegetable crops. Break up fresh leafy greens residue and allow it to dry for several days before plowing or working the residue into the soil. Crisphead-lettuce types are difficult to grow in Wisconsin. Some varieties will not germinate in warm soils (above 40–50°F).
A melon is any of various plants of the family Cucurbitaceae with sweet edible, fleshy fruit. The word “melon” can refer to either the plant or specifically to the fruit. Botanically, a melon is a kind of berry, specifically a “pepo”. Many different cultivars have been produced, particularly of muskmelons. Wikipedia
Melons need a long growing season of relatively high temperatures (averaging 70–80°F) for optimal growth. Vine crops are susceptible to frost, and seeds will not germinate in soils colder than 60°F. Planting generally begins around May 10 in southern Wisconsin and June 1 in northern Wisconsin.
Use tillage practices that create a level, firm seedbed with adequate moisture for germination. Melons grown on sandy soil will need irrigation.
Mentha (also known as mint, from Greek míntha) is a genus of plants in the family Lamiaceae (mint family). It is estimated that 13 to 18 species exist, and the exact distinction between species is still unclear. Hybridization between some of the species occur naturally. Many other hybrids, as well as numerous cultivars, are known.
Mints are aromatic, almost exclusively perennial, rarely annual herbs. They have wide-spreading underground and overground stolons and erect, square, branched stems. The leaves are arranged in opposite pairs, from oblong to lanceolate, often downy, and with a serrated margin. Leaf colors range from dark green and gray-green to purple, blue, and sometimes pale yellow. The flowers are white to purple and produced in false whorls called verticillasters. The corolla is two-lipped with four subequal lobes, the upper lobe usually the largest. The fruit is a nutlet, containing one to four seeds. Wikipedia
Wisconsin mint is grown on high organic or muck soils with high water tables or on fine-textured soils. Since mint is a shallow-rooted crop, irrigation is desirable.
Mint is grown as a vegetatively propagated perennial. New fields are planted in the spring with stolons dug from an existing planting known to be free of pathogens and perennial weeds with a digger similar to a potato digger.
Mint is usually plowed shallow after the first killing frost to protect the crop from winterkill and to help control pests that might otherwise overwinter on the mint stubble. To maintain profitable production, short rotations of 3 years of mint should be followed by 3 years of another crop.
The onion (Allium cepa L., from Latin cepa “onion”), also known as the bulb onion or common onion, is a vegetable and is the most widely cultivated species of the genus Allium.
The onion plant has a fan of hollow, bluish-green leaves and its bulb at the base of the plant begins to swell when a certain day-length is reached. In the autumn (or in spring, in the case of overwintering onions), the foliage dies down and the outer layers of the bulb become dry and brittle. The crop is harvested and dried and the onions are ready for use or storage. The crop is prone to attack by a number of pests and diseases, particularly the onion fly, the onion eelworm, and various fungi cause rotting.
Onions are cultivated and used around the world. As a food item, they are usually served cooked, as a vegetable or part of a prepared savoury dish, but can also be eaten raw or used to make pickles or chutneys. They are pungent when chopped and contain certain chemical substances which irritate the eyes. Wikipedia
Plant seeds, transplants, or ‘‘sets’’ in April to early May. Choose deep, fertile soils and provide adequate drainage. Rotate onions with other vegetable crops. Onions work well in rotation with potatoes or carrots.
The pea is most commonly the small spherical seed or the seed-pod of the pod fruit Pisum sativum. Each pod contains several peas. Pea pods are botanically fruit, since they contain seeds and developed from the ovary of a (pea) flower. The name is also used to describe other edible seeds from the Fabaceae such as the pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan), the cowpea (Vigna unguiculata), and the seeds from several species of Lathyrus.
P. sativum is an annual plant, with a life cycle of one year. It is a cool-season crop grown in many parts of the world; planting can take place from winter to early summer depending on location. The immature peas (and in snow peas the tender pod as well) are used as a vegetable, fresh, frozen or canned; varieties of the species typically called field peas are grown to produce dry peas like the split pea shelled from the matured pod. Wikipedia
Peas grow best in cool, moist early spring weather. To avoid all peas maturing at once, planting dates and varieties are chosen on the basis of degree days.
Select fields with uniform fertility, soil type, slope, and drainage. Silt loams, sandy loams, or clay loams are best. High organic matter improves tilth and makes soil less droughty. Peas grown on sands and mucks require careful irrigation management.
Peas typically follow corn in a rotation. Other crops such as small grains and hay also work well. The usual sequence is corn, peas, small grain, hay. Rotations with potatoes do not work well unless soil pH is above 6.6. Peas are sometimes grown in a double crop system. Green beans, soybeans, or silage corn may be planted after the peas are harvested. Double cropping can increase risks from diseases and insects.
The bell pepper (also known as sweet pepper or pepper in the United Kingdom, Canada and Ireland, and capsicum in Australia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Singapore and New Zealand) is a cultivar group of the species Capsicum annuum. Cultivars of the plant produce fruits in different colors, including red, yellow, orange, green, chocolate/brown, vanilla/white, and purple. Bell peppers are sometimes grouped with less pungent pepper varieties as “sweet peppers”.
Peppers are native to Mexico, Central America, and northern South America. Pepper seeds were imported to Spain in 1493, and from there spread to other European, African, and Asian countries. Today, China is the world’s largest pepper producer, followed by Mexico and Indonesia.
Ideal growing conditions for bell peppers include warm soil, ideally 21 to 29 °C (70 to 84 °F), that is kept moist but not waterlogged. Bell peppers are sensitive to an abundance of moisture and extreme temperatures. Wikipedia
Set transplants May 20–June 1 in the southern half of Wisconsin and 7–10 days later in the northern counties after danger of frost is past. Plants stop growing below 55°F. Poor fruit set may occur below 60°F or above 75°F.
Transplants should be 6–8 weeks old, vigorous, slightly hardened (held at 60–65°F several days), stocky, dark green, and without disease or insect injury. Handle transplants carefully. Use a starter solution high in nitrogen and phosphorus as transplants are set out.
The potato is a starchy, tuberous crop from the perennial nightshade Solanum tuberosum. The word “potato” may refer either to the plant itself or to the edible tuber. In the Andes, where the species is indigenous, there are some other closely related cultivated potato species. Potatoes were introduced outside the Andes region approximately four centuries ago, and have since become an integral part of much of the world’s food supply. It is the world’s fourth-largest food crop, following maize, wheat, and rice. The green leaves and green skins of tubers exposed to the light are toxic. Wikipedia
Choose fertile, well-drained sands, sandy loams, or silt loams for best production. Prepare a deep, loose seedbed using minimum tillage.
Potatoes should be planted from early April through early May on sandy soils, and from mid-April through late May in northern Wisconsin. Potatoes can be planted from late April through early July on muck soils depending on soil moisture conditions and intended market.
Potatoes should be planted when soil temperatures are similar to the pulp temperature of the seed piece (50–55°F). Temperature differences of more than 10°F between soil and seed pieces can lead to condensation on seed piece surfaces, leading to decay. In addition, soils should be near field capacity for moisture at planting.
Cucurbita (Latin for gourd) is a genus of herbaceous vines in the gourd family, Cucurbitaceae, also known as cucurbits, native to the Andes and Mesoamerica. Five species are grown worldwide for their edible fruit, variously known as squash, pumpkin, or gourd depending on species, variety, and local parlance, and for their seeds. First cultivated in the Americas before being brought to Europe by returning explorers after their discovery of the New World, plants in the genus Cucurbita are important sources of human food and oil. Wikipedia
Most commercial growers start pumpkin and squash from seed. Delay planting until danger of frost is past and soils have warmed to at least 60°F. Planting generally begins around May 10 in southern Wisconsin and June 1 in northern Wisconsin. Pumpkin and squash are sensitive to transplanting. Plants are typically started in individual containers 3–4 weeks before transplanting in the field—May 20 in southern Wisconsin and June 1 in northern counties. Using too small a container or allowing the plants to grow too large before transplanting can impair root growth in the field.
Pumpkins and squash have male and female flowers that are pollinated by insects, typically bees. To protect pollinators, insecticide applications should not be made during the day while they are active.
Sweet corn (Zea mays convar. saccharata var. rugosa; also called sugar corn and pole corn) is a variety of maize with a high sugar content. Sweet corn is the result of a naturally occurring recessive mutation in the genes which control conversion of sugar to starch inside the endosperm of the corn kernel. Unlike field corn varieties, which are harvested when the kernels are dry and mature (dent stage), sweet corn is picked when immature (milk stage) and prepared and eaten as a vegetable, rather than a grain. Since the process of maturation involves converting sugar to starch, sweet corn stores poorly and must be eaten fresh, canned, or frozen, before the kernels become tough and starchy. Wikipedia
Since sweet corn is harvested in the immature or milk stage, it requires a shorter growing season than other types of corn. Nonetheless, it is a warm weather crop. Average temperatures of 65–70°F, with a minimum of 50°F, are required during June, July, and August. On the other hand, high temperatures above 80°F hasten maturity and often result in inferior quality. Temperature also greatly affects the length of time that sweet corn kernels remain sweet and tender. At high temperatures, they pass the best eating stage quickly.
Plant sweet corn for processing during May and June. Market gardeners may plant on light soils in mid-April. Supersweets are more sensitive to cold soils and should be planted when the soil temperature is over 60°F.
A deep firm seedbed free of clods, trash, and surface irregularities is necessary for uniform germination, good stands, and uniform maturity. You can fall plow moderately heavy soils that are unlikely to erode and leave them rough over the winter to permit earlier spring planting. You should plow light soils early in the
Continuous corn production in the same field increases the danger of corn rootworm damage. To avoid this problem, rotate crops. You can rotate sweet corn with other vegetable processing crops such as green beans, lima beans, peas, and cabbage. You can use early hybrids in multiple cropping systems following canning peas.
The tomato is the edible fruit of Solanum lycopersicum, commonly known as a tomato plant, which belongs to the nightshade family, Solanaceae. The species originated in Central and South America. The Nahuatl (Aztec language) word tomatl gave rise to the Spanish word “tomate”, from which the English word tomato originates.
Numerous varieties of tomato are widely grown in temperate climates across the world, with greenhouses allowing its production throughout the year and in cooler areas. The plants typically grow to 1–3 meters (3–10 ft) in height and have a weak stem that often sprawls over the ground and vines over other plants. It is a perennial in its native habitat, and grown as an annual in temperate climates.
Its use as a food originated in Mexico, and spread throughout the world following the Spanish colonization of the Americas. Tomato is consumed in diverse ways, including raw, as an ingredient in many dishes, sauces, salads, and drinks. While tomatoes are botanically berry-type fruits, they are considered culinary vegetables, being ingredients of savory meals. Wikipedia
Don’t grow tomatoes in the same spot 2 years in succession. Rotate them with other crops—but not pepper, eggplant, or potato. Prepare bed 7–8 inches deep. The bed should be smoothed and free of weeds. Wisconsin’s growing season is too short to allow direct planting of tomato seed. Instead, seed should be planted indoors around March 25 and transferred to a cold frame or hotbed May 1. Transplant after all danger of frost—about May 20–25 in southern Wisconsin and after June 1 in northern Wisconsin.
Much of the information on this page has been taken from the UW-EX publication Commercial Vegetable Production in Wisconsin (A3422). To access the complete document which includes information on planting, lime and fertilizer, and control of disease, insects, and weeds, click here. Additional information, including access to all insect fact sheets published by UWEX, can be found at the UW-Madison Plant Disease Diagnostics Clinic website.