Growing Vegetables in the Great Plains

Joseph R. Thomasson

The Great Plains may be the breadbasket of the nation, but it's a tough place to grow vegetables. Damaging spring winds, unpredictable hail storms, and late freezes combine with scorching summer heat, parched ground, and hordes of plant-destroying insects to ravage the crops of unwary gardeners.

But a bountiful Plains garden, brimming with luscious tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, carrots, squash, and beans, is an achievable goal, according to botanist Joseph Thomasson. Even cool season vegetables like celery, head-lettuce, peas, and broccoli can be grown successfully—if you know how.

“For vegetable gardeners, Thomasson tames the Great Plains. His clear, reasonable, step-by-step illustrated handbook, embodying his own backyard experiences, is the very first to provide reliable and practical coaching for vegetable gardeners of a very broad region, the Plains states.”

—Frank Good, horticulture writer, The Wichita Eagle

“This book is like nibbling on a home grown, crisp, tasty carrot. It is good reading for any gardener, but it’s a must for someone who is new to the Great Plains. Even those who grew up here will find much information to enrich their gardening experience. I especially appreciate ‘gardening in the wind,’ ‘life after a hail storm,’ and the practical information on how to conserve water and combat grasshoppers and other pests. Following the directions in this book, you'll find that growing vegetables in the Great Plains is not too difficult at all!”

—Gus A. van der Hoeven, specialist in landscape and environmental horticulture, Kansas State University Cooperative Extension Service

Thomasson describes exactly how in this practical new gardening guide. His advice, tested in 18 years of backyard gardening throughout the region, is tailored for gardeners in the Great Plains—from North Dakota to Texas, from the Rocky Mountain foothills to Iowa and Missouri.

First Thomasson focuses on the big picture, sizing up the particular climactic problems of the region and describing how gardeners can cope. He lists best-adapted plant varieties, including his favorites, and offers detailed advice about such gardening essentials as soil preparation, planting, water conservation, and more. He also provides a key to identifying pests and diseases and tells what to do about them.

Then he moves closer for a look at the little picture. Why is a pumpkin leaf "scratchy?" How do plants breathe? Through the highly magnified images of scanning electron microscopy, Thomasson provides a unique perspective on the microscopic wonders of the garden, from a bee's stinger to cucumber pollen.

About the Author

Joseph R. Thomasson is professor of botany at Fort Hays State University and, during 1988-1990, Distinguished Visiting Professor of Biology at the United States Air Force Academy. He has received research grants from both the National Science Foundation and the National Geographic Society and has published articles in the National Gardening Magazine, The Explorer, and Time-Life Books, as well as in numerous academic journals.