Growing your own vegetables is one of the most satisfying garden activities. There’s nothing quite like eating a freshly picked tomato or making a salad with greens harvested from your own backyard. Plus you can take comfort knowing that no pesticides were used on the crops.
Earth is here so kind, that just tickle her with a hoe and she laughs with a harvest.
~ Douglas William Jerrold
What to grow?
Grow what you and your family like to eat! I enjoy growing different varieties of favorite vegetables than what you can typically buy in the grocery store. Try a heirloom strain for a change of pace. I just purchased an interesting heirloom sweet pepper seedling at a local garden club’s plant sale …
Room To Garden
You can still grow veggies and herbs if you are in a small space. Vegetable gardens can be planted in the traditional style of rows, in raised beds, interspersed with your perennials, and also in containers. A recent growing trend is vertical gardening … a great way to make the most of your available space – think up. Another popular option is renting a garden plot if your community offers them.
Seeds are a great way to get a jump on the season before it’s warm enough to plant in the ground. (See my post: Starting Vegetable Seeds Indoors for some pointers). Transplants will give you a head start on longer season vegetables such as peppers and tomatoes. I usually use a mixture of both types in my vegetable garden.
Not sure what to plant? Here are some of my favorites …
Ten Easy To Grow Vegetables:
Beans – Fresh beans served with a dollop of butter and cracked pepper … yum, one of my favorite veggie side dishes. All sorts of green beans, are ideal for home gardens. Bush beans are popular for their compact size and high yield. Pole beans grow on vines that require a trellis or other structure on which to climb. They take up more vertical space but yield more than bush beans. I’m growing a new variety this year called ‘Blue Lake Bush’. Both types grow easily from seeds. Most beans prefer full sun and well-drained soil.
Broccoli – I love steamed broccoli or florets sauteed in a stirfry. This easy to grow veggie is cold tolerant. The part we eat is actually the buds of the broccoli flower. If left unharvested, the broccoli head will open into small greenish-yellow flowers. I’ve grown the ‘Packman’ type, vigorous with blue-green heads. Good type for small gardens. One mistake I’ve made is don’t wait until your broccoli produces a large head, like you see in the grocery store. Most broccoli varieties are ready to start harvesting once it reaches the size of a large fist.
Carrots – The first vegetable I grew as a child. I still remember how excited I was to watch them grow! Carrots can do well in many different kinds of soil, but the ideal soil is loose and free from any rocks. I’ve learned through the years that carrots can easily become deformed in tightly packed or rocky soil. They tolerate light shade too, although, like most plants prefer full sun. To prevent diseases, don’t plant carrots in the same spot more than once every 3 years.
Lettuce – Walking out the back door and harvesting your homegrown greens for a salad is a true joy of gardening. Lettuce and other salad green varieties such as spinach & arugula generally grow quickly and are super easy to harvest (just snip the tops off the plants or pick leaves as needed). They take up little space so even work well in containers. You can mix them with flowers for an edible / ornamental arrangement. This year I’ve planted ‘Bambi Romaine’ and ‘Lettuce New Red Fire’. Yum!
Onions – Onions are a cold-season crop, easy to grow because of their hardiness. You can grow onions from transplants, sets, or seeds. Sets are immature bulbs grown the previous year and are usually the easiest to plant, the earliest to harvest, and the least susceptible to diseases. We especially like sweeter onions like the hybrid ‘Candy’. This family does well in full sun to part shade. Dry conditions cause bulbs to split, so water when necessary to provide at least 1 inch of water each week.
Sugar Snap Peas – Sugar snap peas are oh so tasty! Both the peas and pods are sweet and edible. I like to eat them raw with a cold dip, or cooked and tossed in with pasta or a stirfry. (Remove the string from the pods before cooking). They do best in full sun conditions plus need support (stakes or a trellis) as the vines grow quite tall … 5 – 6 feet high. Sugar snap peas enjoy cool weather, which means you can plant them in early spring in average soil.
Peppers – As we get older we seem to grow fonder of peppers! They are so versatile and such a wonderful source of vitamin C. We tend to grow more of the sweet varieties than the hot ones. Choose a site with full sun for your peppers. Make sure the soil drains well; standing water encourages root rot. Most sweet peppers become even sweeter when mature as they turn from green to bright red, yellow, or orange … and some even purple. Our pepper favorites include California Wonder, Poblano, Sweet Banana, Orange Blaze, and Big Bertha.
Radishes – I like to eat radishes raw with a slight sprinkle of salt, or sliced into a fresh salad, and mixed into homemade potato salad. Not everyone loves them (my husband takes a pass for instance) but they’re very easy to grow root vegetables. Plus they reach full size in just 20 days. The seeds are large enough to sow easily, either in a garden bed or in a container that’s at least six inches deep. They aren’t fussy and grow in sun to partial shade. Just sow more as you need them, and you can grow radishes all season long!
Squash – Squash is a high yielding plant, so you will probably only need a few plants to feed an entire family. Squash plants dislike the wind, so be sure that your plot has some protection. Harvest when the plants are about 8-10 inches long. Since squash can grow rapidly, check plants daily when they start to produce. Keeping the squash picked promotes a steady supply. We love the Gold Rush and Sure Thing varieties. Trying the new ‘Patio Tasty Yellow’ in a container this year.
Tomatoes – With a little water and full sun, tomato plants will grow and fruit all summer long! Most people (me included) prefer to buy starter plants at a local nursery, which is an easy, time-saving way to start. Over the years we’ve grown Better Boy, Early Girl, Beefsteak, Celebrity, Red Grape and Cherry Punch varieties. You can grow tomatoes in the ground, in hanging baskets, or other containers … anywhere they’ll get lots of sun and have support for their tall stalks.
If you plant basil next to your tomato plants, you’ll naturally repel pests and even improve the flavor of the tomatoes.
More Tips For Vegetable Gardening Success:
– Plant tall plants at the north end of your garden so they don’t shade the shorter plants …
– Rotate crops from year to year, trying not to plant the same crop in the same spot two years in a row …
– Mulch your vegetable garden to keep down weeds and maintain soil moisture …
– If growing veggies in containers, make sure the containers have adequate drainage holes and fill them with good soil …
– Be patient and wait to plant tomatoes and peppers until the soil is warm …