I know, I know you want to grow every vegetable in the catalog. 🙂 However, let me suggest you take a deep breath and consider the five vegetables you like to eat.
Or will eat may be more to the point. I say this because many folks start gardening and decide they’re going to grow some of everything; a noble goal but only in the spring.
By August, they’re bogged down, wondering why things aren’t growing, amazed at how many weeds there are out there and staggered by the amount of work it takes to actually grow food.
Frankly, it’s no darn wonder that we have farms and we no longer do all this work ourselves. It can be hard.
I have a major reason to garden myself – the taste of fresh vegetables right out of your garden can’t be beaten by anything you can buy. And they’re good for you (but don’t admit that to your mom) 🙂
Our vegetable garden – end of June 2014
The most popular plant in the vegetable garden is the tomato. Man, we grow a lot of these; largely because they’re easy to grow and so useful in the kitchen.
The first thing to understand is that this plant loves warm soil so the first week of May, you’re going to lay some clear plastic on the garden, weight down the edges and walk away. You’re going to turn this area into a mini-greenhouse to warm up the soil.
You’re going to plant tomatoes the third or fourth week of May; but remove the plastic just before you do. If you don’t remove the plastic, the soil will get too hot and kill off the plants.
Plant your transplants so that only the top 12-15 cm (6-inches) is showing, the rest can be buried and will form roots along the buried stem.
Two points: if you have a mulched garden, pull the mulch back to lay down the plastic and then return the mulch after planting and plastic-removal and yes, can lay down compost without digging it in, simply toss it around the base of the plant. The rest of the summer is about making sure the plants have adequate water. I’ve written entire books about growing tomatoes but getting them started properly is the single most important thing you can do in our region to ensure a good yield.
Peas are one of the easiest vegetables to grow if you follow a few really simple rules.
The first is to plant them in mid-April. This is perhaps the earliest seed to go into the ground and if you do this, you’ll get great crops. If you wait until the soil warms up and plant them along with the rest of your garden, you’re going to be very disappointed in the harvest.
Do try some of the wonderful sugar snap style peas; being an edible podded pea, I dare you to not eat any as you harvest or walk to the kitchen. These tasted amazingly wonderful right from the vine.
Plant them about 1 cm deep and keep damp until the new shoots start poking through the ground. We grow ours up a trellis to save garden space and make them easier to find. Do make the supports quite sturdy because this plant will develop quite a weight and will knock down a flimsy support. The advantage of growing peas is that while they’re giving you a crop to eat, they’re also producing nitrogen in the soil for the following crop. After the peas are finished, pull them out and plant some seeds in there for fall harvests.
Spinach and Lettuce
Note you can combine the seeds of mixed greens into one bed.
Most folks like a good salad and growing several of the main ingredients will make your taste buds jump. Lettuce and spinach form the basis for many a salad and (mostly) take the same growing conditions so let’s deal with them in one section. Plant these early if you want to eat them.
I’m talking getting both of these plants into the garden about the same time as peas. You want them early.
Now, you can start them a few weeks beforehand in the house and transplant or simply plant the seeds.
I prefer seeding because you get good germination, can eat the thinnings and it’s less work. You want to plant them early because a late planting will turn lettuce very bitter
and spinach will grow and produce seeds in the heat. Try planting 1-2 metres of row every week so you’ll have multiple crops coming along.
Harvest the outer leaves and when the temperatures start to rise, and the lettuce get bitter, switch to spinach salads. Stop planting through the heat of the summer but start again in mid to late-August when the nights start to cool again. You’ll have great fall crops of both of these easily grown plants.
The most easily grown squash is zucchini. Put this plant anywhere near the ground and you’ll have more summer squash than you know what to do with. Let me suggest however that you only grow one or maybe two plants.
Anything more is overkill and you won’t be able to eat them. Trust me, your friends and neighbors don’t want them either as vegetable quickly becomes a glut on the market. The best two tips I can give you with this plant are to sow seeds (the seeds can be easily saved for several years) when the ground warms up (about the last week of May) and to harvest the squash when they are about 20-25 cm (8-inches or so) long. After the fruit reaches 30 cm or so, it starts to become woody and not good eating.
Those are the five easiest growing vegetables I can think of and those with the most use in the kitchen.
Having said that, grow what you’ll eat and enjoy – that’s the most important gardening decision.