9 Easy Vegetables To Grow In Your Home Garden
Jeannette Baum10-Minute Read
August 18, 2020
Imagine for a moment you feel like making pico de gallo to serve with your dinner this evening. You step out into your backyard and walk over to your garden. You pick some tomatoes and some onions and head back into the house to wash them up. As you’re chopping, you realize you forgot you need to get cilantro to make it authentic. It’s a defining taste in the dish. You could always send your significant other back to the grocery store for one single bunch of cilantro – you know how much they love when you send them on a last-minute grocery run. But luckily, you planted plenty of it in your garden. And nothing beats the taste of food that’s fresh out of the garden.
With recent changes in many of our situations all around the world lately, people are turning to alternative ways of going about their everyday lives. With leaving the house to go shopping at the grocery store losing its appeal, growing food at home is becoming more enticing. Let’s take a look at some easy-to-grow vegetables you can plant should you decide to start your own at-home garden.
1. Salad Greens
Leafy greens are some of the easiest and quickest vegetables to grow. Most of them bring a high yield fairly quickly. Dark leafy greens like kale, chard, collard greens and mustard greens are high in nutrients and typically tolerant to the heat all summer long. Spinach, however, becomes stressed under peak summer heat which can cause the plant to bolt or begin to flower and produce seeds. When plants bolt, their leaves tend to take on a more bitter taste as the plant redirects its nutrients to increase seed production. That’s why it’s best to plant spinach and loose-leaf lettuces in the cooler temperatures of early spring.
Most greens are shallow-rooted, so they don’t need to be planted in deep soil to produce a crop. From the time seeds are planted, you should plan to begin harvesting about 2 months after planting. It’s best to sow seeds indoors about 4-6 weeks before the last frost and to transfer the plants outdoors only after the last frost has passed.
Luckily, leafy greens and lettuces are relatively low maintenance. As long as you keep the rabbits out of the garden and water your plants often, you should have plenty of fresh greens for all of your summer salad recipes.
Root vegetables are rich in dietary fiber, antioxidants and essential nutrients they absorb from the soil. It’s best not to overcrowd root seeds and to ensure each plant has ample space in loose soil to dig their roots far into the ground. Most root vegetables are resilient and prefer to mature in cooler weather. For this reason, carrots, radishes and turnips should be planted in spring just after the last suspected frost. With plenty of direct sunlight and water, most of your root vegetables should be ready for harvesting in about a month after planting.
3. Bush Beans
There are three main types of bush beans:
- Snap beans – the pods over the beans can be eaten, green beans are an example
- Green shelling beans – beans are eaten green without the shell
- Dry beans – beans are dehydrated then rehydrated before eating
All of these bush beans are excellent sources of protein, and they’re an easy-to-grow addition to your garden.
Bush beans should be planted about 2 inches deep and 3 inches apart in an area of full sunlight. Unlike pole beans, bush beans can hold themselves up and don’t need to be secured to a pole. They prefer warm soil, so make sure you plant them well after the last frost.
Peas are another excellent source of protein, and equally as easy to grow as bush beans. Unlike bush beans, however, peas need a trellis to support them while they grow. They should be planted in early spring about 4 – 6 weeks before the estimated last frost. Farmers have traditionally gone by the rule that peas should be planted near March 17 each year, also known as St. Patrick’s Day. You can plant a second round of peas in late summer or early fall for a second harvest.
Once your peas are planted, make sure not to let them dry out. If your pea plants dry up, they won’t produce any pods.
5. Cherry Tomatoes
Tomatoes are one of the easiest vegetables to grow. You can plant them in a pot with holes and add steel wire plant cages so they’ll stay upright.
If you have multiple seeds in a pot, be sure to spread them out. Seedlings need plenty of room to grow. If you find your plants become crowded, consider cutting down the weaker stalks. This will allow more room and nutrients for the stronger plants to grow and produce more fruit. Water tomatoes regularly, and plant them where they’ll get plenty of sunlight, and you’ll have little red ripe tomatoes popping up in no time.
6. Summer Squash
Summer squash come in a variety of colors, shapes and flavors. Some common types include zucchini squash and yellow squash. Squash grows quickly and is best harvested when the fruit is small before the skin becomes thick and tough. The plants should be harvested often, as that helps with production. When you harvest your squash, be sure to cut the stem closest to the fruit so the vine will bear fruit again.
Squash plants love water and hot weather. But if it’s too hot, keep an eye out for wilting in the leaves. This means the squash needs more water.
Cucumbers are a hydrating and refreshing summer snack. They thrive in high sunlight and warmer climates, so be sure to place them in a spot with an unobstructed view of the sun. you can begin planting cucumbers in late spring or early summer to avoid the risk of frost since the plant prefers soil at 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Cucumbers like to have either plenty of space to spread out or a trellis to climb upward, so make sure you consider this when planting.
Cucumbers take about 50 – 70 days to be ready for harvesting. Once the female flowers on the plant open up, the fruit will be ready to pick in about 8 – 10 days. When it’s time to harvest your cukes, take a sharp knife to the vine closest to the fruit, and harvest often to encourage more production.
Regardless of whether you’re growing sweet peppers or hot peppers, wait until the possibility of frost has long since passed. Late spring and early summer are the best times to plant them. Plant the peppers about 12 – 20 inches apart, adding a vegetable plant cage to ensure the plant doesn’t break from heavy fruit load or high winds.
Peppers prefer to stay moist, so be sure to water them often. In dry climates or times of drought, it’s a good idea to put a generous layer of mulch down near your pepper plants to retain moisture. When you go to harvest your peppers, you can pick them right off the vine with a little twist of your wrist. Keep in mind that the color of the pepper tells a story of its flavor. If you harvest the pepper early in its green stages, it’s more likely to be bitter or hotter depending on the pepper. If you wait until the pepper matures and changes colors to orange or red, the pepper is more likely to have a sweet taste.
Unlike most of the plants on the list, garlic can be planted in the fall or even early winter. While it’s best to grow garlic from a seed sack, you can even grow it from cloves you find at the grocery store. Plant your cloves with the roots down about 6 inches apart and 2 inches deep.
Keep in mind that while you plant garlic in the fall, you won’t see a harvest until early summer. When you’re ready to collect your garlic, carefully dig around the bulbs, resisting the urge to yank it out by the stem. Once you pull the garlic from the ground, you’ll need to let them cure in a shady area with good air circulation for about 2 weeks. Last step, enjoy!
Growing Vegetables In Pots
You might consider planting some vegetables in pots or containers instead of planting them directly in the ground. Tomatoes, salad greens and peppers all thrive when planted in both pots and directly in the garden. Herbs are great for planting in pots as well. Having some plants in pots can take your outdoor decor to the next level and make it much easier to tell which plant is which. Some homeowners who live in urban areas or don’t have ample space to plant an entire garden in their yard choose to keep all of their plants in pots. Potted gardens offer more flexibility. If you suspect it will frost, you can bring your potted plants inside to protect them. You could even keep them through the whole winter if you have the right indoor garden setup.
Amy Enfield, a horticulturist from Bonnie Plants, says one trick to a versatile garden that can be grown indoors is to opt for compact versions of vegetables.
“Compact varieties that stay under 2 feet in size are even smaller than traditional bush-type varieties, meaning they won’t take up too much space in your home,” she says.
Enfield advises growing your herbs like lavender, rosemary, basil, oregano and mint indoors. “Not only are most herbs easy to grow, they also add a great fragrance to your room and can be easily harvested to add to your cooking,” she says. “Like vegetables, the key to success is not overwatering them and providing lots of light.
In addition to fragrance, it’s thought having plants inside can help to purify the air in your home. If your plants are in pots, you have the flexibility to move them wherever you’d like.
Tips For Caring For Your Veggies
While most of the vegetables on this list are fairly easy to grow, all plants require some sort of maintenance. Let’s take a look at some ways you can make sure your garden yields the greatest amount of healthy fruit.
Know Their Proper Growing Season
You can water, fertilize and prune correctly, but if you don’t plant your vegetables in their optimum growing season, your efforts could be wasted, their growth could be stunted, they might not bear fruit or they might not even get the chance to sprout. A common rule of thumb among gardeners is to hold off on planting outside until after Mother’s Day. This is because frost and frigid temperatures are less likely to occur after mid-May. While this is a great rule of thumb, it’s important to research each individual plant’s needs.
Know How To Feed Them
Before you start your garden, you’ll need to consider what types of chemicals you’re willing, or not willing, to put on your veggies. There are plenty of ways to feed your plants so they grow strong and healthy. But if you choose to make your garden organic, it could take a bit of extra work on your part.
Organic gardens typically use organic matter for more eco-friendly fertilizer. If you’re planning on making your garden organic, you should become familiar with how to compost. The plus side of compost means more nutrients for your soil. The more nutrients in your soil, the more nutrients your plants will receive and the more nutrients end up in your vegetables.
If you don’t mind using chemical fertilizers, odds are there are a variety of choices on the shelves of your local home improvement store. One quick trip and you’re on your way to bigger, brighter veggies.
Know How To Protect Them
Most plants are susceptible to a variety of pests and diseases, so it’s important to the health of your vegetables that you’re proactive about these problems. One of the easiest ways to start is to place a barrier around your garden. Make sure it’s high enough to keep out little critters looking to munch on your veggies and sturdy enough so they can’t move it. Also, consider investing in protective coverings should extreme weather or an unexpected frost come through. While protective tent shelters are sold to shield plants from extreme weather, you can also use burlap, blankets or plastic sheets.
When it comes to protecting your garden from tiny pests, pesticides are a common fix, but there are more natural ways as well. One way is to attract beneficial insects into your garden. Bugs like ladybugs, dragonflies and praying mantises will eat the harmful bugs and act as tiny bodyguards for your garden. You can also try mild and natural sprays such as garlic spray, salt spray or diluted dish soap spray.
If pests do get a hold of your plants, be sure to cut off any diseased growth. Most of the time, diseased growth will look sickly or discolored so you’ll be able to easily differentiate the healthy growth from the stuff that needs to be removed.
As you go to replant next season, be sure to rotate your crops. This disorients the pests looking to get a head start on munching on your garden each spring. Keeping your plants in the same place every year also leaves a higher chance for disease to root in the soil.
The Bottom Line
Most produce loses 30% of nutrients just 3 days after harvest. Having a garden of your own full of fresh vegetables can be a surprisingly convenient, healthier choice for you and your family.
All the tips and tricks for gardening can be pretty overwhelming if you’re just starting out. Before you find yourself in analysis paralysis, take a deep breath. Remember, you could always take my initial approach and plant everything in your garden and hope for the best. In my humble opinion, it’s better to start imperfectly than not to start at all. Besides, some of us just need to learn the hard way.
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