So you’ve jumped on the gardening train and you’re ready to start growing your own vegetables.
And good for you!! There is nothing more rewarding than seeding a plant, tending to it, and reaping its rewards. The practice of working soil or watering vegetables is some of the best therapy around. Plus, the quality of produce flowing continuously out of a well maintained garden cannot be matched.
But where to start?! Most people haven't stepped foot in a garden since they were in kindergarten, if ever. Grocery stores are able to carry produce year round… so gardening isn't critical to most families like it was 100 years ago. So even though you may have been robbed of your olericultural (look it up) inheritance, never fear my regular-thumbed friends!!
Below is a guide to grow 10 vegetables that are forgiving to the inexperienced gardener and have the potential to produce large quantities of vegetables. Included is a brief summery of successful garden soil, watering tips, and a few quirks for each vegetable to help them reach their full potential.
Vegetables need a soil bed that is well cultivated. Basically what that means is that the soil shouldn't be rock hard. Whether growing in a raised bed, container, or straight in the ground, make sure the soil is tilled at least twelve inches down so that the plant roots can thrive. In the bottom layer, incorporate garden mulch or straw to ensure the soil has a light texture that can also be drained of excess water.
Next, the soil needs to have adequate nutrients to support plant life. Plants are alive people. Vegetables require quite a bit of fertilizer to reach peak productivity, and there are thousands of fertilizers on the market. Variety is a good thing, but the search results under “garden fertilizer” can make choosing one seem a bit daunting. Just do a bit of research and you’ll be fine. READ THE LABEL. Too much fertilizer can kill plants and certain mixtures are not suited for all vegetables. Every bag comes with instructions for calculating how much to use per cubic foot of garden bed. USE THE INSTRUCTIONS.
Give those greens a drink!! Vegetables grow fast, requiring ample amounts of water. Read the seed package to determine how much water each plant will need.
Planning and implementing a watering schedule can be extremely helpful for new gardeners to help prevent over watering and under watering. If you’re diligent and keep up with the routine, watering your plants (or watching your drip lines do the work for you) can be super duper relaxing.
10 Easy Vegetables for Beginners
Lettuce - A great option for the novice gardener. It grows quickly and certain varieties can be grown in the early spring or late in the fall. It’s incredibly cheap to purchase a pack of seeds (about 2 dollars) and one pack will produce RIDICULOUS amounts of greens. If possible, plant them in a wind protected area to prevent scarring on the leaves.
Tomatoes- Nothing, I repeat nothing, tastes like a homegrown tomato. I can't buy tomatoes at the grocery store without remorseful exhalation, knowing they will not live up to my expectations. Tomatoes enjoy full sun and regular watering. They are slightly susceptible to an imbalance that causes something called blossom rot, but there are several things you can do for that: Bone meal fertilizer, consistent soil hydration, low nitrogen fertilizer. For new gardeners, I recommend buying tomato plants instead of seeds.
Squashes- Notorious for their yield, squashes are arguably one of the best vegetable producers. Ranging from butternut to zucchini, all are easy to maintain. Make sure you account for how large the plants will grow! A large yellow squash plant needs four to five feet of growing space. Keep on the look out for bugs! They seem to like squash plants.
Egg plants- While possibly obscure to most people, egg plants are nutritious and versatile. They work especially well in Italian dishes and stir-fries. They do, however, have a tendency to put on too much fruit and break their stems with the excess weight. Keep a careful eye on them and remove fruit before that happens! Like tomatoes, buying egg plant seedlings is recommended for noobs.
Green Beans- Green beans pop out of the ground with vigor. They will harvest in around 50 days, and if maintained will continue to do so through the season. Bush beans will not need support from a trellis but pole beans will, so READ THE INSTRUCTIONS. Make sure your plants are three to four inches apart, and don’t hesitate to remove weak plants if they seem like they sprouted too close to another.
Pumpkins- It is a blast to have homegrown pumpkins in the fall.Perfect for kids, pumpkin vines are extremely hardy. Sugar Pie Pumpkins are delicious in baked goods and soups. If you are in it to grow a massive pumpkin, pinch off fruit smaller fruits to push growing capabilities to larger pumpkins.
Spinach- Spinach is a breeze to grow, and fresh spinach out of a garden will definitely help you keep up with a salad/smoothie routine (if you’re into that sort of thing). It can withstand large amounts of fertilizer to grow faster and larger, and can produce for a huge window of time if planted in the early spring right after the soil is thawed.
Black-eyed Peas- Fresh black-eyed peas (some people might call them cow peas) are one of my favorite foods, hands down. Some people (probably the people that call them cow peas) might not care for them, but I think they have a unique earthy flavor. You can harvest these when dried, or green for an edamame type result.
Cucumbers- The vines can grow on a trellis to save space, or on the ground, whichever works best for your setup. There are two main types of cucumbers; pickling and burpless. A pickling cucumber should be self explanatory, but they can also be eaten raw — To remove the bitterness of a raw pickling cucumber, slice off the tip of one end like it’s a cigar and rub the two pieces together in small circles, flesh on flesh. In a few seconds, a bubbly white foam will start to appear. Continue to rub them until the white foam disappears. Repeat the entire process on the other end of the cucumber. Burpless (AKA slicing cucumbers) are ready to eat strait out of the garden.
Peppers- Peppers are usually all extremely hardy; most can go without water and become wilted and perk right back up when watered again. If you’re going for spicy hot mouth, stressing them with low water will produce HOTTER PEPPERS. I’m lookin’ at you jalapeños.
There you have it! These vegetables and tips will set you up to for a successful garden and a full refrigerator you can be proud of!! The biggest piece of advice I can give you is do some research on your veggies and make a plan, but if your plan turns out to suck then hurry up and change it. Gardening as well as farming is all about trial and error and the devil is in the details.
Something will go wrong. Some plants will die for who-knows-why, a cat will tear through the lettuce bed, or your kids will pick underripe fruit. Don't sweat it. Gardening is a long term investment. Give yourself some grace if it’s your first year!! Email or contact us for help, we would love to interact with you. Better yet, call your grandma, or your aunt, or whoever and chat with them about it. Tap into that hereditary green-thumb we mentioned earlier. It will make their soul smile.
Happy gardening friends, and I hope your crops are successful.