Now is the time to start planning your vegetable garden!
Starting a vegetable garden at home is an easy way to save money — that $2 tomato plant can easily provide you with 10 pounds of fruits over the course of a season.
It also gives you the pleasure of savoring a delicious, sun-warmed tomato fresh from the garden. In almost every case, the flavor and texture of varieties you can grow far exceed the best grocery store produce.
Plus, growing vegetables can be fun. It’s a great way to spend time with children or have a place to get away and spend time outdoors in the sun.
Growing vegetables is probably easier than you think. If you plan it right, you can enjoy a beautiful garden full of the fruits of your labor — without having to spend hours and hours tending it.
It’s best to start small with your first garden. Many gardeners get a little too excited at the beginning of the season and plant more than they need — and end up with wasting food and feeling overwhelmed by their garden.
So first, take a look at how much your family will eat. Keep in mind that vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, and squash keep providing throughout the season — so you may not need many to serve your needs. Other vegetables, such as carrots, radishes, and corn produce only once. You may need to plant more of these.
Picking the Perfect Spot
No matter how big your vegetable garden is, there are three basic requirements for success:
Full sun. Most vegetables need at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sun. If they don’t get enough light, they won’t bear as much and they’ll be more susceptible to attack from insects or diseases.
Here’s a hint: If you don’t have a spot in full sun, you can still grow many leafy vegetables such as lettuce and spinach. And if you’re in a hot-summer climate, cool-season varieties such as peas may do better in part shade.
Plenty of water. Because most vegetables aren’t very drought tolerant, you’ll need to give them a drink during dry spells. The closer your garden is to a source of water, the easier it will be for you.
Good soil. As with any kind of garden, success usually starts with the soil. Most vegetables do best in moist, well-drained soil that’s rich in organic matter (such as compost or peat moss).
Many gardeners like to have their vegetable gardens close ot the house. This makes it easier to harvest fresh produce while you’re cooking. It can also be handy to keep a few favorite potted vegetables next to your grill.
Allow at least 18 inches between your rows so you have plenty of room to work between them. And as you sketch out your plan, place taller vegetables at the north side of the garden. This includes naturally tall plants — like tomatoes– and plants that can be grown on vertical supports — including snap peas, cucumbers and pole beans.
Loosen your soil before you plant. You can either use a tiller or dig by hand.
Once the soil has been loosened, spread out soil amendments (such as compost) and work them into the soil. Avoid stepping on freshly tilled soil as much as possible. Otherwise, you’ll be compacting the soil and undoing all your hard work.
When you’re done digging, smooth the surface with a rake, then water thoroughly. Allow the bed to “rest” for several days before you plant.
When selecting varieties, pay close attention to the description on the tag or in the catalog. Each variety will be a little different: Some produce smaller plants that are ideal for small gardens or containers, others offer great disease resistance, improved yields, better heat- or cold-tolerance, or other features.
Care and Feeding
Most vegetables like a steady supply of moisture, but not so much that they are standing in water. About an inch of water per week is usually sufficient, provided by you if Mother Nature fails to come through. Water when the top inch of soil is dry. For in-ground crops, that may mean watering once or twice a week; raised beds drain faster and may require watering every other day.
Weeds compete with your vegetables for water and nutrients, so it’s important to keep them to a minimum. Use a hoe or hand fork to lightly stir the top inch of soil (cultivate) regularly to discourage weed seedlings. A mulch of clean straw, compost, or plastic can keep weeds at bay around larger plants like tomatoes
Fertilizing your crops is critical to maximizing yields. Organic gardeners often find that digging in high quality compost at planting time is all their vegetables need. Most gardeners, however, should consider applying a packaged vegetable fertilizer. following the directions on the box or bag. Don’t apply more than recommended as this can actually decrease yield.
This is what it’s all about, so don’t be shy about picking your produce! Many vegetables can be harvested at several stages.Leaf lettuce, for example, can be picked as young as you like; snip some leaves and it will continue to grow and produce. Summer squash (zucchini) and cucumbers can be harvested when the fruit is just a few inches long, or allowed to grow to full size. The general rule: if it looks good enough to eat, it probably is. Give it a try. With many vegetables, the more you pick, the more the plant will produce.
Stopping Pests and Diseases
Pests and disease are ongoing problems for most vegetable gardeners. Although specific problems may require special solutions, there are some general principles you can follow.
Deer and rabbits. Use fences to deter rabbits. Make sure the bottom of the fence extends about 6 inches under the soil, to stop rabbits from digging underneath it. The fence needs to stand at least 8 feet above the ground to prevent deer from jumping over it.
Spring insects. Row covers, which are lightweight sheets of translucent plastic, protect young crops against many common insects. Row covers are also helpful to prevent damage from light frosts.
Fungal diseases. Reduce fungal diseases by watering the soil, not the leaves of plants. If you use a sprinkler, do it early in the day so the leaves will dry by nightfall.
> If a plant falls prey to a disease, remove it promptly and throw it in the trash; don’t add sick plants to your compost pile.
> Grow varieties that are listed as disease resistant. Garden catalogs and Web sites should tell you which varieties offer the most protection.
> Make it a habit to change the location of your plants each year. In other words, if you grew tomatoes in the northwest corner of your garden this year, put them in the northeast corner next year. This reduces the chances that pests will gain a permanent foothold in your garden.
Summer insects. Pick larger insects and caterpillars by hand. Once you get over the “yuck!” factor, this is a safe and effective way to deal with limited infestations.
> Or use insecticidal soap sprays to control harmful bugs. Most garden centers carry these products. Whatever pest control chemicals you use, read the label carefully and follow the directions to the letter.
Make sure you have everything you need to get your garden off to a great start.
Visit our Outdoor Lifestyle Center for a great selection of vegetable plants to fill your garden! Varieties subject to change.
Long, straight pods which grow in a less concentrated set allow for multiple picks and maximum yield. 60 days to maturity, 6 1/2″ dark green pod with white seeds.
Good for cut beans or dry shell use. 58 days to maturity, 7-10″ medium green round pod, buff seed. Similar to Kentucky Wonder, but sweeter and earlier.
Long, straight pods that are an attractive bright yellow.50 days to maturity, 6″ round pod, white seed.
A full season, heat tolerant broccoli that is new for the Eastern U.S., has shown great potential. 85 days to maturity, large head, small bead size.
Known for uniform high quality sprouts. Adaptable, being well suited to fresh market and processing. It is harvestable either by hand or machine. Produces heavy yields. 120 days to maturity, sprout size 1 1/2″, plant size 38″.
Early main season hybrid, excellent appearance, disease tolerance and excess moisture tolerance. Excellent for fresh market or slaw. 67 days to maturity, 3-4 lbs., rounded blue green head.
Early home garden variety. 63 days to maturity, 3 lbs, rounded green head.
A high yielding early mid-season cabbage with good holding ability, good storage ability and good flavor. 82 days to maturity, 3-5 lbs, slightly round flat head, medium red color.
A second early, heavy yielding hybrid for spring sowing. Popular market grower. 65 days from transplant, high dome head, large semi erect plant with excellent self wrapping.
A widely adapted, second early hybrid with outstanding quality, heat and stress tolerance, a self wrapper, with a high percentage of marketable heads. Very uniform, as few as two harvests.70 days from transplant, medium domed head, excellent self wrapping.
A variety with an added supersweet kick for extended shelf life and higher eating quality. 82 days to maturity, 18″ ear height, ear size 8×1.9″, 16-18 kernel rows.
Slicer, popular for the home gardener. 55 days to maturity, vigorous grower.
A bush vine type with concentrated set. For home gardeners. 45 days to maturity.
Slicer, improved market or garden variety. 66 days to maturity, vigorous grower.
Home garden slicer. 60 Days to maturity, vigorous grower.
Large fruited, home garden variety. 80 days to maturity. Large bush, oval shaped purple fruit.
An Italian type hybrid that will satisfy even discriminating tastes. 9″x2 1/2″ attractive fruit. Early, high yielding.
A mixture of warted gourds with shapes like spoons, pear, round; all warted and very colorful. 100 days to maturity.
An old, difficult to find heirloom item cherished in pies. Grows on small vines on the ground. Prolific.
A Vates Blue Curled type with tall stems that allow easier stripping. Height 18-24″ .
Reddish-purple colored bulb that is a slightly flattened globe, with a tender white flesh. 60 days to maturity.
Similar in habit to Early Purple Vienna except medium green. 55 days to maturity.
New Sakata variety that is slow to bolt. Slightly broad dark green leaves. Excellent uniform fruit. 49 days to maturity.
A super early thena type with good disease tolerance, plus good holding ability. 68 days to maturity, 5-6 lbs, medium net, light sutures, deep salmon flesh.
A hybrid with a strong vine with high yields and a good disease resistance. 82 days to maturity, oval shape, 20-25 lbs. Crimson sweet rind, bright red flesh.
Used for flavoring soups. 8-10″ stems, mild flavor. 85 days to maturity.
Mercury is a bold, dark-red storage onion with 105 day maturity. It has a high yield potential of uniform, large, very firm, globe-shaped bulbs with long-term storage ability. Excellent internal and external color.
A nice sweet Spanish type with a very consistent globe shape and nice brilliant white scale, averaging jumbo in size. Mt. Whitney offers a high percentage of single centers and is tolerant to pink root. 100-105 days to maturity.
Very dark red interior and exterior. Very uniform. Nice transplant red. 125 days to maturity, globe shaped, long storage life.
This Sweet Spanish type yellow onion is firm with excellent skin retention. It is globe to tall globe shape and jumbo to colossal in size. It is tolerant to pink root and Fusarium basal rot. 110-115 days to maturity.
Popular sweet onion variety for use in home garden or market. Large fruit, for fresh use. Does not store. 115 days to maturity.
Vespucci is a mid-late season hybrid with outstanding plant vigor and a strong root system. The large, round bulbs have a small neck and medium-dark skin color. It has a good firmness and skin retention and is suitable for long-term storage. It is resistant to Fusarium basal rot with intermediate resistance to pink root. 115 days to maturity.
Will set the standard for high yields of high quality dark red flesh fruit for either the red pepper producer or the processor. Not early to red, but matures into a concentrated set for red color. 75 days to maturity, thick flesh, large blocky shape.
Thick flesh, green to red, jumbo blocky, 4 lobe sweet pepper. 74 Days to maturity
Mature red fruit are 5-10″ long and wrinkled, irregular in shape and highly pungent. Often used as dried, ground powder, also used in salads, sauces and dishes.Long narrow fruit produces high yields of early maturing fruit. 70 days to maturity, thick, light green to red flesh.
Deep orange and thick-walled peppers are very similar to California Wonder with an earlier maturity date. Pendant shape, high yields and good fruit set in cool climates. Days to maturity 60 green, 78 gold.
A hot pepper often used in a dried flowered form. 90 days to maturity, thin light green to orange color.
An even hotter strain of Habenero with large bright red fruit. 90 days to maturity, thin green to bright red color.
A pendant, hot banana type. For fresh market or pickling. Very productive and uniform. 60-65 days to maturity, medium flesh, yellow- red, wax type.
Early producer, 70 days to maturity, medium thick flesh with yellow to red color. A wax type pepper, used in pickled or fresh in salads and relishes.
Uniform, pungent, thick walled fruit, conical shaped. Dark green when immature turning red at maturity. Fruit may show cracking or corkiness which is a desirable trait in Mexico.73 days to maturity, used canned, pickled, salsas or fresh.
More productive and turns color more uniformly than Aladdin. Excellent fruit quality, extra large sizes ad good firmness. Not prone to streaking when turning yellow. 75 days to maturity, thick flesh, jumbo blocky shape.
A cherry type pepper that is round with medium thick flesh and medium green to red color. 75 days to maturity.
Suited for home gardening, 75 days to maturity, thick deep red flesh, large, blocky shape.
A Serrano type pepper. Fruit are 1/2″ wide ad 2-3″ long. Medium walls and shaped similar to Jalapeno and is the pepper of choice in Salsa Verde and other southwestern relishes. Very pungent for pickling and sauce. 75 days to maturity. Green to red color.
A mid size, round, uniform, smooth-skinned and yellow thick flesh. 100 days, 8×8 diameter, 10 lbs., large vine.
Dark orange fruit and a good dark green handle. Fruit are round to semi flat. A good yielder. 95-100 days to maturity, 4 x 3″ diameter height, 1/2-3/4 lb., orange skin, medium vine.
Dark green large handle and uniform fruit Yields an abundance of excellent quality pie pumpkins. 85 days to maturity, 6 x 5″ diameter height, 5-6 lbs., Dark orange skin, vines semi-bushy.
A dark green, acorn squash with rounded ribs and blunted blossom end. It has solid, tasty flesh. 80 days to maturity, 5 1/2 x 4″ fruit size, 1 1/2 lbs, vining habit.
Flesh dry and sweet, good storage, 110 days, fruit 8-9×5″, 3 lbs., dark green color.
Winter squash. Spreads like butter without any sign of stringiness when baked. Skin is dull yellow. Good keeper. 95 days.
A winter acorn squash. A powdery mildew tolerant gold striped acor hybird with exceptional eating quality plus is also decorative.80 days, fruit 4×5″, 1 1/2 lbs., light yellow/orange structures.
A carnival type squash with fewer oversized fruit, similar color and flesh quality. Fruit shape is between and acorn and Sweet Dumpling. Highly ornamental with great eating quality. 100 days to maturity, 4-5″ fruit size, 1 1/2-2 lbs., yellow/green/orange color, vining habit.
Medium, dark green color, cylindrical shape, 62 days to maturity, popular zucchini type.
A striped winter squash, heart shaped, with fine sweet flesh.High yields, 80 days, fruit size 4-5″, 3 lbs., cream/green stripes.
A popular hubbard type with thick, orange, fine textured flesh with sweet flavor. 110 days, fruit size 7×12″, 12-14 lbs., blue gray color.
A uniform strain, slightly smaller, good keeper, low calorie spaghetti. 105 days, 8-10″, 2 1/2-3 lbs., light yellow color.
Outstanding decorative and eating qualities. It is one of the best flavored when used as a squash. Has pt on a semi-bush vine. 100 days to maturity, 3 x 5″ fruit, 1-1 1/4 lbs, color is pale yellow/orange stripes.
Has crisp flesh on golden skinned fruit. A good choice for the home gardener. 55 days to maturity, 6-7″ harvest length, golden color, golden zucchini type, cylindrical shape.
A popular ingredient n Mexican dishes. Is more vining and sprawling than tomatoes. Fruit are 1 1/2″ in diameter, in a papery husk, lime green and usable raw or cooked.
An Amish heirloom variety with paste type fruit and outstanding sweet flavor. Fruit are oblong oxheart shape. 85 days, red flesh, 8 oz.
Large, vigorous Beefsteak type, 80 days, 12 oz, indeterminate.
Widely adapted, 75 days, 8 oz., indeterminate.
Large, popular home garden, 78 days, 12 oz., indeterminate.
An unusual novelty, 8-12 oz. fruits are flattened, globe shaped, dark, deep-red to dark mahogany with heavy green shoulders. Interior is a deep, reddish-green color. Sweet heirloom form the Crimean peninsula of Russia. It has a rich, earthy taste. Matures extremely early. 69-80 days, indeterminate stake habit.
A tomato from the 1800’s known for being the standard setter for flavor. Potato leafed, indeterminate with pinkish red fruit. 85 days, pink flesh, 10-16 oz.
A yellow hybrid with very small blossom scar, tolerance to cracking and weather check. 75 days, 10-12 oz., determinate.
A celebrity type with uniform green shoulders, superior crack resistance and excellent eating quality. Outstanding for the home gardene. 71 days, determinate.
An heirloom variety. Burgundy colored fruit with green shoulder and delicious sweet flavor. Gel around seed stays green with deep burgundy flesh, a beautiful variegation that looks as good as it tastes. 10-12 oz.
Popular garden home variety, 52 days, 4-6 oz., indeterminate.
An heirloom variety. One of two original Bavarian varieties. Potato-leaf plants produce large 1-2 lb meaty fruit with few seeds, very little cracking or blossom scars. Sweet flavor. 85 days.
A prolific yielding, compact plant with easy to harvest cherry type variety with flavorful sweet and juicy fruit. 70 days to maturity, yellow-green flesh, 1 oz.
A high yielding saladette with an extra concentration of lycopene, the anti-oxidant that give tomatoes their bright color, has 50% more lycopene than the average variety. 72 days to maturity, 4 oz., Determinate.
A heirloom variety. Absolutely gorgeous slicing tomato. Sweet 4-6″ flattened fruits. 85 days, 16 oz., yellow fruit red stripes.
Outstanding flavor, yield and excellent in a container. 67 days, 5-7 oz., uniform Green Gene ripe fruit are a uniform color, dwarf indeterminate.
Lemon colored, sweet flavor. 72 days, indeterminate, 6 oz.
An heirloom variety. An indeterminate vined variety with large, very firm pink fruit with good flavor. Productive. 80 days, pink flesh, 16 oz.
A superior market hybrid. 70 days to maturity, 10 oz., determinate.
Similar in type to Mariana with the added benefit of Tomato Spotted Wilt resistance. 75 days, 3-4 oz., determinate.
Large yellow fruit with orange centers. Very sweet, excellent flavor. 75 days to maturity, yellow-orange flesh, 16 oz.
A heavy yielding, processing tomato for the home gardener. Vines are compact, pear shaped fruit. 78 days.
Bright red, medium large and smooth, globed-shaped fruit. A popular garden variety. 75 days.
A very early hybrid that is in a maturity class of its own. An outstanding choice for roadside marketers. Concentrated set for 2 early pickings. 60 days to maturity, 8-10 oz., determinate.
Popular cherry hybrid. 75 days, indeterminate.
An heirloom variety. A Greek variety with pretty smooth-shaped fruit that are sweet and mild tasting. 80 days, 10-16 oz.
An excellent and versatile tomato with great flavor and lots of sweetness. Smooth large tomatoes are about 8 oz. and as pretty as can be. Extremely productive and thrive in a wide-range of growing conditions. This old time favorite is sure to become a new favorite once you give it a try. 78 days, indeterminate.
Clear yellow fruit, mild flavor for the home gardener. 78 days to maturity.