5 Easiest Vegetables for Home Gardens
by Mark Adams
Forget local – we now have “hyperlocal” fresh vegetables you can grow on your own. Here are 5 essential vegetables that can be grown without any problems – no insect pests, no diseases, no spraying! Just plant, sit back and enjoy.
Rules for any Vegetable Garden
1. Start Small – A nice big garden in May can be overwhelming in August.
2. Full Sun – or at least as much sun as possible.
3. Fence – A good fence will last a lifetime.
4. Good Soil – You shouldn’t need a crowbar to plant your tomatoes.
5. Fertilizer – You feed your dog, right? So feed your plants.
6. Watch out for weeds – They grow fast and big. Why do you think they’re called weeds?
• Why Grow It? – Lettuce is the earliest vegetable you can grow and the earliest to harvest – as early as mid-April. Great for fresh salads.
• Best Varieties – Red Sails, many loose-leaf types. Iceberg is difficult because heads don’t firm up. Romaine is prone to damp-off.
• When to Plant – April 1, under hot-caps and again in May, July and August for continuous harvest.
• How to Plant – From seed, in rows, thin to stand 6 inches apart. Or from transplants, 6 inches apart, to harvest every other head.
• Special Care – Watch out for slugs in the salad. Aphids can be washed off.
• When to Harvest – Continuously.
• Storage – Cannot be stored.
• Why Grow it? – Beans are easy to grow, taste, and kids love to plant the seeds.
• Best Varieties – Pole beans or bush beans. Kentucky Wonder, Blue Lake or Kentucky Blue. Green “string” beans are the easiest, Lima beans, soybeans and other beans have a longer growing season.
• When to Plant – First crop on May 15, second crop on July 15.
• How to Plant – Sow seeds in rows 15 inches apart. Space seeds 1 inch apart. Pole beans should go on north side of the garden, so as not to shade other crops. Tie the plants to the north fence.
• Special Care – None
• When to Harvest – Keep an eye out so the crop does not get over-ripe. Consider starting the harvest when the beans are a little too young, to give a longer harvest window.
• Storage – Blanch in boiling water and freeze.
• Why Grow It? – The potatoes sold in stores are not the best varieties for eating. Freshly dug potatoes are a revelation.
• Best Varieties – Salem is the best for boiling or baking. Special varieties (for example, Eva) are sold for making French fries or chips. Superior is a good early type.
• When to Plant – Mid-May. They do not tolerate a late frost.
• How to Plant – Place small “seed” potatoes 6 inches deep, 2 feet apart in a grid. Larger seed potatoes can be cut into pieces and air-dried for a day to seal the cuts. Each piece should contain several “eyes.”
• Special Care – None
• When to Harvest – Continuously from late June through October
• Storage – Dig remaining potatoes in late October and store in a cool place.
• Why Grow It? – It’s convenient to have an onion at hand when you need it.
• Varieties – Spanish onions (red or yellow) are grown from seed. Storage onions are grown from “sets” (small onions).
• When to Plant – April. You can start Spanish onion seed indoors in February to have small plants to set out in April.
• How to Plant – Place seeds in rows and thin to 6 inches apart. Space sets 6 inches apart and 2 inches deep.
• Special Care – Be vigilant in removing weeds when they are small.
• When to Harvest – Whenever your recipe calls for an onion, beginning in June. Onions will not tolerate a hard frost in October, so cover the bed for a late harvest.
• Storage – The storage varieties will keep for months in a cool place. Spanish onions do not store well.
• Why Grow It? – Nutritious, with an exceptionally long harvest period from May to December.
• Best Varieties – Bull’s Blood, Red Ace.
• When to Plant – Late March, one sowing.
• How to Plant – Rows 15 inches apart, sow 30 seeds per foot, cover with ½ inch of soil.
• Special Care – Make sure to weed carefully when plants are very small. As weeds get big, they are impossible to remove without pulling up the beets. If this is done correctly, no weeding will be necessary after May 31st.
• When to Harvest – Thin beets in May to use as steamed greens. Begin harvesting roots in June, continuing to December. Cover the patch with leaves to continue harvest after the first frost in October. For me, roasted beets are sweeter than boiled beets.
• Storage – Harvest the last beets in December and store in a cool place, or pickle them. They tend to lose flavor over time.