Growing your own food is the most gratifying and rewarding act on the planet. Starting food from seeds is easy, inexpensive and fun. Also starting plants from seed give them a healthier start to life than having plants sitting in a store and having to get transplanted multiple times. But planning a garden can be daunting and many gardeners do not know where to start.
Tomato plants are so quick that you can almost watch them grow so they are the ideal easy vegetable for kids to grow. Start tomatoes indoors in March. Once they’re in the ground in a spot with full sun, many varieties will be extremely prolific. For a strong root system, plant the starters deeply, burying the stem up to the lowest leaves as the roots need to develop a strong foundation. As the plant grows, water regularly and expose it to plenty of sunshine. Trim and remove weak leaves and fruit as it grows to allow for ripened fruit and leaves to flourish. Also you can choose choose a bush variety like ‘Cherry Cascade’ that can be planted in hanging baskets and window boxes. Bush varieties don’t require training or side-shooting so you only need to feed and water them.
Lettuce is one of the few vegetables that does fine in some shade and, in extremely hot weather, prefers a shady respite. Lettuce comes in so many varieties that you’re sure to find one that meets your growing and eating needs. When it’s very hot, most lettuce needs shade. Since they grow close to the ground, they’re perfect to plant in the shade cast by taller plants like tomatoes and beans. Allow for 8 to 10 inches between plants. As you thin young plants, save the delicate small leaves for salads.
No childhood is complete without the experience of snapping green beans! Like peas, most beans like to grow up. They can do well when seeds are planted directly into warm soil. Beans do need to climb something, such as poles, strings, trellises, or tepees to climb. Beans are for beginners because most varieties produce for weeks and weeks if they are picked. Give them full sun and plenty of water at the root.
Onions and Garlic
These crops are virtually maintenance free and really are such easy vegetables to grow! Simply plant onion bulbs and individual garlic cloves on well drained soil in spring or autumn – then leave them to it! In late summer when the foliage yellows and dies back, you can lift them and dry them in the sun before storing them.
Beet roots will develop quickly and uniformly in loose soil, so before planting, work the soil to remove clumps and stones. If you prefer to harvest small beets, double the number of seeds per row; crowding results in small roots. A mix of seeds from red, yellow, and white beets will yield a variety of flavors and colors. Buy packets of mixed seeds or blend your own.
Many beginners find their carrots are short and deformed. It’s important to provide well-drained, soft soil. Mix in some sand and really loosen it up. Also, it is essential to thin carrot seedlings to the proper spacing so they’re not overcrowded. Be bold! Thin those seedlings if you want carrots to form properly.
Prepare in advance for cucumbers; amend the soil with a fertilizer high in nitrogen and potassium to support the plant’s large yields. If possible, plant cucumbers in the sun next to a fence. The fence will serve as support for climbing and act as a shelter. Or plant them near corn. The corn will trap the heat that cucumbers crave and also serve as a windbreak.
Plant peas as soon as the soil can be worked—2 weeks before the average last spring frost for your region, if possible. To harvest a continuous supply of peas during the summer, simultaneously sow varieties with different maturity dates. Then sow more seeds about 2 weeks later. Continue this pattern, sowing no later than mid-June. Both shorter and taller varieties like to climb.
Peppers require a long growing season. Rather than planting seeds, plant young seedlings to give peppers enough time to mature before frost. They also love heat, so wait until the soil warms up before planting them out. Fertilize with a low or no nitrogen fertilizer. Too much nitrogen causes an excess of foliage. Provide even moisture, particularly during flowering and when fruit is setting. Use black plastic or mulch to attract heat, hold water and prevent weeds.