Homegrown vegetables: Plan, rotate crops, and enjoy

Homegrown vegetables: Plan, rotate crops, and enjoy

Whether planning your first, second or 10th vegetable garden, it can be overwhelming. There are so many tasty vegetables and never enough space and time to grow them all.

Start with a plan. Locate your garden in a sunny location with moist, well-drained soil. Save those partially sunny areas for greens like lettuce, chard and kale, as well as root crops like radishes and beets. These prefer full sun but will tolerate more shade than tomatoes, peppers, squash, broccoli, etc.

Review your favorite recipes and make a list of family favorites and vegetables that are most often used. Then check which vegetables are suited to your climate and growing conditions and those that make the most economic sense to include in your garden.

Tomatoes and peppers produce lots of fruit from one plant and are common ingredients in many recipes. Sweet corn is fun to grow but needs lots of space for a relatively small harvest. If space is limited, use it to grow other edibles and consider buying your sweet corn at the farmers market.

Every gardener struggles with how many of each type of vegetable to grow. This depends upon the productivity of the variety selected, your family’s eating habits, and of course the impact of weather on the harvest. It’s always better to start small, build on your successes, and expand the garden in the future. Track your planting and harvesting results to help when planning future gardens.

Plant more if you plan to preserve or donate a portion of your harvest. Purchasing vegetables from your local farmers market can ensure you have sufficient fresh produce when you’re ready to can, freeze and ferment.

Sound overwhelming? Consider enlisting help from Gardener’s Supply by using one of their vegetable garden plans (gardeners.com). You’ll find customized plans for those who like to cook, want to grow ingredients for a garden-fresh salad, salsa or cocktails, or are following a Mediterranean diet. Many come with seed packets for all the featured plants.

Maximize the available space by growing vertically. Train pole beans, peas, tomatoes, cucumbers and even squash and melons up trellises. Growing vertically not only saves space, but also increases disease resistance by increasing light and airflow through the plants. And picking beans at waist height is much easier than harvesting from low-growing, bushy plants.

Increase space with containers.  Grow some of your frequently used herbs and vegetables in pots on the patio, balcony, or deck for convenience.  You can quickly grab what you need when creating a meal.

Grow multiple plantings in each row. Start the season with cool-season veggies like lettuce, peas and radishes. Once the temperatures climb and these plants are harvested, replace them with warm-weather vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, beans, cucumbers, squash and melons. Finish off the season by filling any vacant rows with fall crops like greens, beets and radishes.

Take some time to plan a garden that will provide you and your family with fresh produce you can enjoy all season long. Involving everyone in the planning process just might get them to show up and help weed.


Melinda Myers (www.melindamyers.com), who wrote this article, has written more than 20 books and hosts a DVD series on gardening. She also has a syndicated TV and radio program.