Is this the year you start growing your own vegetables? Many people resolve to start their own garden, but give up when their ambitions outstretch their skills. To keep from getting discouraged, take a tip from us and start with the vegetables suggested below. Once you’ve mastered these easy-to-grow options, you can diversify with more challenging edibles.
Because they flourish in cool weather, carrots are a great way to get a jump on the growing season. Plant them early in the spring, when the average daily temperature is just above 60 degrees, to a depth of about half an inch, and out of the way of foot traffic.
Carrots don’t fare well in drought conditions, so keep a regular watering schedule. Optionally, a layer of mulch will help maintain moisture, and a potassium-rich fertilizer applied after planting can help promote growth.
With most varieties, you can begin harvesting when the carrot itself is about finger-length or bigger, preferably before summer temperatures settle into the 90s.
Like carrots, lettuce is a vegetable that thrives in the cooler temperatures of early spring. Plant them after the last frost in an area that’s protected from high winds, leaving at least 6 inches of space between each plant, or a full foot between romaine or iceberg plants.
Give the plants regular, thorough watering to encourage root growth, preferably in the mornings. Keep an eye out for weeds as your lettuce grows, since these amiable plants won’t aggressively compete for resources on their own.
If you’re planting tomatoes from seed, you’ll want to get started a month or two before the last frost. Don’t worry if you’ve missed that date, though: You can also transplant young tomato plants. Once the stalks begin to gain a little height, you’ll want to train them on a 6-foot stake, or surround them with a trellis that will support the plant as it grows.
A phosphorus-rich fertilizer applied early on can help your tomatoes grow, but over-fertilization can result in big plants with few fruit. Hold off on another application unless you see yellowing in the leaves close to the ground.
The key to growing green beans is drainage — ensuring that water isn’t allowed to stand at the base of the plants. Plant beans after all danger of frost has passed, sowing seeds about 3 or 4 inches apart at a depth of about an inch. Keep the area free of weeds, especially during the first six weeks when competition is at its fiercest. Composting between rows may help boost your plants.
You can begin picking when the bean pods are long and crisp, harvesting a few each day, being careful not to break the stems.
Like beans, summer squashes should be planted in well-draining soil, some time after the last frost. To be on the safe side, you can plant several seeds together, spacing sets 2 to 3 feet apart, then thinning out all but the hardiest once the plants are established. The squash may develop more suddenly than you expect, so keep a close eye on the plant once it’s been pollinated. Use gloves and pruning shears to remove fully developed squash.
Unless you’re growing to win a competition on size, the best squash are typically those that are harvested when they’re still small and tender.
Confident you’re ready to start growing? Head over to the Home Depot Garden Center and see which of the above veggies are available in your area.