Is this the year you start growing your own vegetables? Many people resolve to start their own vegetable garden, but give up when their ambitions outstretch their skills.
To keep from getting discouraged, use these tips and start your own easy veggie garden in a raised bed or container. 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 Fahrenheit, 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 organic 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. Leave 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, it’s best 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 six-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. Be careful though. 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. Sow your green bean 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 for nutrients is fiercest. Add compost between your rows of green beans for a healthy boost. Add a trellis for support to keep your beans off the ground.
You can begin picking when the bean pods are long and crisp, harvesting a few each day. Be 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.
Unless you’re growing to win a competition on size, the best squash are typically those harvested when small and tender.
Be sure to be on the lookout for pests such as squash bugs, known as nibblers of squash leaves, and squash vine borers, those pesky diggers inside stems. They’re easy to spot. Use these organic methods for controlling them.
Where to plant your vegetables
Whether you have a small space, balcony or large space, try growing your veggies in planters or raised bed gardens, where it’s easiest to control your soil for your vegetable garden. Or, select pre-planted hanging baskets with tomatoes.
When you’re ready to start growing, head over to The Home Depot Garden Center and see which of the above veggies are available right now in your area.