Many prepared and aware persons in North America enjoy a reasonably long vegetable-gardening season, starting as early as March and stretching on through late November. But success has as much to do with when you plant as it does what you plant.
Have a Plan
Consider four things in your plan: available time, available space, the size of your family and whether you plan to freeze or preserve what you grow.
It’s best to start small the first year then go from there, a 10-foot-by-10-foot garden would be a small one for a family of four. Begin with a list of your favorite vegetables, but don’t be afraid to experiment as well.
Next, consider your space. The ideal location has six or more hours of sunlight, good drainage and easy access to a water source. When it gets to be July or August, you want to have easy access to a hose and spigot, It’s a critical time for regular watering as the plants produce their fruits and vegetables.
If sunny spaces are limited, don’t despair. Simply choose a place that gets the most sun or grow plants in containers on a sunny patio.
Lettuce, and even tomatoes and peppers, will grow in some shade, you just won’t get as many.
Finally, sketch your garden layout in a loose-leaf notebook with page protectors for storing seed packets. For your garden layout, choose an appropriate planting approach. Traditional wide rows are easy to weed and mulch, while hill planting warms the ground temperature for heat-loving squash and melon vines. Then, there’s intensive planting, popularized by the square-foot method, which divides a raised bed into 1-foot planting squares.
For those with limited garden space, a few strategies. For one, you can tightly plant onions between rows of lettuce. The fast-growing lettuce is gone by the time the slower maturing onions need more room.
As you learn you can also train vining plants to grow upward by adding trellises, but remember to orient the trellises east to west to avoid shading nearby crops.
Cool-season Crops (Spring & Fall)
Leaf lettuces are easier to grow than head lettuces and come in many different colors and textures. Directly sow seeds in the garden as early as March or April to ensure a sweet, productive crop.
Radishes are a very simple, fast-growing crop in a variety of colors. Watch them closely, so they don’t get too big and split, they are best harvested when small and tender.
Peas are an early garden treat. “Plant the seeds early in March or April, and give the vines a trellis to climb, Chicken wire or branches with string work well.
Beets thrive in cooler temperatures. Plant one crop of seeds in spring and another in late summer,
Greens and kale are easy spring crops to grow. Many are highly ornamental and can be added to landscape beds and decorative containers.
Warm-season Crops (Summer)
Squash come in summer and winter varieties. Avoid insect problems by using transplants and delay planting until a little later in the season, ideally mid-June.
Tomatoes can be challenging but highly rewarding. Start with transplants, wait to plant them in warm weather, stake them and evenly water them throughout the season. Avoid disease problems by hand- or hose-watering the plants at their base and not the leaves.
Sweet corn is so desirable, but a challenge for pocket gardens. To ensure good pollination, plant corn in a block of two or three rows instead of a long, single row.
Eggplants are available in many varieties from Albino to Black Beauty to Little Fingers. “While they’re easy to grow, beetles can be a problem, monitor them closely.
Peppers are very popular for their variety of spices, colors, shapes and degrees of hotness. Remember to consistently water pepper plants to avoid thin walls.
Cucumbers are best grown on a trellis (except for bush varieties). Plant transplants later, ideally mid-June, to avoid pest problems, also try compact bush varieties for container gardens.
Green beans are best planted from seeds, but many gardeners make the mistake of planting the entire packet at once. Try spacing four plantings a week apart to extend the harvest.