If you haven’t made the plunge yet into growing your first vegetable garden, you may feel overwhelmed. On our site you’ll find dozens of articles on how to create a garden bed and prepare your soil. But if you need guidance on what type of vegetable plants to choose for your first garden, continue reading.
Planning ahead will save you trouble in the long run. Think about your motivations and expectations for your vegetable garden. What do you expect to accomplish? How much effort and time are you willing to devote to care and maintenance? We’ve listed major categories to give you insight into vegetable plants and to help you decide which crops are right for your garden.
Often, we stress soil, irrigation, and sunlight conditions. But less often do we talk about the importance of planting compatible plants. Beginner gardeners rarely realize that some crops negatively or positively affect other crops. Then, when the plant fails to produce even after the most tender care and adherence to instructions, gardeners despair.
When it comes to common crops, here’s an easy rhyme for you to remember, courtesy of gardeningchannel.com: Tomatoes and potatoes grow in separate row-tatoes. Cucumbers and squash shouldn’t be moshed. When it comes to marriage, plant peas and carrots.
Do you intend for your garden to create a dent in your grocery bill? If so, you should be targeting several types of vegetables. First, if you prefer to eat organic produce, you should consider growing the most costly, since store-bought organics can be quite expensive. Which ones should you choose? The vegetables most susceptible to pesticide toxins: celery, spinach, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers, snap peas, and tomatoes.
Secondly, think about your return on investment. While some crops are downright cheap (potatoes, cucumbers), think about those that cost more money over time. Salad greens like Swiss chard, spinach, and arugula can cost up to $4 per bag in a market. Instead, buy a packet of seeds for $2 and you can produce salad greens for months. The same goes for heirloom cherry tomatoes (you got us here: technically a fruit) and herbs such as basil, chives, thyme, and rosemary.
Ease of care
Think about your level of commitment. If this is your first garden, you may make some valuable mistakes. In that case, you may want to grow hardy crops that can survive some neglect, lest you destroy your harvest and lose faith in your gardening abilities. Further, you may be able to commit all the time in the world yet have health priorities: an aching back, arthritic fingers, fragile knees, or seasonal allergies.
Taking all into consideration, try these vegetable crops first.
Carrots are easy to pull once their tops breach the soil line. You can’t do lettuce wrong: if you harvest it too early, you can snip tender lettuce greens and just the right amount if you pluck off a leaf or two. Summer squash is a great confidence-booster, as the plant will produce a high yield and is simple to detach.
Herbs are so incredibly easy to grow that some methods don’t even require sun or soil, meaning you can grow these inside if allergies inhibit your outdoor activities. If you need fast results to keep you interested, try radishes: you’ll harvest before a month is out! Finally, cucumbers often grow like weeds, so there is little damage you can do to these hardy plants.
For more information:
Vegetable Gardening: A Beginner’s Guide from N.C. State Extension
Vegetable Gardening Basics from University of Illinois Extension
Creative Commons Flickr photo courtesy of Todd Petit