Growing your own food is so much fun. Always grow what you love to eat. It's no good growing a considerable amount of bok choy if you really can't bear the thought of eating it.
Imagine picking salad greens or strawberries and eating them immediately. It doesn't come much fresher than that.
Remember to start small - Rome wasn't built in a day. Gradually increase the size of your veggie garden as you become more experienced.
Choosing The Site For Your Vegetables
Remember that most vegetables require at least six hours of sunlight daily. Locate your new garden where it isn't near large trees or walls.
In hot climates, you may need to provide some shade with shade cloth or plant some under taller climbing vegetables such as beans.
If you have a shady spot, then plant lettuce, basil or leafy salads.
Airflow in your garden is essential to encourage growth and keep fungal diseases at bay.
Preparing Your Garden Bed
Good soil doesn't just happen. It takes years of adding organic matter to make your soil friable and well drained.
That doesn't mean you cannot grow beautiful, healthy, nutritious vegetables right from the get-go.
Firstly remove any large stones and rocks. I use the no-dig method of gardening (to a certain extent), which means never turning your soil.
Aerate by pushing a large garden fork into the ground with your foot, then slightly lift the fork to aerate the soil and add your compost on top of the soil, and nature will do the rest.
Lastly add mulch once you have completed planting or sowing.
Adding compost is highly recommended for your vegetable garden. Once you are well on your way to a highly successful veggie garden, start preparing your compost at home.
Watering Your Veggies
Many gardeners water more often than necessary, encouraging your plants to develop a shallow root system.
In dry weather concentrate on your seedlings over established plants, which need more water until they have developed their root systems.
Leafy crops need more water than others. Squashes, tomatoes and bell peppers require extra watering when they come into flower and produce their fruits.
Carrots and parsnips are surprisingly drought tolerant.
Never water in the middle of the day as the water will evaporate. If you stick your finger into the soil and it is moist, leave watering to another day.
Drip irrigation is the most efficient form to water your veggies — water early in the morning or early evening.
If the weather is dry during sowing time, water the drill you have made and allow the water to drain then water again and allow to drain, then sow your seeds and cover over.
They now have a perfectly moist, cool environment to begin germination. Water again morning and evening until they pop through the soil.
Rainwater is the best, as nature intended. Collect rainwater in barrels from downpipes and use this water in water-stressed areas.
Always mulch and top up as necessary during the growing season.
Don't forget extra water during very dry periods.
11 Easy Vegetables To Grow
There are many easy vegetables to grow and it is simple if you grow the right veggies and it isn't a great deal of work.
Beets are a fast-growing plant that is not too fussy and tastes good when thinly sliced in a salad or steamed or roasted - delicious. They are heat (to a certain extent) and cold tolerant, so there is no excuse not to plant beets.
For best results grow in the ground but can do well in containers. They need a sunny open position and moist, fertile soil conditions.
There are many varieties with intense colors — some with rings that look impressive in salads.
Sow seeds in a greenhouse if the temperatures are cold.
The seeds are big and quite easy to sow. Drop them in the ground and cover and pat the soil gently.
Thin rows to about 4in (10cm).
Keep plants watered in dry weather and it will prevent the plant from bolting. Keep even soil moisture.
Havest from golf ball size to tennis ball size. Cook the leaves like spinach.
2. Salad Leaves
The cut and come again lettuce variety is quick and easy, and the growing season lasts much longer than head lettuce.
There are many salad leaves to choose from and will provide you with a variety of leaves during their growing season. Some prefer a semi-shaded position, so always read the labels when buying.
Sow them thickly and you do not have to thin them out because once they are about 4in (10cm) just cut them off close to the ground and enjoy - and guess what? They grow right back.
Succession sow every two weeks and you won't be without salad leaves during the winter in warm climates. Cold climates will be able to grow indoors on a sunny windowsill.
Sow them under your tomatoes or around slower growing plants, so you don't have to have a dedicated area just for leaves.
Best sown in the last weeks of summer into fall. Oriental leaves - bok choy and mustards being my favorite.
Give them some protection once winter starts or plant them in your greenhouse if your winters are severe.
They do exceptionally well in containers. The seed mixes for cut and come again picking are ideal.
Sow every few weeks to keep you in salads during the winter.
Tomatoes need lots of nutrients, consistent moisture and sunshine. They grow well in containers.
There are two types of tomato plants. One grows up like a vine and the other type has more of a bush type growth.
The vine type tomato plant (Indeterminate) will need pruning as they tend to get out of control and they also need staking.
The bush variety (determinate) as a general rule do not need any pruning unless there are some diseased leaves or branches. Just remember to keep the lower branches off the ground.
Cherry tomatoes are quite vigorous growers and are delicious. Just beautiful.
Related Article: How To Grow Tomatoes At Home
Drip irrigation is ideal for tomatoes as the leaves can get pests and disease if allowed to get too wet. Keep the leaves dry and there shouldn't be any problem.
Water at ground level evenly and deeply every few days. Leaving them to get dry, then watering well will result in the tomatoes splitting and cracking.
Plant marigolds with the tomatoes to add some color and repel aphids. Or even some salad crops as they will enjoy the shade.
4. Sweet Bell Peppers
These are easy to grow and give your garden some color, changing color as they ripen. Grow in the ground or containers in rich, well-drained soil in full sun.
Plant them 1.5 feet (.5 meter) apart or 1 per container.
Keep them moist throughout the season, especially when in bloom and producing fruit.
They typically like temperatures of between 70-90F (21-32C) with 5 to 8 hours of sun per day.
There are numerous varieties and colors from the ordinary green to yellow, vibrant red, orange and even black.
Sweet peppers require a long growing season of up to 100 days, so if your summer is short, start seeds indoors or purchase seedlings from your local garden shop.
The peppers will sweeten and increase the vitamin C the longer you leave them growing.
Save the seeds of your favorite sweet pepper for future planting.
Sow basil liberally. The beauty of over sowing is that you can use the tasty baby seedlings in your salads as you thin the crop out.
Basil likes warm growing conditions but struggles in hot, humid climates. If you live in a hot, humid climate sow before summer begins and again in the fall.
Basil repels bad bugs and attracts good insects.
Position in free-draining soil in full sun for best results and water often with no dry spells. Basil also does well in containers.
Harvesting regularly produces a bushier plant and also more fragrant foliage. Regular harvesting slows down the plant from bolting and going to seed prematurely.
At the end of the season, let basil grow out and go to seed. The bees love the flowers and they create an excellent environment for useful insects, and once it dies back harvest the seed for next time.
Basil that is grown next to tomatoes and allowed to bolt will attract the bees, and that is perfect for better pollination of your tomato plants - a win-win situation.
Many types of basil can be grown all year round in warm climates.
Lemon basil is a vigorous grower and a long-lasting variety with an excellent taste when cooking Asian dishes.
Aristotle basil is ideally grown on your kitchen windowsill and tastes fantastic in salads and cooking.
The purple basil varieties add a touch of color and have an extra antioxidant hit.
6. Pumpkin and Squash
Pumpkins like rich soil high in organic matter. Winter squash and summer squash are considered pumpkins.
If you have plenty of space, then pumpkins will become a favorite. For the most part, pumpkins can take up to 50-100 feet (15-30 meters).
Direct seed them in a small hill after the last frosts have passed as they are frost-sensitive. Space you hills 3-5 feet (1-1.5 meters) apart.
Drip irrigation is best and mulch retains the moisture.
Harvest pumpkins after the skins have hardened and they have fully colored. It is usually after the leaves have deteriorated.
Cut them from the vine before the first frost and cure them in a sunny spot for ten days. Make sure the temperature does not go below 60F (15C). Store them in a cool place.
There is no better treat than picking the cob and peeling back the sheath to reveal those kernels - it's magical. Eating your homegrown corn is even better.
Grow corn in full sun in soil with plenty of compost.
Sow seeds once the soil has warmed up or indoors a few weeks before.
Corn is wind-pollinated, so plant them in a block and not rows for success. If the corn is not pollinated, it will be missing some kernels from the cob.
Plant them 18 inches (45cm) apart and plant squash below the corn as a companion plant and to suppress weeds.
Pick corn when the tassels at the end of the cob turn brown or peel one back and put your fingernail into a kernel. If it exudes a creamy liquid, it is ready. If it's very watery, it's not yet ready and if it has no juice it's past the harvesting time.
8. Zucchini or Courgette or Marrow (as it's sometimes called).
Zucchini or Courgette, as it is sometimes known, is a very easy plant to grow. The speed at which they grow is amazing, and the flowers are also edible.
There are plenty of different varieties - some are round and orange while others are long and green.
Sow directly into your garden or container. Keep the seeds moist but not waterlogged.
The zucchini have male and female flowers and are usually pollinated by bees.
Aphids are the most common pest. The best and most organic way is to stray the aphids with a hard jet of water and they'll be gone for a while. Rinse and repeat.
Harvest the squash while they are tender and about 6-7in (15-17cm). They become fibrous when left to get too big.
Orange carrots are only a recent development. Original carrots were white and purple with a very strong taste. These days with cross-breeding carrots are mostly orange and delicious.
In the ground, in raised beds or on the patio in tubs, carrots can grow just about anywhere. They prefer full sun and well-composted soil.
Sow carrots directly where they are to grow throughout the spring and summer - harvest finger size ones to thin them out, leaving the others to become bigger.
Keep the soil moist to prevent them from bolting before they have had a chance to form their roots. Keeping them moist in dry weather will alleviate this.
Thin them out once they are still small and leave the rest to grow bigger.
In mild climates, carrots can be left in the ground to harvest as needed.
Let a few go to seed and they will give you loads of seeds for next season.
- Extract the chili seeds from a fresh chili.
- Moisten your soil and sprinkle the seeds on top.
- Cover with soil and gently pat flat.
- Water thoroughly with a soft sprinkler.
- Keep moist but not soggy.
- They will germinate in about 8-10days.
- Once they have 3 to 4 leaves after about 26-28 days, transplant them to their final position during the early morning or early evening to prevent transplant shock.
- Water immediately after transplanting.
- When they are about 6-7in (15-17cm), pinch the top growth to force the plant to produce side stems and, therefore, more fruit.
- After a few days, they will become bushier.
- 5-6 hours of direct sunlight are ideal.
- Bees can pollinate chillis, but they are also self-pollinating plants and a gentle shake of the bush will assist with pollination.
- Keeping 2 - 3 plants together in pots or in the ground will also help with pollination.
- Add some compost every 20-25 days to keep the nutrients high. Water only when the soil is dry.
- Chilis will change color and strength, with time.
- Chili plants are perennial and will produce more fruit in their second year than their first.
11. Swiss Chard and Rainbow Chard
A prolific leafy vegetable with a very long harvest period. So easy to grow and so versatile. Chard can be sown directly after your last frost.
Choose different varieties and be amazed by the colors. Rainbow chard can be used for the maximum production for stems and leaves. A brilliant substitute for spinach, which can bolt very quickly in the heat of summer.
You should be able to pick your first leaves about three months after sowing. Pick little and often to encourage new leaves.
Grow them anywhere, in the flower beds, to compliment your colors, in containers on the patio - they are stunning plants and delicious to eat.
Cut the flower stalks off as soon as you see them and it will extend your production by another 2 to 3 months.
Water your swiss chard evenly and consistently every few days over the growing period.
Harvest from the outer leaves and it will produce more and more. Happy Swiss Charding.
Vegetable Growing Cheat Sheet
This vegetable growing cheat sheet is for a temperate climate - Zone 9
Feeding Your Veggies
Loads of compost, handfuls of shredded leaves, well-rotted manure (never fresh as it will burn the plants), wood ash, seaweed (if available) left to seep in a bucket of water makes a cheap and unbelievable addition to your soil. Put the water into a watering can - your plants will thank you later.
Coffee grinds, especially for acid-loving plants, sprinkled around the plants - away from the stems. Organic matter mulch will also break down periodically, which is also feeding the soil and copying nature by layering and creating good soil structure.
Feed The Soil - The Soil Will Feed The Plants
Take advantage of what is available, especially free and cheap. Gardening isn't always expensive.
Adding nutrients to your soil will benefit the plants without expensive fertilizers. It takes time to build the soil naturally, but every year, the soil will get better and better.
Your growing zone will determine the length of your growing season but always only plant outdoors once the chance of frost has passed.
What is fresher than growing your own vegetables at home?
Nothing comes closer for flavor and freshness than picking your vine-ripened tomatoes and adding to your salads with your home grown salad leaves just before lunchtime.
You'll have loads to share with friends, family and neighbors.