Answers to your questions about gardening, energy, homesteading and other sustainable living topics.
I’m ready to garden! What are the best crops for me to grow in my first garden?
To guarantee the success of your first garden, stick with the easy vegetables listed here, which grow well in minimally improved soil. (Over time, you can improve your soil by adding organic fertilizers and compost.)
Begin planting your first garden in early spring, about four weeks before your average last frost. Locate information this information in Know When to Plant What: Find Your Average Last Spring Frost Date.
In early spring, kick off the season with these easy-to-grow vegetables and herbs:
- Salad mix, aka mesclun, is a seed blend of lettuces and other salad-worthy greens. Buy two packets — one that’s mostly lettuce and another that includes mustards, kales or escaroles so you can learn how all these greens grow. Sow small patches of each mix, and then plant a little more a few weeks later. Save your leftover seed in the fridge and plant it in late summer for a lush fall crop.
- Perennial herbs such as thyme and sage are easy to grow, and they come back each year. Purchase starts, which are grown from cuttings of superior varieties.
- Potatoes grow from sprouting spuds, and you can grow only one or two plants and get good yields. In your first garden, try planting a few small, organic potatoes purchased at the store.
In late spring, plant these vegetables after your last frost has passed:
- Bush or pole beans (collectively called green beans) are a top crop for any first garden because they adapt to a wide range of soil types.
- Tomatoes are a garden favorite, but for your first year I suggest starting with only two types — a cherry, such as ‘Sweet 100’ or ‘Sun Gold,’ and a medium-sized slicing tomato, such as ‘Early Girl.’ Wait until next year, when your soil is better and you have some experience, to try large-fruited heirlooms.
- Summer squash can be phenomenally productive, but put in at least three plants to ensure good pollination and fruit set.
In late summer, plant more mesclun and fill other vacant space with arugula or Japanese turnips — two underappreciated gourmet vegetables that will grow like gangbusters until cold weather brings your first garden to a close. Good luck!
— Barbara Pleasant, contributing editor
Above: For your first garden, start small and pick crops that grow well in most soil types. Photo by iStockphoto/Chris Price.
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