9 First Crops for your Coronavirus Victory Garden

Reader Contribution by Ilene White Freedman and House In The Woods Farm
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Row cover and shade cloth.

Coronavirus Victory Garden Planning

Here are my first picks for a garden. This tips are of course for any garden any time, but I am particularly inspired to start a Victory Garden resurgence during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s springtime, we are all a bit stressed and could really use the therapy and productivity of a gardening project. Time to dig in the dirt! 

I recommend selecting about five crops that you like to eat. Keep your first garden small and manageable, or your garden will be overrun with weeds and you will be overwhelmed.

9Crop Suggestions

Leaf Lettuce. Lettuce grows fast: 6 to 8 weeks from seeding to harvest. Heading lettuce takes longer. Leaf lettuce can be harvested earlier by picking larger outside leaves and young leaves will continue to grow. Plant a few more every week or so during April and May for a continuous planting. Protect your lettuce patch from bunnies and deer by laying floating row cover over the patch (very lightweight but allows in light and rain). You might be able to find row cover locally, but Johnny’s Seeds is a good source otherwise. The photo shows white row cover, which I highly recommend for pest prevention, and an optional resource of black shade cloth, which can help protect spring crops from the hot sun. 

Kale. Kale is a power-house of nutrition that you can grow yourself. Start kale in springtime. As a member of the brassicas (cabbage family), white cabbage moths like to lay their eggs on the leaves. Row cover can keep it protected. Kale can get overrun with pests by August, even with row cover, but enjoy it until then. 

Radishes. Grow food in just three weeks! Don’t forget about them. The leaves attract flea beetles, use floating row cover. 

Tomatoes. A cherry tomato plant and two slicers could keep a family very happy from July through maybe September (in my region of Maryland). If you want to freeze sauce or can tomato puree, plant 3 to 20 more plants. My craziest tomato plant customers buy 15 to 20 plants (love you guys!).

Peppers. Really need rich soil and full sunlight all day long. Choose hot or sweet bell peppers. Growing both means they can cross-pollinate. They aren’t as vulnerable to bug problems as other crops, which is nice.

Cucumbers. One or two plants will do! Make a hill of soil and plant a couple seeds up top. Cucumber plants sprawl a lot so they need space. They also attract beetles. Row cover until they flower is a great preventative. 

Peas and Beans. Peas and beans can climb up a fence or a trellis. Start peas early in the spring, early April here in Maryland, and beans in May. Flea beetles can turn bean leaves to lace. A solution is to plant bush beans and cover them with row cover until they start to flower. 

Zucchini.  It’s great if you can get it. Zucchini has some challenges — it takes up a lot of space, attracts squash bugs and can die from borers in the stems, especially in malnourished soil. So zucchini, while fast growing and prolific, can be disheartening in some gardens.

Here is a link to part one of this 3-part series, and part three.

Ilene White Freedman operatesHouse in the Woods Farmorganic CSA farm with her husband, Phil, in Frederick, Maryland. The Freedmans are 2013MOTHER EARTH NEWS Homesteaders of the Year. Ilene blogs about making things from scratch, putting up the harvest, gardening and farm life on the farm’sFacebookPage. For more about House in the Woods Farm, go to the House in the Woods website, and read all of Ilene’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS postshere.

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