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Friday, April 27, 2012

Want to Start Gardening? What to Grow- Guest Post by Austin

I am so excited that my brother Austin agreed to contribute to this beginner gardening series.
He has been busy for the past several years turning my parents' acerage into a hobby farm! He has learned a lot about vegetable gardening and hopefully it will help you decide what to grow!

What To Grow?

Deciding what to grow in your vegetable garden can be tricky, especially when starting out.  A lot of it will depend on why you are wanting to start vegetable gardening, so your reasons and goals should be your main guide.

The first place to start in choosing what to grow in a garden should be what you like to eat.  I find it a lot easier to keep up with watering, weeding, and care of vegetables that I'm really looking forward to eating.

Certainly your tastes and situation should guide your decisions, but if you're struggling to decide, here are some recommendations and reasons to consider.

Grow a Staple


Tomatoes are probably the #1 staple for home vegetable gardeners, and with good reason.  They are great used fresh or preserved, are fairly easy to grow, and can be very productive.

My personal preference with tomatoes leans toward preservation.  I love to have canned salsa, tomato soup, and diced tomatoes through the winter.

The first tomatoes I tried to grow were romas, but I didn't have much luck with them.  I had problems with fungus and rot on the tomatoes,which was probably because I had grown them along the ground without any support.  Processing the small roma fruits was time consuming, and I decided to make a change.

I've had a lot more luck with beefsteak tomatoes, and have switched to growing only that variety.  I grow them in tall cages with plenty of space for circulation and keep them well watered through the heat of summer, which has led to a bountiful harvest.

Good harvest of beefsteaks for processing.

Other garden staples to consider: Sweet Corn, Potatoes

Grow Something Easy

Garlic is very easy to grow, assuming you start it at the right time.  It takes a bit of weeding, but not much else.

The first time I grew garlic I planted it in the spring at the same time as onion sets.  That didn't do too well.  Afterward, I did someresearch and found that it was best to plant it in the fall, around the first frost date.  For the last 2 years I've done that, and it has been very successful.
My garlic patch today.

As a bonus, hardneck varieties produce scapes in the late spring, which are very delicious.  I planted my first hardneck garlic this last fall, so I'm very much looking forward to harvesting scapes in the next month or so.

My recommendation: mark your calendar for your first frost date, and plant some garlic.

Other Easy crops: Potatoes aren't much harder than garlic, I've found turnips to be quite easy also.  Some perennial herbs like mint are almost dangerously easy, and should be contained if grown.

Grow a Substitute
I like using celery, especially in some canning recipes, but it won't grow here due to the heat.    This year I'm growing some lovage to try as a substitute for celery in my recipes.  I found it in a search for celery substitutes, and it seems like it should grow well for me.

Lovage may not work out great, but I'm very hopeful.  Finding alternatives that thrive in your growing conditions can be very rewarding. 

Other Substitutes: Swiss Chard and Amaranth can replace cooler weather greens for the hot summer months.  Coriander (Cilantro seeds) can begrown to provide a flavor similar to some tropical spices.

Grow Something Fast

Radishes are the fastest crop to grow in the garden, by a wide margin.  From seed to first harvest can be as short as 22 days!

I've grown radishes for a couple years, and find that it's important to have loose, non-compacted soil for them to grow in.  They really like to develop a long root from the part of the radish we're used to eating.
Radishes Harvested this morning.

I've also been harvesting and eating radish greens for the first time this year.  They are very good steamed and then topped with some vinegar or wilted in bacon grease.
Radish Greens from this morning.

Other fast crops: Nothing else is very close to the speed of radishes, but some things are still suitable for the impatient.  Spinach and Lettuce are fairly fast.  Once Summer hits, cucumbers can produce surprisingly fast as well.
Thanks again Austin for the great information!
Don't miss the other parts of How Does Your Garden Grow?

How Does Your Garden Grow Button

"How Does Your Garden Grow?" Part 1- Stretching Potting Soil
"How Does Your Garden Grow?" Part 2- Stevie from Garden Therapy- Starting Veggie Seeds
"How Does Your Garden Grow?" Part 4- Annie from MamaDweeb Raised Garden Beds Vs. In Plot Garden
"How Does Your Garden Grow?" Part 5- Protecting Your Plants


Linda said...

We got lots and lots of cucumbers last year. it was great. My son only planted the cherry tomatoes so that wasn't good. Oh, well, hope for a good planting season this year! Best wishes, linda

Kellie said...

Great ideas... we like garlic so perhaps... or maybe radishes! Thanks for the inspiration.

Sarah Jane said...

Garlic from the garden is wonderful!
From salads to scrambled eggs it is such a great flavor addition.
And radishes really add a delicious crunch to a salad. I slice mine thinly on the slicer part of my grater so that the flavor is spread throughout the greens, which by the way, are also all from the garden.

Michelle said...

This is such a great post, I am trying to get a garden going at my house and I have the patience of a toddler when it comes for wait for things to grow! Thanks so much for linking up to Delicately Constructed Friday last week! I featured you!! http://www.delicateconstruction.com/2012/05/delicately-constructed-features.html

garden wall art said...

Good job with the post!! Thank you for the great ideas!

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