I remember the first time I ate a complete salad from my garden. It was so exciting and fulfilling to eat something I had grown myself. I wanted to grow more and more each year. It also helped my kids want to eat vegetables after they had helped me grow them in the garden.
Last week we talked about planning your location for the garden. This week we are going to go over choosing plants for your first garden. There are 4 things to consider when deciding what to plant:
Easy to Grow Vegetables
We want your first garden to be successful. In order to do that, we want to start with plants that are fairly easy to grow in any climate.
The easiest summer vegetables to grow (for most areas) are:
Cucumbers-pickling and eating cucumbers are easy to grow from seed. They will spread out in your garden area, so make sure to leave them some room to grow.
Green Beans-“green” beans (you can get many different colors) are easy and fun to grow. If you give them some kind of trellis to grow on, they will grow vertical as well to save space.
Carrots-you can grow many carrots in a small area. Plant from seed in the garden, with many seeds close together, and then thin over time for the best production. Heirloom carrots come in a variety of colors.
Summer squash-where I live, squash is one of the easiest plants to grow. Make sure and give it plenty of space, because it will spread throughout a garden box.
Zucchini-as with other squash, in my area zucchini grows like a weed. You should pick them when they are small or you will end up with arm length zucchini that are harder to manage.
Corn-when I think of farming, I think of rows of corn for as far as the eye can see. In your backyard, you can plant corn seeds (soak overnight first) in a couple of rows directly into the ground. Just pay attention to where you plant so that as the corn grows it won’t shade other plants in your garden.
Okra (in southern climates)-I don’t live in the south, but I grew up there and I LOVE fried okra. These grow in the south like zucchini grow here, but I haven’t grown them myself. I have been told it is an easy vegetable to start with there.
Swiss Chard-I love swiss chard because it tastes good and is so pretty. You can direct seed these in late spring for a pretty addition to your garden.
Basil-this is one of the easiest herbs to grow. I love the smell of basil. It is currently in a separate herb garden from my main garden, but you could grow it with other vegetables in your garden.
Pumpkins-this vegetable will take a lot of room, but if you have the room it is fairly easy to grow. You could grow pie pumpkins for cooking and large pumpkins for Halloween.
Radishes-this root vegetable is easy to grow and great to add to your garden salad.
Leaf Lettuce-leaf lettuce like romaine and salad mix are easy to grow in the spring and early summer. You can cut off pieces as you want to eat and the plant will keep growing to produce more.
If you start with these vegetables, it is not a guarantee they will have a huge harvest. But, they are some of the easiest to get started on.
Direct Seed vs. Buying Seedlings
Direct Seed means that you buy seeds and plant them in the ground for growing. I would not suggest trying to start seeds at home indoors in your first gardening season. Things could go wrong and you might get discouraged before you even get started.
Buying seedlings in the store is another way to start a garden. Tomatoes and peppers are good things to buy as seedlings instead of starting seeds. They are warm weather plants, so don’t plant them until the last frost date has passed and the ground is warm.
The best way to know if you can direct seed or buy seedlings is to look on the back of your seed packet. If it says direct seed after the threat of frost has passed, you are good to go. If is says start indoors, you might want to buy seedlings at the store for the first year.
Your Growing Zone
Knowing your gardening hardiness zone is important because it helps you know when to plant and what grows better in your area. To find your zone, put your zip code on this website.
I live in gardening hardiness zone 6, which is the ideal for growing a large garden (not too hot, not too cold). But whatever zone you live in, there are advantages and disadvantages to the climate. I see my friends in Texas already starting their garden in March, and I get jealous. But they can’t grow as much in the height of summer because it is too hot. So find out what zone you are in and play to that zone’s strengths to maximize your garden production.
image from Cool Infographics
What Your Family Likes to Eat
This tip may seem obvious, but I think it is often overlooked. When you are just starting out with gardening, you want to plant vegetables you family already likes to eat. My son loves strawberries, so we love to grow strawberries. Most of the time I have to limit how many strawberries he can eat off of the vine because he would eat them all if I let him.
Now this being said, fresh vegetables from the garden taste SO MUCH BETTER than the grocery store vegetables. So if your family doesn’t like vegetables at all (or are very picky), they just might be surprised how much they enjoy garden vegetables. I never knew you could get purple carrots or purple speckled beans until I started gardening. And guess what, I love them!
Choosing plants for your garden can be a fun time in your gardening journey. Hopefully, these tips will help you chose vegetables that will be easy to grow and that your family will love. Once you enjoy fresh veggies from your garden, you will be hooked and want to grow more. Gardening is good for your health and pocketbook, if you do it right. Don’t be afraid to dig in and get started!
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Beginner Gardening Worksheet PDF
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Next week we will discuss how to nurture your garden.
Don’t forget to follow our beginning garden series until the end. There will be one new post to the series each Friday for 4 weeks.
Beginner Gardening Series #2: Choosing What to Plant
What vegetables to do you love to plant in your garden? Please let us know in the comments below. Thanks!