Once you’ve eaten a homegrown tomato, you’ll never want to eat those tasteless blobs from the supermarket again.
Varieties: There are hundreds of varieties of tomatoes you can grow, and many different types--slicing tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, paste tomatoes, and heirloom tomatoes.
My favorite way to try lots and lots of different tomatoes is with the Heirloom Tomato Collection from Botanical Interests. It contains seeds for seven different tomatoes, and you’ll have fun growing them all.
Planting: Plant your tomato seedlings deep, with only an inch or two sticking out of the soil. Tomato plants can be floppy and unruly, so I recommend staking them or using a heavy-duty tomato cage. Blossom end rot is a common issue with tomatoes, so be prepared with these blossom end rot prevention tips.
Eggplant (also called aubergine) is a veggie that likes hot weather, just like tomatoes and peppers. All three of these plants are part of the Nightshade family.
Varieties: Listada de Gandia is a beautiful French heirloom eggplant. Black Beauty is another favorite for its large size and thin skin that you don't have to peel.
Planting: Plant seedlings 18 inches apart--happy eggplants grow into bushes nearly 2 feet tall and 16 inches wide. Stake them shortly after planting, or the weight of the eggplants will cause the plant to fall over.
Recipe:Eggplant is delicious when sliced, brushed with olive oil, and grilled until just soft.
Chard is great for new gardeners. It grows vigorously, provides a continuous harvest, and can even survive the winter in mild climates. Ideal, right? Except that if you’re the only person in your family who likes to eat Swiss chard, you will quickly be overrun with it. Ask me how I know.
Zucchini and summer squash are the easiest vegetables to grow from seed. A couple of plants will produce more squash than most families can eat! This is probably why there’s a gardeners’ holiday called “Sneak Some Zucchini on Your Neighbor’s Porch Day”.
Whether you’re growing watermelon, cantaloupe (also called muskmelon), honeydew, or other melons, you’ll be thrilled with their delicious flavor fresh from the garden. We grow several varieties of melon each year, and harvested a 21-pound watermelon a few years back!
Varieties: Ahhh, where to begin? We love cantaloupe, and Hale’s Best Jumbo cantaloupe is our favorite. The fruit is sweet and thick, with a small seed cavity. Cantaloupe grows on a vine, so you may want to support it with a trellis to save space.
Planting: Melons of all types like to be planted outdoors in warm soil. They’re heavy feeders, and appreciate soil that’s mixed with your homemade compost. Here are some tips on when to harvest your watermelon for the best, sweetest fruit.
Planting: Start your cucumbers from seed this month. They're vining plants, so you’ll need a trellis or something similar for them to climb on. I grow mine at an angle against the back fence, so the cucumbers hang down for easier picking. Learn more about growing vegetables vertically.
Recipes: We love eating cucumbers as a salad topping or sliced and dipped in ranch dressing. If you want to try something different, saute sliced cucumbers briefly in butter and serve hot with salt and pepper. I learned that recipe from The Frugal Gourmet and it’s surprisingly delicious!
I always get carried away when planting green beans. There are so many different varieties to try! Calling them “green” beans is not completely correct--there are yellow beans and even purple beans.
Beans grow on two different types of plants. Bush beans, as you can guess, grow on a bushy plant that doesn’t need a support. They produce earlier and have a shorter harvest period. Pole beans grow on a vine, and need a trellis or some other support. They produce later but produce beans over a longer period of time.
My favorite yellow bean (sometimes called wax bean) is Gold Rush bush bean. The slender beans grow in clusters and are easy to see and pick.
Who doesn’t love a purple bean? I like Royal Burgundy bush beans because of their beautiful color and great flavor. Kids love them, and they turn green when cooked!
Planting: Beans are usually direct sowed in the garden. Pole beans will climb, so they need a pole or trellis. Bush beans are great in containers or in raised beds. Both varieties appreciate a scoop of your homemade compost mixed in with the soil when planting.
Recipes: It's easy to have some huge harvests of beans from the garden. Here's my super easy technique for freezing green beans so you can enjoy the harvest all year long.
Going out to the garden to pick a salad for dinner is the best! And, of course, the foundation for a delicious salad is great lettuce. Iceberg lettuce is pretty blah, so I like to grow different types of Romaine in my garden.
Planting: Lettuce is a cool-weather crop, so plant it in a shady area. Space your seeds or seedlings about 1 foot apart and ¼” deep. Keep the soil moist and watch for garden pests. Learn more about growing romaine lettuce.
Recipe: When you've picked all the vegetables for your salad, top it off with some homemade croutons.