For guaranteed success, grow the easiest of garden goodies.
Contributed by The Old Farmer’s Almanac Staff
There are some vegetables that are particularly easy to grow, so why not add them to your garden for a sure-bet bounty. Here are a short list of recommendations and a few planting pointers:
This cool-season root crop can survive frost and almost-freezing ground temperatures, which makes it a good choice for northern gardeners. There are a medley of varieties available in purple, red, yellow, and even white. Try ‘Detroit Dark Red’, ‘Golden’, or ‘Lutz Green Leaf’.
Beets require a high level of phosphorus to germinate, so start by adding aged manure to your soil before planting. Gardeners growing in hot, dry climates, should consider soaking seeds for 24 hours before sowing. When the soil reaches 50°F, sow seeds ½ inch deep and 1 to 2 inches apart. Maintain a nice, even moisture level while they germinate. When they are about 2 inches tall, thin with scissors, cutting at soil level (pulling them out of the ground may disturb the roots of nearby seedlings). The idea is to give them more space, light, and air circulation. Established plants should be thinned to allow 3 to 4 inches between plants. Beets are a thirsty brood, so be sure to give them plenty of water during the growing season. Most varieties can be harvested 50 to 70 days after planting.
For a plant high in antioxidants and vitamin A, you can’t beat bok choy. Its mild, cabbagelike flavor makes it a wonderful addition to stir-fries or simply sauté it with a little olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste for a healthy green side dish. Try ‘Baby Green’ or ‘Purple Choi’.
Bok choy prefers well-drained, fertile soil that is high in organic matter. Direct-sow seeds from early spring through midsummer. Plant them at a depth of ¼ to ½ inches, spaced 1 inch apart. They will germinate in 4 to 7 days. Provide ample, consistent moisture and thin to 6-inch spacings. Once plants reach roughly 3 inches, you can start harvesting small leaves, a few at a time, or you can cut the entire head off for a one-time harvest. Harvest is 30 to 50 days after planting. For direct-seeded fall crops, plant in the same manner in late summer; mulch heavily and water regularly to prevent premature bolting. Harvest before the first hard frost.
Whether you plan to pickle or prefer them freely sliced onto a salad, once you’ve tasted your own homegrown cukes, there’s no going back to store-bought. Try ‘Spacemaster’, ‘Bush Slicer’, or ‘Homemade Pickles’.
Cucumbers germinate easily in warm conditions, so be sure the soil has thoroughly thawed before sowing seed. Plant them at least 1 week after the last frost. Start by mounding soil into 2-inch ridges, then plants seeds 1 to 2 inches deep, 12 to 18 inches apart. To help reduce powdery mildew, get the vines up off the ground by training them to grow upward on a trellis. This also makes harvesting easier. Once cucumbers reach maturity (50 to 70 days after planting), start harvesting them daily—they are bountiful!
Flavor-packed and prolific, snap peas are a cinch to grow and a load of fun to pick. Sweet off the vine, stir-fried, or tossed into salads—they are a people-pleaser every time. Try ‘Sugar Ann’, ‘Super Sugar Snap’, or ‘Cascadia’.
Plant seeds ½ to 1 inch deep and 4 to 6 inches apart in early spring, 4 to 6 weeks before the last spring frost. Like cucumbers, snap peas benefit from growing up and off the ground; they will get lanky, so it’s a good idea to provide them with a small trellis (you won’t necessarily need to tie them, as their tendrils typically cling to supports). You can pick the peas when they are bright green and plump, approximately 70 days after sowing.
It could be argued that spinach is the all-time easiest green to grow. It certainly is one of the most versatile and nutritious. Raw, sautéed, scrambled into eggs, or baked into a casserole, it’s an excellent source of essential vitamins. Try ‘Regiment’ or ‘Bloomsdale’.
Plant spinach where it will get both sun and a bit of afternoon shade. Sow seeds early spring, when temperatures are still cool. Space them at least 2 inches apart and ½ inch deep. At 3 to 5 weeks, you can start cutting leaves. They will regrow, making for a long harvesting season. For a fall crop, start seeds in early August.
The satisfaction that comes from harvesting veggies that you have grown with your own green thumb is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Try it!