Harvest green beans when the pods are crisp and full sized, but before the seeds inside enlarge and harden.
Interest in vegetable gardening is growing nationwide. The road to success with vegetable gardening, however, is sometimes bumpy. The astute gardener soon learns the importance of choosing a good garden site and planning. Even with all of the ingredients in place, however, challenges can occur that test the patience of gardeners, especially children and those new to vegetables. With this in mind, the following group of vegetables is suggested for ease of culture and positive chances for success. Radishes are the ultimate in instant gratification – you plant the seed, and pull up the tasty roots in 30 days or less.
Plant radish seed early to ensure that the roots are ready to eat before hot weather arrives.
Radishes are a great introduction to vegetables for children. Plant the seeds in early spring and late summer for two harvests. Good cultivars include ‘Cherry Belle’, ‘Champion’, ‘White Icicle’ and ‘Easter Egg’. Remember that radishes are cool-season vegetables; seeds planted too late in the spring may not produce the hoped-for roots.
Loose Leaf Lettuce comes in many forms — green, bronze, oakleaf and deer tongue, to name a few. Gardeners can plant individual cultivars, or blend several cultivars for variety. Lettuce is a cool-season vegetable, so plant at the proper time for your region. Rather than pulling up entire plants for harvest (as for head lettuce), pick individual leaves from plants to prolong the bounty. Loose leaf lettuce cultivars include ‘Black-Seeded Simpson’, ‘Salad Bowl Green’, ‘Salad Bowl Red’ and ‘Oakleaf’.
Onions come in three colors (white, yellow and red), and are commonly planted in early spring. Cultivars such as ‘Sweet Spanish’, ‘Walla Walla’, ‘Texas Supersweet’ and granex are available as either sets (small bulbs) or small plants. If planted a bit close, extra plants may be pulled and enjoyed as green onions. The mature bulbs are ready to harvest when tops die back.
Potatoes are another great vegetable for children. Plant seed potato pieces, each with at least one “eye,” in early spring. The harvest begins with new potatoes, dug when the plants begin to blossom. Mature potatoes are ready for digging when the plants die back. White-skinned cultivars include ‘Kennebec’, ‘Irish Cobbler’ and ‘Yukon Gold’; red-skinned cultivars include ‘Norland’ and ‘Pontiac’; and russet-skinned cultivars include ‘Russet Burbank’ and ‘Norgold Russet’.
These ‘Sugar Snap’ edible pod peas are ready to harvest. The immature peas are barely visible in the pods.
Italian parsley make an attractive and tasty combination in the herb garden.
Swiss Chard is an essential green for the vegetable garden.
English or Snap Peas are planted in early spring for harvest before warm weather. English peas produce a bountiful harvest of shelled peas; cultivars include ‘Little Marvel’, ‘Bolero’, ‘Green Arrow’ and ‘Lincoln’. Snap peas produce edible pods that are harvested before the peas within enlarge. Sometimes called snow peas, cultivars include ‘Sugar Bon’, ‘Cascadia’, ‘Sugar Snap’, ‘Oregon Giant’ and ‘Super Sugar Pod’. To save space, train the pea plants on a fence or trellis.
Turnips and Beets are comfort foods, producing bountiful crops of delicious roots. Plant the seed in early spring or late summer to enjoy early summer and fall crops. Remember that the tops or “greens” are also edible. Turnip cultivars include ‘Purple Top White Globe’, ‘Royal Crown’, ‘Seven Top’; good beet cultivars are ‘Detroit Dark Red’, ‘Red Ace’, ‘Ruby Queen’, ‘Cylindra’ and ‘Golden Detroit’.
Green Beans are available as bush types or pole types; bush types come into production sooner following planting, but pole types will produce for a longer period of time. Train pole beans on a fence or other support. Plant green beans in midspring, and consider succession plantings of bush types at 14-day intervals to continue the harvest throughout the summer. Good bush green bean cultivars include ‘Contender’, ‘Derby’, ‘Tendercrop’, ‘Royal Burgundy’ and ‘Topcrop’; ‘Kentucky Wonder’ and ‘Blue Lake’ are pole green bean cultivars.
Cherry Tomatoes are easy to grow, and the plants are resistant to several tomato diseases. The small fruit may be red or yellow; choose from among hybrid cultivars such as ‘Super Sweet 100’ and ‘Sweet Million’. Start seed indoors in April, or purchase transplants and plant outdoors when the soil temperature warms.
Basil and Parsley are those indispensable herbs in the home garden. Both are easy to grow and are usually planted from transplants. Basil cultivars include ‘Nufar’, ‘Genovese’ and several ornamental types; standard parsley cultivars include ‘Champion Moss Curled’ and ‘Large Leaf Italian’.
Swiss Chard is an essential green for the vegetable garden, flourishing equally well during hot summers and cool fall weather. Plant in late spring for season-long harvests; ‘Bright Lights’, ‘Discovery’ and ‘Luculus’ are good cultivars.
Keys to a Successful Vegetable Garden:
• Full sun
• Well-drained friable soil with adequate organic matter
• Lots of air movement around the plants
• Vegetable cultivars adapted to your area
• Vegetable cultivars that are disease and insect resistant
• Planting at the proper time for your area
• Proper care for your vegetables
Photos courtesy of Patrick Byers.