After a couple years of raised bed vegetable gardening under my belt, I feel I can say I am no longer a novice – I’m more of an “advanced beginner” at this point. I still have TONS to learn, but I have learned a few things; and I want to share these with other beginning gardeners.
Everyone when they are starting a new endeavor needs to have some successes to keep them motivated. Believe me, there will be plenty of failures in gardening! The best way to gain those successes early is to start your vegetable garden with the easiest / low maintenance plants. Here are my “go-to’s”:
#1 – Tomatoes
Everyone loves to see those big, bright red, juicy fruits in their garden. Nothing beats the taste of a freshly picked tomato! And luckily, tomatoes are also one of the easiest to grow.
You can pick up a small one at your local nursery or start them from seed. I would suggest a determinate variety to start. They can be easily supported by a tomato cage that you pick up for a few bucks at the local hardware store. With a lot of hot sun and deep watering, they will take off! The only thing to be on the lookout for is those ugly hornworms. If you start seeing sections of the plant with no leaves, look hard for the bright green hornworm and get him off!
There are many varieties of lettuce. I have found the easiest to grow and harvest are the leaf lettuce varietals. You can buy packets of seeds that have a few different lettuces all mixed together. Then just sprinkle them in your garden bed, cover, water, and thin as they start coming up (don’t worry about thinning too much, they can still thrive being packed in there). As soon as they start getting some leaves about 4 inches big, you can start picking a leaf here and a leaf there. They will just keep growing. This makes the perfect salad garden.
Lettuce likes the weather a bit cooler, so you can grow this in your early spring or fall garden or even grow it in the summer in the shade of those tomato plants!
# 3 – Yellow Squash & Zucchini
If you have a bit of room, definitely add some yellow squash and/or zucchini to your summer garden. Talk about impressive results! These veggies thrive in the summer heat, get HUGE, and are prolific producers. You probably just need one or two plants; otherwise you will be overloaded with squash and zucchini. I had to search for some creative recipes to use them all a couple summers ago!
The only menace you need to look out for is powder mildew. If the leaves start looking white and shriveled, this is probably the culprit. Make sure that you only water the plants at the base and avoid getting excess moisture on the leaves. You can also pre-treat for this with an organic copper based fungicide spray. There are also organic sprays you can make with a little dish soap or even milk.
#4 – Green Beans
Another summer heat-loving plant, green beans also germinate very quickly, so they can satisfy even the most impatient gardener.
If you are just starting out and don’t want to deal with trellises, I would suggest the Blue Lake Bush bean. They only get about 18″ to 24″ tall and produce big, long pods. Once they start producing, make sure you harvest at least every other day to ensure they keep producing more and more! Watch out for white flies on the underside of their leaves. Use a homemade insecticidal soap to treat.
#5 – Herbs such as Cilantro, Rosemary, and Parsley
Growing herbs is a great way to always have something fresh from your garden to add to meals. My favorites are cilantro, rosemary and parsley, but you could do bunches of other ones. I put my herbs in separate pots or containers rather than in my garden beds. That way I can keep them even closer to the kitchen and easily resow if needed.
Now is the perfect time to find some of my Top 5 at your local nursery or start them from seed yourself. So get yourself some successes in your garden!