Dreaming of growing a vegetable garden but not sure where to start? These 5 vegetables are easy to grow, delicious, and will foster your love of growing your own food!
Tomatoes require 6 – 8 hours of sunlight and grow well when staked or caged to keep the plants off of the ground. Tomato plants can be susceptible to disease when touching the ground and/or each other so be sure to give enough space when planting seeds or starts. I recommend new gardeners start out with plant starts as opposed to seeds as it’s much easier and less time consuming. When planting your start in the ground, cut the bottom leaves off and plant up to the top two shoots. This will give your plant a strong root base. Tomatoes also need calcium to prevent a common disease called blossom end rot. One easy way to provide that is to drop a crushed up egg shell into the planting hole as you’re planting your tomato starts.
If the space you have for tomatoes is on the cool side, one trick I’ve used is to plant my tomatoes near the wall of my house. As the sun heats up the home during the day, my siding holds some of that heat and it reflects the light. I have a light colored house and cement planked siding. Brick houses/walls are great for this purpose as well. My mom grew tomatoes in a brick box against the front of our brick house for the exact same reason. If you don’t have brick/cement siding or light colored paint, just paint a piece of plywood white and place against your house.
There are MANY tomato varieties and how you choose what to grow will depend on the way you intend to use them. For canning or sauces you can’t beat Roma tomatoes. The have less water and seeds within and cook down nicely. They are easy to grow and you can get 8 plants in an 8×4 space. The Early Girl tomato variety is great for beginners as well and one that I grow every year. They fruit out early, taste great and are disease resistant. The bushes are compact like Roma tomatoes and you can grow 8 plants in an 8×4 space. If you just want some tomatoes to slice up fresh and put on a sandwich, Beefsteak tomatoes are an easy and tasty option. They have been cultivated to be disease resistant as well and grow easily in a back yard garden.
Onions are typically planted in the Early Spring and are harvested in late Summer/early Fall. Onion sets are recommended over seeds or transplants as they resist frost damage and have an overall higher success rate than the latter options. These juicy crops grow the best on raised beds, or furrows, that are about 4 inches high and at least one foot apart. The sets must be planted with 5-6 inches between them in the furrows and buried no deeper than an inch.
Before planting in the Spring, add some compost or aged manure to the soil where you intend to plant the onions and let sit until you’re ready to plant. Onion plants require a large amount of nourishment to grow large bulbs. On this same topic, be sure to also add nitrogen rich fertilizer to your onions soil as you plant them. Your onions soil will need to be loose, well-drained, and nitrogen rich in order to produce the best outcome. Soil that is too compacted will negatively affect your onions growth.
An added tip, place mulch in between your rows, as mulch prevents weed growth and helps retain water. This allows you to cut back on watering. About 1 inch of water, including rain, per week will suffice. Given that we are in a pretty wet area 9 months out of the year, your onions may be sweeter! Onions tend to look healthy from the outside even if they desperately need water, because of this it is important to keep track of how much water they’re receiving.
It is best to plant carrots in cooler temperatures like those in late Spring or late Summer/ early Fall here in the Pacific Northwest. Optimum results occur between temperatures of 55 degrees to 75 degrees. Carrots are a great vegetable to consider growing here in the Puget Sound because they can tolerate small amounts of shade. Carrots prefer aerated soil conditions with no debris, as rocks and the like will prevent your carrots from growing straight. Clear your soil of trash, rocks, and bark before tilling. Soil must be well drained and light, as heavier soils cause poor root development.
Once you’ve tilled the soil, add in fertilizer per the package instructions and use a rake to mix together. Now that the soil is prepped, you can begin by planting your carrots in rows that are at least 1 foot apart. Your carrot seeds will need to be planted approximately 1/2 inch deep and 1-2 inches apart. Depending on what you’re looking to yield, you can estimate that one 12-15 foot row will create about a pound of carrots. To harvest, wait for the plants to appear. When this happens you can check to see how large the carrot is by pushing away a small amount of soil off the top and observing the size of the root. Because carrots can be harvested fairly quickly, seeds can be planted starting in mid-late Spring, and every two weeks until early Fall for non-stop carrots! To harvest carrots, simply pull out of the soil.
Other than watering and harvesting, peas require little attention once you’ve planted them. These are especially great for the Puget Sound area because peas prefer cooler weather, can tolerate light frosts, and acclimate to moist conditions. Peas need to be planted early Spring so they can be harvested before the weather gets too warm. There are many ways to increase pea production and have a higher yield, some include planting your peas in a raised bed. This allows the peas to better receive light and warm up faster. Additionally, apply mulch to your peas when the seedlings are around 2 inches tall. The mulch, or compost, will ensure the soil and roots are cool and moist. Lastly, peas like to have some support while growing that way they are less likely to rot. Depending on the type of pea you have, you can plant them near a fence or along a trellis. After harvesting, you can cut the vines down and use as compost!
5. Green Beans
Growing your own green beans is the perfect place to start if you are a beginner. And like carrots, you can plant them continuously for repeated harvesting throughout the season. Sow the seeds every two weeks until about two months before the first frost date to keep them coming. Green beans require little maintenance, are quick to grow, and there are many varieties to choose from! For bush beans, plan on having quite a bit of room for these plants. Though they will need space, they won’t need to be supported. Bush beans have a high yield and mature in as little as 45 days.
If you don’t have the space to spare, another option is pole beans. These are a great option because not only do they save ground space in your garden, they add beauty to it as well! The vines reach up to 5 feet so plan on having a sturdy and tall support system for them. Pole beans take longer to mature, between 55-65 days. Now because we are in the Puget Sound, pole beans tend to be a better option because we often have milder Summers.
Moving on to planting these delicious veggies, make sure there is no chance of frost and sow your seeds! The seeds need to be about an inch deep, and 3 inches apart. Plan on them germinating in about one week. Make sure your soil is fertile, warm, and moist. However, take care that the seeds do not get too wet by ensuring that the soil drains well. As for location, plant your seeds in an area in your garden that receives full sun. They can tolerate a little bit of shade, but you will have better results with full sun exposure.
All of these vegetables can handle our wet, cool springs and require little space. For additional information on how to grow these vegetables, please refer to the source links below each section.
Happy Spring and happy planting, garden friends!
The Sarah Robbins and Associates Team
33434 8th Ave S
Federal Way WA 98003
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