Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Cornucopia of Vegetables to Grow

You can grow many different types of vegetables in your yard — and not just in the backyard. These days veggies are pretty enough to be front and center. The following sections describe some of the most popular to get you started. Hopefully you have plenty of room!

Tomatoes are the most popular vegetable grown — and for good reason. The difference between a vine-ripened fruit and one picked green, gassed, and shipped hundreds of miles to your grocery store is incomparable. You can choose from container varieties that produce fruit the size of a pea and giant plants that grow to the height of a garage and produce fruits the size of a softball! You can even grow varieties of tomatoes with fruits every color of the rainbow except blue (however, I wouldn’t be surprised to see that color someday either).

Tomatoes love the heat and sun and require fertile soil and support. Unless you’re growing the dwarf varieties, stakes, cages, trellises, teepees, and arbors are essential for keeping plants growing upright and strong. You only need a few plants to keep your family in tomatoes most of the summer.

Peppers and eggplants
Peppers and eggplants are related to tomatoes, but they’re a little more homogeneous in their plant size. However, what they lack in plant variety, they make up in fruit uniqueness. Pepper fruits come shaped as bells or as long and thin tubular shapes. Some are as sweet as candy and others are hot enough to burn your mouth.

Pepper fruits mostly start out green and end up red, but where they go, colorwise, in between is amazing. You can experiment with chocolate-, yellow-, ivory-, purple-, lavender-, and orange-colored fruits that can be eaten raw or used in a multitude of cooked dishes. Eggplants also have burst onto the scene with varieties that produce unique-colored fruits, including white, purple, striped, and even orange.

If you can grow a tomato, you can grow peppers and eggplants. They need similar growing conditions. Plus, I love them as ornamental edibles. Not only do they look good in flower beds and containers, but you can eat them too!

Carrots, onions, and potatoes
Get to the root of the matter by growing carrots, onions, and potatoes. (I know, I couldn’t resist the play on words!) Carrots, onions, and potatoes love cool soil and cool weather conditions. Start them in spring for an early summer crop or in summer to mature in fall. Here are a few fun facts on each group:

✓ Carrots: Carrot varieties are either short and squat or long and thin. You can even get colors other than orange, including red, purple, yellow, and white. Because their seeds are so small and take a while to germinate, carrots can be difficult to get started. But once they’re growing you’ll soon be munching on roots.

✓ Onions: Onions are adapted to the north and south depending on the variety. Some are sweet and can be eaten out of hand, but others are pungent and best for cooking and storing in winter. You can grow onions from seed, sets (bulbs), or plants.

✓ Potatoes: Potatoes are an easy cool-season crop to grow because you plant part of the potato to get new plants. If you cover the tubers with soil, hill them up, and keep them watered, you’ll be rolling in spuds come summer.

Peas and beans
Peas and beans are like brothers. They’re in the same family and share similar traits, but in some ways they’re very different!

✓ Peas are cool-season-loving crops that produce either plump or flat pods depending on the variety. With some pea varieties you eat pods and all. With others you eat just the peas inside.

✓ Beans love the heat. They’re one of the easiest vegetables to grow. They come in bush and twining or pole bean forms. Both are great vegetables in the garden because they require little fertilizer and care once they’re up and running.

Cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, and squash
I affectionately call cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, and squash the “viners.” They love to ramble about the garden, taking up space and producing loads of fruit. But even if you’re a small-space gardener, you can still grow these space hogs. Newer varieties of cucumbers, squash, and melons can fit in a small raised bed or even a container.

One common trait of these vegetables is that they need heat, water, fertility, and bees. Bees? Yes, bees. Most of these squash family crops need to be cross-pollinated to produce fruit, so bees are critical to success. If you’re growing other vegetables, flowers, and herbs, you’re sure to have some bees flying about to do the dirty work. Some members of this veggie family can be prolific, so don’t plant lots of zucchinis, cucumbers, and pumpkins. Then again, if you really want to share the harvest you can plant a bunch to give away!

Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower
Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower are similar in how they grow and what they need to grow. However, their differences come in the parts you eat. Here’s the lowdown:

✓ After you pick the heads of cabbage and cauliflower, the plant is finished and stops producing.

✓ After you pick broccoli heads, you’ll keep getting more broccoli side shoots to eat all season long.

✓ Brussels sprouts are like your crazy Uncle Louis. He looks a little strange, and you don’t know where he came from. Brussels sprouts produce cabbagelike balls all along a straight stem. Keep picking the sprouts starting from the bottom to the top of the stalk and working up until it stops producing because of the cold.

This group of veggies is productive and serves as a great addition to a coolweather spring or fall garden.

Lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, and specialty greens
If you’re looking for quick rewards: lettuce, spinach, chard, and wild greens, such as dandelions. Because you don’t have to wait for greens to form fruits (you’re just eating the leaves), you can pick them as soon as your stomach rumbles and the leaves are big enough to munch. They mostly love cool weather, so start early in spring and then keep planting and harvesting.

Greens are one of the best container vegetables to grow because they’re easy and adaptable. You can mix and match lettuce varieties to produce different colors and textures that look beautiful and taste divine.

An assortment of other great veggies
In the previous sections, I just touch the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what to grow for vegetable varieties. There are so many more vegetables to grow; all you have to do is wander down the produce aisles at the local grocery store and think, do I like to eat that? Watch out or you may get hooked and start growing so many vegetables you’ll have to open a restaurant. Vegetable gardening really can become that much fun.

Non-vegetable edibles
Don’t limit yourself to growing just vegetables in the vegetable garden. That would be silly! Berries, such as blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries, and herbs, such as basil, parsley, and chives, are great additions to your yard. They produce fruit, spice up a meal, and look beautiful. Need some inspiration? Here are some suggestions:

✓ Consider having a strawberry patch in your garden.

✓ Landscape your yard with blueberry bushes or a hedge of raspberries.

✓ Mix herb plants around vegetable plants or give them their own space in the garden. Herbs also grow well in containers mixed with flowers. I love growing rosemary in a deck planter each year for the attractive foliage and the enticing aroma.

Source of Information : vegetable gardening for dummies

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