Vegetable gardening is a rewarding venture. It can be tons of work and end up costing you lots more money than you intended (trust me, I've been there); but there are several vegetables that are simple to grow, and if you use one or a combination of my favorite simple gardening methods, the rewards will most likely outweigh the work. The first juicy, tasty tomato is reward enough in my book!
The following vegetables are easy to grow and are always on my garden list:
- Beans- green beans to be more specific. There are all sorts of varieties of beans, hundreds in fact, but for simple, quick results, bush beans are my go to bean. The seeds are large and easy to handle, making them perfect for a kids garden, they sprout quickly, and are pretty much pest free. They are easy to harvest and a favorite snack around here, many get eaten right in the garden never even making it into the house. Pole beans are also fun to grow, a bean tepee is great if you have little ones.
- Cucumbers- cucumbers are fun to grow. They do best if they have a trellis or some sort of support to grow on, but they will sprawl along a garden bed if none is provided. Cucumbers like to play hide and seek, so it is fun for the kids to hunt among the leaves for the fruits. There is usually one or more that has hidden well enough to get bigger than you'd like, but that's ok- the chickens probably won't mind, and the compost heap certainly won't.
- Okra- If you have plenty of hot summer days, okra will thrive. Once established, it will keep right on growing in even the hottest of weather with just a little water. Okra is native to Africa, which makes it hardy and heat resistant. The round seeds are easy to plant and other than ants sometimes invading an okra plant, I've never had any pest problems. The flowers of okra are lovely and almost worth growing just for their beauty alone. The plant itself causes me to itch, so long sleeves and gloves are a necessity when harvesting. Pickled okra is reason enough for growing this one.
- Peppers- Like beans, there are many, many varieties of peppers: sweet peppers, mildly hot peppers, hotter peppers, and crazy, unbelievably hot peppers. They come in a rainbow of colors and all sorts of shapes and sizes. Another garden veggie that thrives in the heat, peppers are a garden staple here. They are easily grown from seeds started indoors, but I usually just buy a few seedlings from the nursery or feed store. If you want an unusual variety you will probably have to start from seed. Once established, pepper plants are not fussy, they just need plenty of warm sunshine and water. Pests don't bother them, and they are usually prolific producers. Some years I've resented the amount of Serrano and jalapeno peppers just a few plants would produce in a short time. Call me lazy, but after a while I just get tired of picking and pickling peppers!
- Tomatoes- My one garden 'must'. Even when I don't have a 'real vegetable garden', I have tomato plants in the flower beds or containers. Tomatoes grow easily from seed, and with the hundreds of varieties available, there is one that will grow well in your area. Patio tomatoes are great for small space gardeners, even apartment dwellers can find a sunny spot for a tomato in a pot! When space allows, I prefer indeterminate varieties (which means basically it will keep on producing over the season rather than making all its fruit at once) of cherry tomatoes such as Sweet 100 or Chadwick's Cherry. These are perfect for snacking on in the garden, adding to the salad bowl or in my youngest daughter's favorite Caprese Salad.
- Squash- Simple to grow, squash is my husband's favorite vegetable to plant. Every year we have
an argumenta discussion about the number of zucchini plants that are needed. 12 seems to be his thought, 2 mine. There are other choices if zucchini isn't your thing- yellow squash, patty pan or scallop squash, and winter squash of several varieties. They are prolific producers and can quickly make more fruits than I know what to do with. (The neighbors used to hide from my husband because they were afraid he was going to try and give them more zucchini! True story, I saw them slinking around with my own eyes.) The main issue with squash are those nasty creatures known as squash bugs. I don't know where they come from, but plant squash and they show up. They are fairly easy to manage if you watch your plants closely and take care of them before they begin to reproduce, which happens even more quickly with them than with the squash. I use a homemade concoction of dish soap, vegetable oil and cayenne pepper in a spray bottle of water. It kills the nasty creatures and doesn't harm your plants or the environment. Win, win. Squash blossoms are also deliciously edible, and if you eat the flowers, you don't have as many zucchini to give away. :)
OK, so these are my simple garden favorites.
What are yours? Which veggie is a must for you and why?
How do you deal with the issue of too many zucchini? Zucchini bread or anonymous 'gifts' of squash to the neighbors?