1. Choosing Which Vegetables to Grow

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     Did the recent warm temperatures make you daydream about being out in your garden? Are you suffering from cabin fever and longing to bite into that first fresh-picked, juicy, sun-ripened tomato?

Tomato plants.

2016 San Marzano paste tomatoes.

Consider starting your own plants from seed.

Now is the perfect time to start thinking about what you want to grow this year and maybe starting some seeds yourself. Choosing your own seeds increases the varieties that you can grow, and you are in control of deciding whether or not to uses chemicals. Most of the commercially grown seedlings found in stores have already been treated with growth regulators, pesticides, fungicides and more. Starting your own seedlings not only gives you that choice, but also increases the number of varieties that you can grow.

Starting your own plants indoors also gives you a head start on the growing season that always seems way too short! So, before you rush out to buy vegetable plants this year, think about growing your own! The National Gardening Association figured out that the average American gardening household gets about an $8 return (in produce value) for every dollar invested in vegetable gardening! Ready to start saving? To help you decide on which vegetables to grow, consider these questions first:

  1. What vegetables do you and your family like?

    Grow what you like to eat. Don’t waste your money, time, effort and valuable garden space on food that you probably won’t eat.

  2. How much garden space do you have?

    If you have a small space, choose bush varieties instead of sprawling vines or consider growing vining plants like squash and cucumbers on a fence or trellis (vertical gardening).  Also, think about how much space each plant needs. Our much loved tomato and zucchini plants can take up a lot of space, so you should plan on this when deciding how many you have room for. Choosing determinate tomatoes (bush form that only grows to a certain height) over indeterminate tomatoes (“vine” types that just keep on growing and spreading) will take up less space. You can find seeds for many compact or smaller vegetable plant varieties by looking through seed catalogs or seed company websites. Personally, I like curling up with a catalog and a cup of coffee on cold winter days, making my wish list, then ordering online!

  3. How much sun does your garden area get?

    Most vegetables need full sun, or at least 8 hours for best growth and production. If you don’t get that much direct sun in your garden there are options. If you only have 2-4 hours of sun you can grow leafy greens, beets, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, garlic, horseradish, kohlrabi, leeks, parsnips, peas, potatoes, radishes, rutabagas, scallion, and turnips. Plant in containers that can be placed in sunnier areas or can be moved around. And that leads very nicely to the next question…

  4. Are you growing in containers?

    Many vegetables are perfectly suited to container gardening, sometimes referred to as “patio” plants. There are so many possibilities, like small tomato and pepper plants, shorter carrots, scallions, herbs, eggplant, squash, peas, etc. Check out all those catalogs and websites. Burpee’s website alone offers 110 varieties of vegetables suited to container growing. There are even patio varieties of corn!

Seed possibilities and where to buy them.

Once you have a list of veggies you want to try, and have narrowed down the varieties, the next step is where to buy them. If you’ve ever gone into a big box store’s gardening section you have probably seen more than one brand and quite a difference in seed prices. If you compare seed packets you will usually see a difference in weight. Cheaper seeds usually offer much less seed per packet. I will on occasion buy one for non-edibles, like flowers and ornamentals such as gourds, or if I only want to grow a couple plants.

You can also find organic seed which has been harvested from organically grown plants. Most reliable seed companies only offer Non-GMO seed. I purchase some varieties that are available in stores and some online for seeds that aren’t available locally. Stores tend to buy the same varieties each year, but the seeds that they sell are well suited to that areas growing zone.

In my next post I will covering the topic of seed starting, including when to start different seeds, soil requirements, lighting and more. So, until next weekend, make your lists, buy or order your seeds and have a great week! Spring is coming, I promise!

Happy gardening, Heather… also known to my little loves as Grandma!

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