If you are starting a garden for the first time it's wise to create a vegetable planting list before doing any actual outdoor garden preparation. It's best to choose vegetables you enjoy eating and that are easy to grow. Save any experimental vegetables for the second or third year after you've learned the basics of vegetable gardening. Three popular and easy to grow garden vegetables are tomatoes, summer squash and carrots.
A vegetable garden doesn't seem complete without tomatoes. Most varieties are easy to grow and just a few plants provide enough for an entire family. Early red tomato varieties take up to 60 days to produce from planting time to harvest. Plant these in northern locations such as Montana, Idaho and North Dakota where there's a shorter growing season. Early reds can sunburn in warmer locations. Choose from sub arctic plenty, early Cascade, early girl or quick pick. For areas with longer growing seasons, choose medium-early reds that take up to 69 days to harvest. Some examples include champion and mountain spring. Main-crop reds take up to 79 days to harvest. Some popular types in this variety are mountain delight, fantastic, celebrity and better boy. Extra-large reds take the longest to mature at up to 81 days. Types in this variety include delicious, supersteak and beef master.
Summer squash is another easy-to-grow vegetable. One word of caution: Start with just a couple of plants because summer squash are big producers. They also take up more room than other garden vegetable plants. Grow your squash in mounds in the corners of your garden to save on room. Types of summer squash to choose from include zucchini, yellow squash, patty pan and scalloped squash. Most summer squash varieties are short seasoned. For example, horn of plenty, a hybrid yellow crookneck, takes only 45 to 50 days to mature. Senator, a zucchini type, takes 47 days to harvest.
There are many carrot varieties to choose from. This cool season crop can be planted as soon as the last frost has passed and the ground can be worked. The soil must be kept moist and alkaline, with a pH range of 6.0 to 6.8. You'll find soil testing kits at most nurseries and garden centers. Two small round varieties to consider are orbit with 58 days to harvest and Thumbelina with 60 days to harvest. A baby carrot variety that takes a little less time to mature is the baby spike. It takes 52 days to harvest. Legend is a regular size carrot that is 9 to 11 inches long. It takes about 65 days to mature.