Whether you're trying to coax large 'Brandywine' tomatoes to ripen or enduring a short wait to harvest radishes, the rewards of growing your own vegetables are plentiful. Cultivating seeds and transplants just outside the home means fresh produce at much better prices than can be found at any grocery store or farmers' market. All that is needed to ensure a good harvest is basic gardening knowledge involving design, planting and growing.
Consider how large plants will grow when considering what to plant for the season. Take into account pole beans, tomatoes and other vertical growers that cast some shade behind them and grow those on the garden's west side. Give sprawling zucchini plants plenty of horizontal space to grow. Grow smaller root vegetables, such as carrots, along the garden's edges or tucked between larger plants.
Hybrids and Heirlooms
Choose hybrid vegetables that are disease and pest-resistant, but don't discount growing heirloom varieties that grow true to type and have been passed down for generations because of their superior taste. Save money by saving heirloom vegetable seeds for planting next season; do not save hybrid seeds, which do not produce similar plants from year to year.
Plant both cool- and warm-season vegetables to extend the harvest season and offer more variety. Cool-season vegetables, such as leaf lettuce and kale, grow best in the spring and fall, when the hottest days of summer are not a threat. Many warm-season vegetables, such as tomatoes and peppers, have tropical origins and grow best during the warmest days of the year. Plant warm-season vegetables after any danger of frost has passed. Know which U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zone you live in, keep an eye on local weather forecasts and plant vegetables accordingly.
Plant hardy vegetables you feel confident about growing, but don't grow the same varieties every year. Go out on a limb by venturing out of your comfort zone and experimenting with some types that you've never grown before and that attract your attention. Peruse seed displays at gardening centers and seed catalogues to find plants that produce fruit featuring different colors, sizes, flavors and nutritional values. Don't be discouraged by failure, which can happen with the hardiest of plants.
Let the plants be the primary garden attraction, but don't ignore design ideas that can add to the aesthetic experience and be functional at the same time. Square garden plots are easy to maintain and are space savers, but can making care and harvesting with middle plants tricky. Install stepping stones in hard-to-reach spots. Construct raised beds in blocks that you can walk between. Incorporate some whimsy into vegetable plots with mosaic stepping stones and other decorative items usually reserved for ornamental beds. Add a bench or chair nearby to sit and admire the garden's progress.