Growing your own vegetable garden is a great way to provide fresh, healthy vegetables for your family's eating pleasure. However, with hundreds of different types of vegetables to choose from for growing, it can be difficult to choose just a few to start. Five versatile vegetables for the garden tend to be favorites around the country.
Summer squash can be grown just about anywhere in the United States once the danger of frost has passed. Unlike winter and fall squash, summer squash grows in a small, bush-like form instead of spreading out across the ground. Only a few plants are needed to have plenty of squash to eat, and you can plant twice to harvest in both early and late summer.
Broccoli is another favorite vegetable garden addition that can grow in most parts of the United States. Most vegetable gardeners love this plant because it's high in vitamins and minerals, plus it will continue producing food for extended periods of time during the growing season.
Broccoli is considered a cool weather plant because it thrives when the weather isn't too hot, but there are new heat-tolerant varieties that can handle all but the most extreme heat conditions.
Like broccoli, cauliflower is a member of the cabbage family that prefers cool weather conditions for growing and producing food. Unfortunately it's also less tolerant of cold as well, so sometimes a balance can be difficult to strike. According to the University of Illinois Extension, cauliflower is not as easy to grow as most plants in this family, and it can take 65 to 75 days to reach maturity.
Lettuce is a widely planted vegetable in gardens around the country, probably because there is such a big variety of types. There are five different types of lettuce: leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, butterhead, crisphead and stem.
Lettuce does best when the daily outside temperature is between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, so it's best planted in early spring or late summer in most areas. Warm areas of the southwest may be able to grow lettuce in winter. If lettuce is grown in conditions that are too hot for it, the leaves will taste bitter and the plant growth will be stunted.
According to the University of Illinois Extension, tomatoes are the most popular vegetable to grow in home gardens in America today even though once upon a time they were thought to be poisonous. Tomato plants are also very easy to grow and it only takes a few plants to continuously supply a small family all season long.
There are hundreds of varieties of tomato plants to choose from, and each produces different types of fruit with harvest times ranging from 45 days to over 70. Small cherry tomatoes are popular for salads while beefsteak varieties are excellent for sandwiches and hamburgers. Other cultivars such as the roma are best used for canning tomato pastes or salsas instead of eating raw.